Friday, March 6, 2009

Artspeak / Statements

An artist friend's advice to me on statements once was "Write it as if you were telling a good friend about the work for the first time"

From an article by Dan Fox titled "Serious Business: What does it mean to be a professional artist" over at Frieze:

Working for a contemporary art magazine, I get sent a vast amount of press material each day, almost all of which employs a strikingly similar tone of voice. Most common is the one of academic solemnity infused with a barely veiled aggression, as though art were engaged in some cultural ‘war on terror’. Words such as ‘forcing’, ‘interrogating’ or ‘subverting’ occur with incredible frequency. Boundaries are ‘broken down’ and ‘preconceptions challenged’ so often as to make subversion and radicality seem like a mandatory daily chore rather than a blow to the status quo. They perpetuate old-fashioned notions, such as that of the artist visionary liberating the masses from mental enslavement by bourgeois values. Overuse has made these words sound strangely toothless, for what’s at stake in the art is often less important (but not necessarily without value) than the language suggests.

This may seem like nit-picking when global capital is collapsing around our ears. Sure, the follies of art-speak are easy to laugh at, but often criticism of it begins and ends with a dismissive chuckle – which ignores profounder problems. Why should academic terminology be the default vehicle for discussing art? Why is there such an emphasis on newness, schism and radicality? Even when the art itself may be enjoyably throwaway, language pins it to deathlessly auratic registers of exchange. This suggests a subliminal fear that, if the subject in question is not talked up as Big and Culturally Significant, then the point of fussing over it in the first place might be called into question, bringing the whole house of cards tumbling down.

Read the whole piece here.


Anonymous said...

I love that first quote - it cuts to the heart of something that I'm totally guilty of, and I think it still somehow encouraged in art school.

I'm doing this project with comic books right now, and my original artist statement was basically "I like comic books, I just wanted to worship and celebrate them." (one piece is called shrine, which is basically a huge pile of em, and another is called Chant, which is a video made of pictures of people's faces I took from the books, etc)

but I've been told that I should talk about how I'm reexamining their relationship to society, suggesting obsessive things, basically subverting the main stream comic industry....

but really I fucking love comics. I'm not really doing any of that. I might be poking fun at it a bit, but only in a super loving way.

you know what I mean.

J. Wesley Brown said...

I totally know what you mean. Sometimes it's just that you have a great eye and come upon an amazing scene and are able to capture that. Then you've got to figure out how to explain the damn thing when all you want to do is shout, "Just look at it. It's clearly an amazing shot!" and are hoping that that would be enough.