Tag Archives: France

“ARTIFICIAL, ESPERANTO ART” AND ITS DISCONTENTS

22 Apr
20150327OUTSIDER-slide-44G0-jumbo

Costumes by Vahad Poladian. Photo by Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times

Some gems from Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond by John Maizels. Regular readers of this blog will know that I like a bit of O/outsider attitude.

“What country doesn’t have its small sector of cultural art, its brigade of career intellectuals? It’s obligatory. From one capital to another they perfectly ape one another, practising an artificial, esperanto art, which is indefatigably recopied everywhere. But can we really call this art? Does it have anything to do with art?” Jean Dubuffet in L’Art brut préferé aux arts culturels, 1946.

This was in 1946 and it’s still just as true seventy years later. Very, very depressing. This tale of masterful gallery fucking-uppery is much more comforting:

“Scottie Wilson (1888-1972)… had been a junk dealer, making a living by salvaging what he could from the bits and pieces that fell into his hands. To this end he collected the old nibs from gold fountain pens. One day he found in his possession a particuarly fine pen, large and free-flowing, so good to handle that he was somehow led to use it playfully to draw outlines and forms…

Signed simply ‘Scottie’, the drawings became a source of livelihood for Wilson, who held his own exhibitions in music halls and pier booths around Britain. He was even taken up by a London gallery, Gimpel Fils, who were forced to rescind their agreement when he set up his own stall outside the gallery, selling his work for a fraction of the price of those exhibited within.”

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CHARLIE HEBDON’T

10 Feb

Marines_do_pushups

Occasionally it seems there might be some kind of counter-performance art organisation, one that actively does everything it can to bring performance art into disrepute. A bit like SPECTRE from the James Bond books and films. As suggested by their acronym Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, SPECTRE mainly just wants to instigate conflict and benefit from the chaos that ensues. I propose that there is a secret organisation called SPESPA (Special Executive for Shit Performance Art) and it exists solely to make the general public think all performance artists are twats.

This week’s covert SPESPA operative bent upon ruining live art’s reputation is Chinese performance artist (and “former television presenter”, which gives you some idea of his likely intellect) Ou Zihang, who has been doing push-ups in the nude at the sites of recent terrorist attacks in Paris. No surprise that he’s a fellow traveller of overrated hack fraud attention whore Ai Weiwei, who recently incurred the displeasure and disgust even of the normally unbothered and amoral art mainstream art press by playing at being a drowned toddler on a beach on Lesbos. Ou’s one and only artistic gambit involves getting undressed and doing push-ups in front of things. That’s all he’s got.

Ou obliquely but amusingly let slip the real reason he does naked push-ups, and it ain’t art or “drawing attention to scandals.” When he started doing naked push-ups near the offices of Charlie Hebdo and outside the Bataclan, he was dreadfully disappointed not to be arrested:

“Normally, there are police officers, security guards, cameras in front of a sensitive place. Especially in a country that is currently in a state of emergency. But, in the end, there was no control or restraint. This puzzled me.” (French source.)

In other words, without causing a scene and being the centre of attention he is nothing. His only validation is in being told he’s annoying, following the Dorian Gray school of thought that “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” I imagine Ou only gets arrested in China because they think he’s being a tool, not because his adolescent level of critique and infantile means of resistance are any threat to the state. Plus, if he’d done any basic research he’d know that far from being shocked by nudity the French bloody love it.

Just sod off, you fucking imbecile.

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E4: PREPOSTAPOCALYPTIC

27 Mar

OOO BONDAGE UP YOURS!

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. In this write up of an exhibition from France we’ve not only got OOOers [sic], but also “negative faith”, wax balls, and typos a go-go (underlined in red, as if I’m that paperclip fellow from MS Word.) Multiple typos and grammatical errors are always good in a press release or any other form of official communication, because they really convey professionalism.

You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel.

If you don’t know what Object Oriented Ontology is, then a quick look at Wikipedia is probably quite sufficient. If you do know what Object Oriented Ontology is and it’s (somehow) one of your influences alongside animism and “the theoretical reflections of the Nouveau Roman novelist, theorist and editor Alain Robbe-Grillet”, then I don’t know what to say except that you must be a riot at parties.

The Promise of Moving Things deals with the so-called life of objects in our current pre-post-apocalyptic paradigm.

“Pre-post-apocalyptic?” Does this guy know something the rest of us don’t?

Influenced in equal measure by animism, the much-discussed philosophical movement Object Oriented Ontology, the surrealism of Alberto Giacometti’s early masterpiece The Palace at 4 am (1932) and even the theoretical reflections of the Nouveau Roman novelist, theorist and editor Alain Robbe-Grillet (an OOOer, so to speak, well avant la lettre), The Promise of Moving Things seeks to address just that—the very idea that there exists some promise within objects in a world in which humans no longer roam the earth. Neither a critical rejection nor an endorsement of these ideas, the exhibition embraces the ambiguity at the very heart of the word promise. It questions to what extent this negative faith in the cultural and animistic legacy of objects is a genuine rupture with the anthropocentric tradition of humanism and to what extent it is merely a perpetuation of it.

“Just that”? Just what? There’s no obvious subject for this phrase, except for what somes afterwards, which is not a “that” yet because we don’t know what it is until we read on. The next sentence commits the same error; “these ideas”… which ideas? How does one have “negative faith”? “Lack of faith” makes sense and is easily understood. Negative faith suggests something akin to a bank overdraft or a balance sheet. Damn, my faith cheque bounced because I didn’t have enough faith in the bank.

Thus does the exhibition consist of works that features objects or processes which seem to possess some form of human subjectivity. For instance, the Austrian, Vienna-based artist Hans Schabus’s sprawling sculptural installation Konstruktion des Himmels (1994) could merely be a random collection of variously seized wax balls and an elaborate light fixture or the most human forms of celestial organization: a constellation (which it is: a recreation of Apparatus Sculptoris [Sculptor’s Studio], identified and named in the 18th century by Louis de Lacaille).

Please don’t seize my wax balls! The latter part of that sentence in particular is a grammatical car crash. There are, in fact only two sentences in the whole paragraph.

Almost, but not entirely by association, German, Berlin-based Mandla Reuter’s sculpture installation. The Agreement (Vienna) 2011, which has been paired with Schabus’s work and is comprised of an armoire hanging from the ceiling, assumes a quasi-, supernatural and animistic quality.

Quasi what? I think the intended meaning is probably quasi-supernatural– whatever the hell that means– but there’s a random comma in the way, and too many commas in the paragraph as a whole. Spelling and grammar checker: USE IT. “Almost, but not entirely by association, German” is just plain weird. Even if it were true, how is this cogent information?

Producers-Springtime-for-Hitler

The transference of so-called human subjectivity is unmistakable in Swedish, Malmö-based Alexander Gutke’s work Autoscope (2012). This 16mm film installation portrays the trajectory of a piece of film passing through the interior of a projector, exiting into a snowy, tree-dotted landscape, ascending upward into the sky before plunging back down to earth and looping back into the projector, and repeating the process, all as if in an allegory of reincarnation. The American, New Hampshire-based artist Michael E. Smith’s slight sculptural interventions, which often consist of recycled textiles, materials from the automotive industry, animal parts, and a variety of toxic plastics, are known to possess qualities hauntingly evocative of the human body, as if the spirit of one had entered the other. Drawing his formal vocabulary from machines and tools, French, Dijon-based artist Antoine Nessi creates sculpture, which can perhaps be best described as post-industrial, in which the inanimate seems to take on an organic quality, assuming a life of their own. Finally, the practice of the Swedish, Berlin-based artist Nina Canell is no stranger to the kinetic and to a certain, if specious, sense of animism. Something of a case in point, Treetops, Hillsides & Ditches (2011) is a multi-part sculpture comprised of four shafts of wood over the top of which a clump of Iranian pistachio gum has been spread and which slowly crawls down the sides of the wood, enveloping it, like living a skin.

Nothing and nobody can ascend downwards. Ascending is by definition movement in an upward direction. “No stranger to the kinetic and to a certain, if specious, sense of animism” is just cobblers. And people who stick their gum onto things should be prosecuted, fined and flogged like they are in Singapore.

Thus is the reception of each work complicated and vexed through issues of subjectivity, projection, necessity, and desire. Now to what extent the works are complicit in that reception both varies and is debatable. Whatever the case may be, it is virtually impossible to say, but this does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to conceive of a world without humanism, as argued by Robbe-Grillet, at its center.

Bloody humanism. Get the fuck out of here.

ROMANCING THE STONERS

20 Oct

OR: PEOPLE WHO THROW STONES SHOULDN’T LIVE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSES

The Louvre is shortly to open a new facility in Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel and looking like some kind of Logan’s Run shit that nobody who knew anything about art would ever want to show art in, as is usual for 21st century art silos. Talk about sterile. An outpost of the Guggenheim is also in progress, which will probably be equally austere, inhumane, architect-cool and ghastly. Having realised that they probably need some art or something– even if most of the walls are wonky or fifty meters from floor level– the gold-plated Arabic Louvre flagship store just announced the loan of 300 art works from French institutions. So let’s explore beautiful Abu Dhabi as it uses up the Earth’s precious resources to water lawns in the desert, let’s check out some of the art works being pimped out by the French to the jolly Emirs, and on the way we can have a wee think about what made the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité lose their damn minds and decide to have a gigantic art baby with the United Arab Emirates.

portrait-of-an-unknown-woman-la-belle-ferroniere

Leonardo da Vinci, ‘La Belle Ferronière’, 1495–99.

La Belle Ferronière will need to cover up that whorish hair and stop making insolent eye contact if she doesn’t want a taste of the whip.

I mean, does her husband, father or brother even know she’s out? According to Human Rights Watch and probably anybody else with eyes, ears and a rudimentary sense of right and wrong, the way Sharia is applied in the UAE systematically discriminates against women. Rape victims can face prison sentences of a year or more. Yes, you read that right. Victims of rape are prosecuted. Being raped is an “extramarital relation”, which is illegal. Women can’t marry without permission from a male guardian. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man; this is considered “fornication” and therefore worthy of corporal punishment. Kissing in public is also against the law, and can lead to deportation if you’re lucky enough to be a foreigner. Worse if you’re not. In the UAE, flogging (between 80 and 200 lashes) and stoning to death are legal punishments for offences including adultery, premarital sex and prostitution. Not just in theory, either; these barbaric punishments are regularly carried out. The UAE refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the elimination of torture.

Bonus fun fact: Apostasy (renouncing or denying religion, i.e. Islam) carries the death penalty too! Renouncing other religions is probably fine because only one religion is allowed anyway. Don’t worry, though; even if you’re a devout follower of Islam there are still many great opportunities for you to be abused, executed or unjustifiably detained in the UAE!

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TRUSTAFARIANS OF THE BELLE ÉPOQUE

28 May

To the manor born

Although it now predates any living memory, it’s a very recent Western notion that artists are unique and delicate snowflakes pursuing a vocation for the love of it. Historically artists were valued as craftsmen and artisans, on a par with carpenters or stonemasons. Being an artist was certainly better than being a peasant, but among the aristocratic classes for whom artists generally worked there was still a hint of the base or the vulgar clinging to anybody who got their hands dirty and needed to actually do anything for a living. Henri Rousseau, for example, was lambasted by the art establishment because he had the audacity to be self taught and to have worked solidly in the same relatively menial clerical job for about forty years before he took early retirement in order to pursue painting.

So there was a certain degree of inevitability in the rise of artists who were as gentlemanly as their clients, (usually) men who freed an artistic career from the taint of labour by evidently not needing to make a living from art. In the summaries below you’ll notice a distinct prevalence of references to high levels of government, and to banking. Nobody’s to blame for the class and social situation they’re born into, and of course being materially secure doesn’t necessarily make them bad people or bad artists. To suggest so is no less romantic and absurd than suggesting an artist must suffer or be deprived in order to be authentic. But I think that knowing how many “great” artists were to the manor born– sometimes literally– and never needed to lift a finger to earn a living does put a new complexion on the reasons for and the circumstances of their acceptance into the canon of Western art.

This is by no means a complete list, but here’s just a few of the famous artists who conducted art as a full time hobby:

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1864-1901)

ToulouseLautrecShoreditch

“Comte de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, AKA as Henri the Tripod. Check out my street art and viral vid website, redwindmill.co.ck. Keep it brown, ya rapist.” (Uploaded from London EC1 via Instagram)

The son of a Comte, descended from various Counts and Viscounts of southern France. Whether he was crawling the slums and treating the most degraded hos as a jolly spectacle, drinking absinthe and cognac (sometimes together) until he was hospitalised, wearing women’s clothes for a laugh, perversely and self-defeatingly taking up contrary, unpopular and antisocial pastimes, being photographed taking a shit, or even just having a big old neckbeard… almost any of Toulouse-Lautrec’s antics would fit perfectly on the Facebook page, Tumblr or Instagram stream of any contemporary Shoreditch twat, Williamsburg hipster, Vice reader, or Parisian art student.

Pulp’s laceratingly perceptive song Common People (about the girl who came from Greece with a thirst for knowledge and studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College) could almost be about T-L if you just change the gender. There’s no doubt he had his genuine problems, including a disability that crippled him physically and emotionally, but the rest of it was like the Greek student in the song: “If you called your dad he could stop it all.” Indeed, both reported variants of T-L’s dying words relate to his resentment of his father and his refusal to give le vieux con any satisfaction. Continue reading

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