My latest column for Sluice magazine.
Tag: art speak
Joseph Devlin’s book from 1910, How to Speak and Write Correctly, is like many similar books in that much of its advice still has relevance and is still ignored by (or unknown to) many people who describe themselves as writers or work as writers but are not worthy of the term except in the most literal sense.
“Don’t imagine that a college education is necessary to success as a writer. Far from it. Some of our college men are dead-heads, drones, parasites on the body social, not alone useless to the world but to themselves. A person may be so ornamental that he is valueless from any other standpoint. As a general rule ornamental things serve but little purpose. A man may know so much of everything that he knows little of anything… Cant is the language of a certain class — the peculiar phraseology or dialect of a…
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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…
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Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real! Oh how I wish they weren’t. In this super special edition with added PERFORMANCE ART that will make Marina admit defeat, pack her money bags and retire at last:
Q: Does your promotional material and critical text need to have any relation to or mention of what is actually in the exhibition?
A: Apparently not. Just write about looking at a dog in a sort of vaguely prose poem that reads like some stoned high school kid’s notebook scribbles. Apart from listing the names of the artists and mentioning that it’s an MA degree show, there is no mention whatsoever of what we might see, what’s interesting about it, what media the artists are working in, or why we might want to go. So it’s not just a horrible, pretentious piece of writing, it’s also…
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“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.
You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and…
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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.
If you don’t know what Object Oriented Ontology is, then a quick look at Wikipedia is probably quite sufficient. If you do
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A BOOK THAT “CHALLENGES YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS” OR “INTERROGATES ACCEPTED NOTIONS” OF ART LANGUAGE
In addition to making fun of the atrocious, pretentious writing that artists and galleries sometimes issue in the name of art, I also work more constructively and (slightly) less cruelly with people and organisations to improve the quality of their writing and public communications. One such project is Dany Louise’s Interpretation Matters, funded by Arts Council England… so, in case anybody was wondering, ACE are at the very least tacitly concerned about bad gallery writing and gibberish artist statements too. I’ve been working with Dany on the Interpretation Matters project over the past year or so, conducting workshop sessions with venue staff and the public. I’ve contributed an essay to the accompanying book, which is out now.
It also features:
- Artists Emily Speed, David Blandy and Richard Wilson.
- Penelope Curtis, formerly of Tate Britain and…
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“I’M SORRY, HE’S FROM BARCELONA”
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, an artist expresses his utter disdain for and rejection of the fetishised, unique art object and the mystique of the all-powerful curator by working with a curator to create and display unique, fetishised art objects at a gallery in Barcelona. Under some of the pretentious self-importance there’s actually quite a lot I agree with in the text that follows. However, I rarely go to the trouble of writing lengthy screeds against certain practices or attitudes only to immediately turn around and take part in them with gay abandon. At least not knowingly.
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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, two artists in a Belgian “overall installation” that seems to be about interfering with virgins. 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.
“From the stock of a museum, Sophie Langohr unearthed fifteen statues of the Virgin Mary in the Saint-Sulpice style, which today represent the purest form of religious knick-knack and the beginnings of a semi-industrial art. The artist confronts the outmoded faces with the ones found on the internet of the current muses that incarnate the big brands of the luxury industry. As diptychs, these transfigurations give us the consummate illusion of a…
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Yes, it’s back. Even more dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism, this time with a police show-on-VHS-tape twist. Watch new arty farty perps and syntax villains brought to justice every two weeks or so. In this episode, we learn how it’s possible to write four paragraphs and nearly four hundred words about a man who built some walls. But wait… he built some walls in an art gallery that already had walls. Is your mind completely blown?
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. I tried really hard to mispronounce all the foreign words and jargon, but I think I still accidentally said some of them correctly. Sorry about that.
Presented at ISE Cultural Foundation, the site-specific installation Time Would Not…
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Courtesy of one Nickolas Calabrese and the Art-agenda [sic] mailing list from the reliable nonsense mongers at e-flux. There appears to be little or no information available online about Mr. Calabrese, although in May 2012 he was described as an “artist and philosopher”. Please, no. By this week he was just an “artist and writer in New York.” Maybe the philosophy didn’t work out. Somebody’s intern, possibly? His oeuvre so far amounts to three reviews, but each of them is loaded with clumsy metaphors, malapropisms and other examples of what not to do in professional writing. Art-agenda apparently has editors. I feel like invoicing them for doing their job. I’m just reproducing the greatest (s)hits here; you can read the reviews in full elsewhere if you’ve nothing better to do.
“The site of the apocalypse is not spatial, but temporal…
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More dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. This is the last one for the time being, but I’ll be back soon with more highfalutin claptrap and a new dinner jacket. The art work being described (or not, as the case may be) was a “one nigth event” [sic] that took place in Lisbon this January. I suppose they could have further minimised the chances of anybody actually seeing whatever the hell it was they were showing by doing it in a boat 100km off the coast of Portugal or something, but theirs was certainly a brave step towards the high-end art world’s ideal of art not being visible to the general public at all.
The title ‘Aula de Ginástica’ [Gymnastics Class] evokes a notion of time, a unit, a moment, a class, an exercise or set…
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More 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.
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…
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More 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.
Surprised by a piece that can only fully be appreciated in proximity and whose…
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More 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.
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…
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More 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.
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…
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More 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 we erase the lasting and iniquitous effects of colonialism by vandalising high school textbooks. Who knew it was so easy? Somebody should have told Gandhi. Montezuma? The fool should have just done some cut ups with the Conquistadors’ books and everything would have been OK.
The ongoing exhibition and production project titled Margin of Error, now opening as a show at Tasneem Gallery in Barcelona, constitutes Magnetic Declination’s first public intervention, and premieres the first instalment of the group’s planned cinematic work, which will include further releases in the future.
Magnetic Declination is a research and production group formed by theorists, curators, and visual artists. DM’s work is based on post- and de-colonial approaches that seek to dismantle…
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Do you like soil? Are you interested in the self? Not soiling yourself. That’s a different thing. No, this is how one of the artists describes his oeuvre as represented in an exhibition of South Korean artists at Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami. For the purposes of this week’s reading I’ve mashed up several of the artists’ statements into one incoherent whole. In as much as one can generalise, I’ve rarely come away disappointed from exhibitions by South Korean artists. Whatever the Korean equivalent of je ne sais quoi is, I think many of them have it. Google unhelpfully translates je ne sais quoi as eotteon 어떤, “any”. Yes, Korean artists have any. Thanks Google, you arsehole.
Where was I? I think Korean artists are…
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Last time, we discovered that having a baby makes a woman magic and gives her special insight into the very fabric of reality. Sorry, I should have written “giving life”, not “having a baby”. This week, a call for presentations and conference papers, but only if they reinforce the organisers’ prejudices that certain very narrowly defined types of gay men and lesbians are also totally magic!
International Art English tropes in this episode of Artbollocks Theatre, rated on a scale of one to five stars
Tongue twisters *, pseudoscientific claptrap *, bad grammar, typos or misused words *, telling us what we see or think *****, spurious appeals to art history (0), art world jargon ***, pretending artists are more [superlative adjective] than people…
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This one gets four out of five stars for its “women are magic” rhetoric. It would be five stars in the “X is magic” category if I didn’t know that next week I’m doing HETERONORMATIVE. I’m sure you can imagine just how magic having a minority sexual or gender identity must be when this week’s artist “giving life herself” is held up as a remarkable occurence. I’m reliably informed that pregnancy and birth can be a painful, difficult and stressful process. I respect and love my own mother. I have great admiration for all the other mothers in the world who do the best they can to raise their children. But for fuck’s sake get over yourself, woman. You weren’t “giving life”. You were carrying out…
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