“HI K8, H8 UR WORK”
Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real, all serious, all horribly written. I apologise in advance for any foreign or jargon words that I accidentally pronounced correctly. This time, at a gallery in Graz (Austria):
An artist “resists artisanal virtuosity” which I think may be someone being polite about the artist being quite crap at all the things she’s chosen to do as part of her art practice.
Another artist is a painter who apparently ignores colours and the canvas, which takes some doing when not ignoring colours and the canvas is pretty much your entire job description as a painter.
The third artist’s works in wood are impossible to distinguish from ordinary bits of wood that are not art, except they are art. All clear? Good.
First thing’s first: I usually make a point of not looking at any work by the artists mentioned (negatively) here for two main reasons. Reason one is that the artists and galleries who write these kinds of nonsense texts need to either learn that 99% of people who read their statements will see little or nothing of the exhibition or the artist’s work, and therefore write in a way that makes sense in this context… or they need to stop deliberately relying upon the fact that 99% of people won’t see the work because it gives them carte blanche to make insupportable claims for the art and for the artist.
The second reason is that– despite how ugly it undoubtedly feels to be told that your carefully wrought artist statement is sheer bollocks– I usually try to kick the ball and not the player. In other words, to criticise the writing and bad impression it gives of the artist rather than directly attacking them as a person. This would usually be futile, presumptuous and a waste of good venom anyway since I don’t know them.
However, I’m really tempted to break this rule right now because the first artist is a grown woman who chooses to go by the name of “K8”, i.e. and presumably because Kate or Katherine seemed less cool and urban to her for some reason probably best dealt with in private, not in an art gallery. Artists who give themselves stupid names really fucking get up my nose. This was a tiresome and immediately recognisable cliché of the Shoreditch Twat, Marais Moron or Williamsburg Wanker when Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris lampooned it on their Channel 4 show Nathan Barley ten frigging years ago. See 15peter20, below. Guess what? It’s still unforgivably precious and irritating now. That means you too, Marvin Gaye Chesspiece or whatever you’re calling yourself this week. Grow up.
8nyw8y, K8, if U evr see me 0ut + 8b0ut, 1nstea6 of t8lk1ng 2 U, 1’11 c0mmun1c8te w1th U 1n 8n 8ppr0pr18 m8nner by sen61ng U th1s fr0m meye f0ne:
That’s two middle fingers, by the way, not a very contented man with his face between two small penises.
Her works of art garner performative energy from various fields and studies, frequently from the area of fashion, for example, and generally from current forms of representation and modi of self-presentation in digital-based social networks. In the process, she avoids committing herself to a single artistic medium, eludes artisanal virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video, and produces as if drawing on a gigantic maelstrom of self-documentation and fashionable, queer-visionary transformation of identity.
In a video work designated as “Outfitumentary” by the artist, which is shown in the exhibition in condensed excerpts, she has been documenting her opulent and frenzied changes of clothing since 2001, along with the related signal change within a lesbian subculture and projections of yearning in general. This documentation of a quest for self-invention and the critical examination of identity-seeking and related mediatic breaches lead the fashion items being worn in front of the camera to lose significance. Also evident is the act of refocusing on the artist herself as immersed in perpetual change and the similarly shifting sites of self-documentation playing out here. This high-velocity switching of roles and the concurrent societal pressure to cultivate and express one’s image is one of the themes long explored by Hardy. This aims to challenge the role of the artist, along with the authentic embodiment of this role, within veritable capitalist systems of reproduction and the formatting of the self manifesting there. In her unconventional, artistic elaborations, which take the form of sculpture, light boxes, or photographs, Hardy is likewise concerned with lending visibility to emancipatory means and potentials.
So, she likes dressing up and showing off, which could be performance art but could also just be dressing up and showing off like several million other women and men who do “high velocity switching of roles”, “self documentation” and various takes on “societal pressure” on YouTube, but whose actions are deemed below the level of Fine Art. What is “performative energy” and how does one gather it? “Eludes artisanal virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video” is probably a hilarious euphemism for “her work looks really bad, but, um… we’re gonna say it’s deliberate, OK?” I’ve seen this excuse a lot, right up to the Venice biennale. The artists are always resisting hegemonic ideas, questioning conventional modes of representation and whatnot. They’re never just presenting bad work because they can’t (or can’t be bothered to) do any better, or because they’ve never shaken the sneering undergraduate pose that being good at anything or serious about anything is uncool, nor indeed the sneering undergraduate notion that being thought of as cool matters at all in the long run. Not that most contemporary artists have a long run.
As for the lesbian signal change, I fear this is just a highfalutin way of saying K8 has changed her look over the years and she likes trying on new clothes. Which most of us do, but most of us aren’t claiming it’s art. One would hope that in the days of “check your privilege” we wouldn’t still be seeing any one curator (or lesbian) claiming to represent a whole “subculture”, even if they believe that they own it in some way, as is strongly implied by her “lending” it. To throw back at them a word that I’m sure the curator of this exhibition would like, saying anybody represents all lesbians and has the right to “lend” them emancipation is very “othering” (i.e. retrograde, sexist, offensive and putting up unhelpful barriers), not to mention being an example of exactly the kind of arrogant, belligerent intra- and extra-community “signal” policing that makes life more difficult for homosexual people who don’t fit with some other folks’ idea of how they should be “emancipated” and reifies homophobic prejudices that they “know” what a lesbian or a gay man looks and acts like.