Tag Archives: Germany


27 May


On Monday of this week I was thinking– with some satisfaction and serenity– that for some time I’d seen nothing but reasonable, factual press releases in plain English and artist statements that actually made sense. Perhaps the day would soon come when I would no longer have any material for Artbollocks Theatre? No. Come Wednesday morning, I see this:

There is no mediation that is lossless—an output is never the pure transmission of a source—but always as much the distance it has travelled, the things it has come in contact with or bounced with or off. She is interested in the consistency of distances that can be traced through an arbitrary sense of material precision: utilising water, viscosity, synthetic carpets, electricity, surface tension, stray socks and chewing gum. This consistency, at times imperceptible and at times palpable, is what the artist describes as “something that I find in my sculptural vocabulary—an extra-linguistic or non-verbal modulation of content—articulating the impurities of a medium or assemblage.” […]

Literally caught in between melting and being repurposed, several hundred meters of gutted sheaths are compressed into dense lumps of immaterial distance. Contextualized by both recent and earlier works, the exhibition will consider sculpture as a medium of storage, transmission and reception.

A translation of the last paragraph is that she’s melted a load of old plastic cables into lumps. This is not me editorialising, by the way. Here is a publicity image of the “art work” associated with the verbiage quoted above:


Have you tried unplugging it, leaving it for a few seconds, then plugging it back in?

Yes, it’s made of communication cables, but that doesn’t make it a consideration of “sculpture as a medium of storage, transmission and reception” any more than making an art work out of cake is considering birthdays, aging and parenthood. It can be that, but there’s a pathetic schoolgirl literalism in claiming an art work is about something just because it’s made from things associated with the subject. Even if it is a consideration of anything, perhaps as an artist you could actually have some courage and commit to saying something about the subject and instead of just limply, meekly considering it? It’s toxic, weird and also entirely fitting that so many contemporary artists claim to be considering things because considering things without coming any nearer to an answer is not at all profound and the majority of contemporary artists are neither capable of nor truly interested in profundity. They just like the idea of being thought of as profound, which is very different from being so and much harder. I consider what I’m having for lunch or whether it’s worth waiting for the next train after I just missed one, or if I should get the bus instead. Note that even in these extremely banal examples I actually come to a conclusion. Consideration without conclusion is noodling or daydreaming, at best.

And several hours previously– arriving unwelcome in the middle of the night like a drunk or a stalker– this double-decker of nonsense about two simultaneous solo exhibitions by another two artists:

Her work is located in the meeting of sculpture, video installation and performance and is characterized by an acute study of the relationship of the body to space, closely linked with her utilization of digital technologies (often including, for example: projectors, scanners, action cameras, and drones). The videos, which play a central role in her work, consist of filmed actions (mostly featuring Vogel herself), documentations of her own installations and collages from her archive of images. These videos then become part of her sculptural constructions where dimensional space, decor and the corporeal merge into an organically woven structure. She treats the projectors and the other technical equipment as active protagonists: for example, by removing their casings or by suspending them in unexpected ways, thus revealing their fragility and somatic character. Ultimately, she creates a hybrid form in which her relationship to space, object, technology and machine is displayed in a dynamic field of motion, from the process of its development to the self-reflective treatment of her own work.

In English: She films herself because herself is the most interesting subject she can think of, and she takes the cases off the projectors. In the interest of relative brevity I’ll just note in passing that this monolithic paragraph is riddled with bad writing and unexamined assumptions: Why and how is her study acute? Space is always dimensional. An active protagonist has to be active and a protagonist, and a protagonist is by definition active anyway; simply doing something unusual with a piece of equipment does not necessarily make it either active or a protagonist. And so on.

This body-studying (YAAAAAAWN) artist shares the gallery with an artist who is, yep, another one adopting the tiresome pretence that he is “undertaking an investigation”:

Of particular interest in Binet’s work is his perception of the painting as an “integrative object.” This process of integration—the inclusion into a larger whole—occurs during the work’s installation; Binet actively considers the walls and conditions of the surrounding exhibition space, initiating a working process based on its specifics. Everything taking place within the space shapes the exhibition. A canvas can bend and be embedded in a stair railing. A continuous line spray-painted over the surface of a wall and onto a canvas extends a painting into space. With this direct and equal treatment of both painting and place, the work becomes inseparable from its surroundings, existing only in this very moment and in its specific spatial arrangement.

English translation: He goes over the edges of his paintings, some of which are not rectangular. Oh, didn’t you know that paintings don’t have to be rectangular? Ha ha Stupid U, artist moar intelligectual than U.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit making Artbollocks Theatre.



28 Mar

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism every week, except when I don’t do them every week. This week’s artist is doing a lot of boring stuff. ON. PURPOSE. My mind is blown.

Play Artbollocks Bingo!

Sofia Hultén (b. 1972 in Stockholm, lives in Berlin) delicately occupies herself in her videos, installations, sculptures and photographs with the wide variety of opportunities for action. By reconstructing or rearranging courses of events she explores in the process banal everyday procedures like eating an apple as well as the character and history of profane objects with little value like a worn piece of wood or an old toolbox she finds at construction or demolition sites. She hence regularly succeeds in breaking through conventional patterns of perception and tracing unknown dimensions in the everyday.

The second sentence is nearly fifty words long and completely unpunctuated. Try reading it aloud and making it sound interesting and informative. I failed, obviously. In fact I think I almost lost the will to live about halfway through that sentence. Punctuation: use it. As for “tracing unknown dimensions in the everyday”… seriously? How does one even trace an unknown dimension? This isn’t Ghostbusters, lady. Science-y handwaving about perception and unknown dimensions needs to stay in the script for Doctor Who, where it belongs.

I am undoubtedly mispronouncing this woman’s name and for that I apologise to any Swedes who might be reading. Look on the bright side though, dear Swedes, she lives in Berlin now. Not that the Germans deserve her, either. Of course she lives in Berlin. There’s no pretentious, overblown artist like a pretentious, overblown Berlin artist.

Continue reading


26 Apr

(*Too long, did not understand.)

Either I just succumbed to some kind of reading disorder, or the reliably daft e-artnow list has delivered another payload of grade-A twaddle. I’ll make some allowances for Bildfrost (“Frozenness”) being an exhibition at a German gallery, but on the other hand although I’m pretty confident that I speak German I’d still want to run my German press release past somebody who was a native speaker to make sure I wasn’t making ein Arsch of myself.

I’ll just pull out the silliest phrases and paragraphs at random from what is quite a lengthy screed, but trust me: it all makes about as much sense out of context as it does in context, i.e. virtually none. There’s also a lot of telling us what we’d be able to see with our eyes if we could see the art, which is redundant, patronising and controlling if we intend to see the art and usually baffling if we can’t see the art and probably never will.

BILDFROST (“Frozenness”)

“Initially, the picture seals itself off from the interpretation of any impression. An oscillating flurry emits from the center that steers the anticipation of a disappearing space into darkness. At the same time, it becomes clear that the fabric of colors is the result of picturesque grid structures. Has large pixilated photography been translated into painting or is the painting imitating a print? The understanding of the romantic image remains a wanting. The work resists any outsider’s demand to understand and requires an active positioning of the viewer. A motive between figurative speech and reflections on media.”

Continue reading


16 Apr

Currently going viral both privately and- encouragingly- in public among artists and curators I know, this brilliant stab by Nadja Sayej at Documenta 13’s curator Carolyn Christov-Barargiev, who seems to be under the impression that she’s more important, more interesting and just more attractive than any of the artists or their work… and also that it’s OK for a huge, prestigious and international operation like Documenta to give out “press packs” (sic) to professional journalists that consist solely of a home-burned CDR, written on with a felt tip pen, with content that’s mostly pictures of herself.


Images of the artist Giuseppe Penone’s work on the CD: three. Images of the artist Jimmie Durham’s work: nine. Images of curator Carolyn Christov-Barargiev: nineteen. She can’t blame anyone but herself for the observation that she’s nothing to write home about and that her dress sense is disastrous; not that her breathtaking, blithe egocentricity and arrogance would be any better if she really was as outstandingly attractive and stylish as she seems to think she is. Strong echoes here of the Samantha Brick delusion/denial dreamworld.

Follow the link to scare quotes “enjoy” Carolyn upholstered in aeroplane crash recorder orange and black (perhaps we can take this as fair warning to keep away?), as either an Indian restaurant employee or a mock Indian restaurant interior from a Mike Nelson installation, mysterious sulky duckface behind bars with Jackie O glasses, and making sure that nobody can even look at an installation view of an artist’s work without her standing right in the middle of it.

As Sayej rightly observes:

“Note to artists: Please do your own PR. If not, this might happen – you might have the chance to be in a big art show and be completely squashed by someone else’s political savvy and outrageous vanity.”


20 Sep

Christoph Schlingensief turns the German pavilion into a convincing simulacrum of a church, albeit a David Cronenberg Videodrome church that shows endless timelapse video loops of decaying rabbits. Overwrought, Wagnerian choral music blasts out as people (including several Muslim women and this lifelong atheist) automatically and comfortably settle themselves into the candlelit pews for a quasi-Christian experience. Nobody dares approach the altar, even though there seem to be things up there that we should look at.

Just like his Giardini neighbour Mike Nelson, Schlesinger completely gets it: how to use the scale and scope afforded by having a whole building at one’s disposal, how to bring people into his world, how not to break that world once they’re in it by doing stupid shit like over-explaining or asking for anything except that people trust him a bit because he’ll look after them.

I’d like to note here a kind of iPhone or iPad/tabletisation phenomenon visible in the video presentations (whether good, bad or incomprehensible) across the entire Biennale, including Schlingensief’s bank of rabbit-rotting projections: portrait format (i.e. 3:4 or 9:16) video everywhere, as if it truly only just occurred to many people that a rectangular screen can be rotated 90˚ just like a canvas or a piece of paper.

Mike Nelson’s UK pavilion was one of the few places where I wasn’t furiously (sometimes in every sense of the word) writing notes, so absorbed and transported was I by the experience. Also, it’s bloody dark in there.

That word “transported” is relevant: Nelson actually does make you feel like you’ve woken up in a strange place, or popped out of the TARDIS doors and stepped foot almost casually in some mysterious past or future. To me that’s a very precious experience. I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a lot and have those kinds of experiences in places that are unequivocally real, but Nelson has the gift of manufacturing them from raw materials at will.

At Venice (or rather, no longer in Venice) you step into a low-key nightmare world, perhaps a complex of workshops somewhere in the Balkans or on the Bosporus. There are filthy work benches with unidentifiable machine parts strewn on them, a courtyard lined with doors and staircases, none of which seem to offer any meaningful egress or escape.

There’s the tiny, genius detail of a ridiculously creaky horror film door that swings shut of its own accord behind you, complaining all the while. There’s a grimy photographer’s dark room and nearby photos hang from the ceiling in what can only be described as a menacing manner: the photos are of the building we seem to be in, or of similar ones. It’s almost as if the building were documenting itself, or dreaming of itself. Nothing specific or particular can be demonstrated to have happened… but whatever that nothing was, it wasn’t good.

For once, a Brit has done us absolutely proud at the Biennale. Tracey who?

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