Tag Archives: group exhibition


24 Apr

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 time: a flurry of neologisms that aren’t helping, and a lengthy explanation of the internal layout in a building over 99% of us will never see. Art criticism in a nutshell, basically. The exhibition was in Milan.

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The traits of manifold colours which the artist creates by spreading acrylic colour with a brush, no longer using aerosol sprays as he did with the works produced in previous years, emerge from their grounds following vertical and horizontal directrixes and extend beyond their own physical limit in order to break the closed and defined limit of the canvas.

Artist is so magic! He creates “manifold colours” (there are lots of colours) and he spreads “acrylic colour with a brush” (a miracle never before conceived of or enacted by human mind or hand). These colours “emerge from their grounds” (we can see them… I don’t think it means they’ve been hiding in the garden of their mansion), they follow “vertical and horizontal directrixes” (they go in different directions) and they “break the closed and defined limit of the canvas” (he colours over the edges). Oh, and look out everyone! We’re in the presence of yet another artist who is breaking the physical laws of matter and the universe because his art is so powerful. Contemporary art is getting to be a serious international safety concern. The UN needs to immediately send some inspectors and get a grip on the growing threat of artistic attacks on basic physical principles, otherwise sooner or later one of these reality-shattering quantum-artist-gods is going to rip a catastrophic hole in the spacetime continuum just by doing a painting of some lines or meaningfully piling up a bunch of old crap they got from a charity shop.

2013-10-04-BathroomImageI must now address the elephant in the room: “directrixes”. The text is written in reasonably good English, at least grammatically speaking. The content is utterly redundant, pretentious and stupid, but one’s sense that the writer has an understanding of the language in which they are writing is relatively OK. “Directrixes” is not OK unless you’re talking about mathematics. A directrix is a line, perpendicular to the axis of symmetry, used in the definition of a parabola. A parabola is the locus of points such that the distance to the focus equals the distance to the directrix (i.e. a line not through the focus.) You may well find this explanation as baffling as any art text, in which case the following will suffice: writing “directrixes” when you mean “lines on a painting” is total bullshit. Continue reading


16 Apr

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. Do you have a creepy hair fetish? If so, it sounds like you missed a good craic in Lisbon at the start of 2014, my friend. If, however, you like good art then you probably dodged a bullet by not seeing it. Actually I know nothing about the art or the artist outside of this text. The art itself may be great, just overexplained and ruined by the ghastly, awful stuff written about it. It’s not unusual for that to happen.

It’s also not unusual to have fun with anyone, but when I see you hanging about with anyone it’s not unusual to see me cry, I wanna die.

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Surprised by a piece that can only fully be appreciated in proximity and whose immateriality is increased when it is bathed in sunlight, the viewer must decide whether or not penetrate it. Many do so without hesitation, so they can play and experience it. Some remain outside, as voyeurs.

Urgh. Ambience of an orgy room behind a Parisian sex shop? No thanks.

Again we have redundant, trite writing that the author clearly produced on automatic. All art can only be appreciated in proximity, especially in an art gallery because there’s usually a fairly low limit to how far away you can get. How else would you appreciate a normally or domestically scaled art work, or a digital work, or a moving image work? From thirty miles away? From orbit? I can’t see the Mona Lisa from here because it’s in the Louvre and I’m in my flat in England, and I can tell you categorically: that painting is doing nothing for me right now. Even huge works of art like the giant Buddhas of Asia or the Gormley’s Angel of the North can only be appreciated when you’re close enough to see what they are and judge their scale properly, even if “close” means half a mile away, i.e. when by definition you are in proximity to them. The only possible exceptions are earthworks, geoglyphs (e.g. the Nazca Lines) and other Land Art type interventions, but that isn’t what we’re talking about in this case. The alternative explanation is the author politely suggesting that the art work looks crap, or looks like nothing, unless you’re almost on top of it.

Inside, the artwork provokes a set of contradictory feelings. The fragility of the hair causes some apprehension, enhanced by the fact that it is a work of art. However, overriding this fear, the artwork offers itself up, welcoming, to be touched and caressed. This duality produces a phenomenon of attraction and repulsion, which is both physical – even on a level as subtle as static electricity – and psychological. All this translates into an experience, to some extent, dreamlike, surreal; as if the ‘forest of lianas’ could suddenly become a jungle of fine underwater algae.

I don’t know, either. I’ve got nothing. I think we should just back out of the room quietly and leave him alone with the hair. Continue reading


4 Apr

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 time we’re going to demystify the inflated artist person. Look, we just are, OK? Don’t ask me how.

I seriously doubt that anybody could tell from the text what (if anything) the press release pertained to or was meant to promote, so I’ll have to explicitly say that it was a group exhibition in Vienna at the end of 2013. We all missed it. What a shame.

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Keep watching after the credit to see all ten of the takes that were required before I could correctly say “a critique of institutional structures of authorship or their representational politics of normative gender roles and ethnicity.” This is a perfect opportunity for me to air out one of my favourite quotes about writing and its relationship to the voice. While working on one of the Star Wars films, Harrison Ford had an outburst at George Lucas about the latter’s apparent inability to write dialogue for humans: “You can type this shit, George, but you can’t say it.”

The same goes here. Even if your writing is only meant to live on the page, if a person can’t say it aloud then it will also be nigh impossible even to read silently. In this regard you should also remember that in (Western) antiquity, those few who could read at all would read any lengthy text aloud. It was considered weird and rather suspect when early theologians and philosophers started reading books silently in their heads. Writing should always be readable in the abstract and in the physiological, literal senses of the word. You may recall the phrase “writer’s voice”, usually related to the necessity of finding it. It doesn’t just mean finding a readable, unique version of yourself in your writing. It also means don’t be the page-based equivalent of the person whose droning voice and endless, unpunctuated monologues make others lose the will to live.

“I could go on about critiques of institutional structures of authorship or their representational politics of normative gender roles and ethnicity, but I’m probably boring you.”

There are many reasons why artists appear as fictive persons or anonymously in a collective and create narratives situated between fiction and reality: as reference to gaps or blind spots in an otherwise discursively safeguarded canon, as a critique of institutional structures of authorship or their representational politics of normative gender roles and ethnicity, as protection from political persecution, and, last, not least, to demystify the inflated figure of the artist person.

Continue reading


3 Feb

The Photographers’ Gallery in London is concurrently showing three collections of photographs by David Lynch, William Burroughs and Andy Warhol. I’m such a huge fan of David Lynch that I’m even prepared to forgive him his ridiculous adverts for Calvin Klein and for letting Twin Peaks degenerate into an aimless soap opera clusterfuck for most of its second season. Burroughs is probably not the kind of writer anybody in their right mind would be a fan of, but I like his work and he was undeniably a powerful stylist and one of the most influential and subversive authors of 1950s and 1960s. I’m totally indifferent to the majority of Andy Warhol’s screen prints, and to most other Pop Art for that matter. His work being worth millions of dollars is totally absurd.

Bearing all this in mind, it’s surprising that my opinion of these three mini exhibitions in completely inverse to my liking for their respective makers. There’s very little inherently interesting or revealing about the photographs by Lynch. We already know he really digs old factories. The same probably goes double for Burroughs since a good proportion of the pictures so reverently displayed are mere snapshots, and probably never intended to be anything more. His collage work is less interesting in its actuality than it is in its concept and the influence it had upon others. In other words, nobody would give any of Lynch’s or Burroughs’ photographs a second glance if we didn’t already know they were by the famous film director David Lynch or by William Burroughs the famous writer, junkie and guy you probably shouldn’t play the William Tell Game with. It’s part of a disturbing trend in supposedly contemporary galleries towards the moribund and the just plain necrophiliac; two of the three artists aren’t even alive anymore, and every celebrity who has a show like this is literally preventing a deserving, living, working, non-famous artist from having an exhibition instead. Do we really need to see the contents of William Burroughs’ photo shoebox?

DavidHermanFuturama2011AWConversely– and to me surprisingly– Warhol’s photography actually does have some independent merit. There’s proof in them, if proof were needed, of an artistic sensibility that saw the potential for art everywhere and in everything, a sly sense of humour, and a distinct tendency towards a kind of mundane surrealism. The walls are also painted a nice duck egg colour, which is the kind of thing I always appreciate. White walls are boring.

The whole thing continues until the 30th March 2014. Even if you’re local and this is the kind of thing that blows your skirt up, I still strongly suggest you go for free on a Monday, or on a Thursday evening, rather than pay to see it.

You should also check out Alan Warburton’s animation in the foyer, which I enjoyed because it looks like the result of somebody trying their best to master 3D software while under the influence of horse tranquilisers. This is not a negative criticism, by the way. It’s a good thing. I think we could do without the curator telling us it’s made of 750 trillion pixels or whatever, though. Nobody cares. If you haven’t got anything informative or enlightening to say, curators, please say nothing at all.


6 Jan

BullshitQ: What do you get from Parallax Art Fair (sic) two months after your last request that they remove you from their mailing list and never contact you again under any circumstances because you will never be interested in what they’re offering, not to mention being implacably opposed to everything they do and stand for?

A: An almost identical email, of course! All that changed was the deadline for the submission of my all-important work samples. In their email of 12th November 2013 it was 6th December, while in the more recent email the deadline has mysteriously moved to 31st January.

Dear Alistair,

I am the director who oversees the largest artist art fair in Europe called Parallax Art Fair. I would like to know if an exhibiting opportunity at the ninth edition of the fair might interest you as an artist. I hope you don’t mind, I got your contact on 123 Soho website.

I do mind very much, that’s why I’ve asked you to remove me from your mailing list at least four times now. Furthermore, you did not get my contact details from the (atrocious) Soho 123 website. Obviously you got them from somewhere, but it wasn’t from there because it’s a vanity pay site I wouldn’t touch with a digital bargepole. Deadline corrected, bogus referrer not corrected, unsubscribe ignored. Says it all, really.

At least they merged my name into the email, tip top macro usage for that personal feeling of one’s genius being discovered online… just like in the deluded fantasies of the people who pay to be on sites like 123 Soho. Actually I do get approaches from galleries and commissioners because of seeing me and my work online, but guess what? None of the legitimate ones ever asked me for money.

I’m pretty certain PAF is not bigger than FIAC, Frieze, or Art Basel. Nor is it likely to be bigger than the genuinely artist-led Sluice Art Fair, or even rum Parallax competitors like The Other Art Fair which I can personally attest is pretty large and well-attended, whatever and however numerous its other flaws may be. Unless– as the poor syntax suggests– it’s the artists who are the largest and not the fair? i.e. it’s an art fair for the largest artists? Continue reading

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