Tag Archives: art criticism

Beyond the crisis in art – making and doing…

I have long been a fan of the Sharkforum and resident artist/critic Mark Staff Brandl’s take on the present state of art criticism.

This is by way of a practice run to ‘scope’ the afore mentioned ‘art criticism now?’ agenda :-)
I love that word ‘scope’ you’d think we were shooting bears..maybe we are…certainly foxes…

His latest project involves asking artists to write about their practice and its theoretical basis as a challenge to the current curatorial/academic mish mash that sometimes pertains in the IAW (international art world). He (I think correctly) cites the current fashion orientated dealer driven art world as suffering from a ‘glossies’ approach that has jettisoned the baby with the bathwater and quite correctly identifies a gap ‘in the market’ (how loaded that phrase has become in the past 30 years) where artist’s voices have become swamped in other louder discourses. Usually these discourses are tied hand and foot to financial and kudos driven ‘standing’ in that same ‘IAW’ and have long since lost any real veracity or in some cases coherance as theoretical writings let alone curatorial statements or overviews.

We here in Nottingham have some recent first-hand instances of this I.A.W. Gobbledygook thanks to our sudden emergence into the IAW thanks to Nottingham Contemporary. As our provincial minds sink in the flood of propaganda we are about to be verbally lashed by maybe it a good point for some circumspect analysis of this phenomena.

My own artistic history is pretty much framed in two decades. Firstly 1980-1990 then 2000-2010.

Phase 1: I graduated from Hornsey college of Art London (Middlesex University as is now) in 1981 and my art history tutor there was John A. Walker who has written extensively about the specifically political dimension to celebrity art as well as popular cultural connections ( Art in the Age of Mass Media 2001). At this time there was little separation between ‘art’ and ‘theory’. Indeed it was common practice to read and absorb not only general theory but specific artist’s statements. Magazines like Artscribe and Art Monthly put artist statements centre stage and along with a varied ‘contextual’ studies area which ranged from contemporary poetry to applied design we were encouraged not only to think for ourselves but also to be as wide in our reading as possible. In those days notions of ‘networking’ and ‘careerist’ ‘making it’ were viewed from a heavily left-wing viewpoint ( Hornsey had been a scene of ‘Riots’ alongside actions in France in 1968 ) so much so that I do not think the words were ever used.

We were serious (maybe too serious) students with serious ambitions to create serious artworks. There was little hope of making money except in maybe the long term and we set ourselves for many years of cold, lonely debate and artmaking activity in usually sub standard freezing cold ‘studios’. We did have a sense of community and a shared sense of what the ‘art world’ was and what was ‘significant’. What was written about in Artscribe framed the debate and our sense of the ‘art world’. There were few curatorial driven exhibitions to see and a hang of Bacon or Auerbach at Marlborough would be the highpoint of a summer. Serious artists shown seriously with little theoretical framing except in large Thames and Hudson or Phaidon tomes or reviews in the ‘serious’ press. Waldemar Janusczack, James Faure Walker, Sarah Kent, Brian Sewell, Mathew Collings…the names of those critics I remember 20 years later such was there standing….Artcribe had a ‘local’ i.e. usually London focus.

The art world then may have been smaller (pre boom and bust and the internet) but one felt one could get a handle of the major developments and the significant figures as they emerged. I remember seeing early shows by Doig and Julian Opie. Indeed I even ended up as a figure in a Gilbert and George photo piece. This was pre Goldsmiths, Hirst and the collapse (in my opinion) of those values and the boom in a larger, more fashionable, successful and in my opinion shallower art world. That art world was fed, watered and bloomed under the hands of an advertising executive and there was indeed a cut off point. The change in attitudes can be dated to the Royal Academy Sensation show…soon Stuart Morgan tried to sail artscribe into ‘International Art World’ waters and promptly sank….he just didn’t understand the Prada Bag set…

There and ever after even the hard leftists in the artworld found themselves chasing a beguiling gravy train and penned many acres of explication to justify having sold out out to a capitalist driven art world on a scale hitherto unimagined. Craig-Martin at Goldsmiths and principles of newly business orientated Academies across the country raced to catch up and cash in. This also coincided with a boom in markets across Europe and the USA and suddenly Brit was HIP. Nobody could bare to criticise a position we so fully deserved…now we were art top dogs we could look down on others and crow….and of course objective criticism.hard criticism..was thrown out the window.

I remember attending a show in the mid 1980’s where the curatorial statement ran to over a thousand words and was written in such impermeable ‘academese’ that nobody could actually read it. I dismissed it but foolishly did not realise the power of the word was on the march…..

Soon fellow artists were ‘locating their practice’ and referencing Derrida and Foucault. Indeed one friend went from rather dull printmaker to being an expert on postmodernism in a matter of weeks. The honesty and integrity of magazines like Artscribe and Art Monthly were suddenly outshone by their glossy step-children …Frieze, Flash etc etc and countless others that spawned and drowned in their own scenes. This also coincided with the first attempts to push M.A.’s and Phd’s for artists…..up until that point M.A.’s were few and far between and centred on the ‘top’ institutions The Slade, Chelsea and Royal College. More importantly these were heavily studio-based courses…long on practice short on theory….evn in the late 1980’s one could still just paint at the Royal College like David Hockney……just….

I still have some of the copies of artscribe I would spend hours poring over..then for a few brief years before his untimely death Peter Fuller’s ‘Modern Painters’ seemed to show a way forward with erudite well written articles by the likes of Jed Perl rubbing shoulders with informed ‘outsiders’ like David Bowie and poet Jamie McKendrick. I ws verbally lashed by a graphic designer who then head of Goldsmiths M.A. for even suggesting Fuller was worth reading as too rightist..the same Goldsmiths that spun a silk purse out of a sow’s ear a year later with Damien Hirst……ah the irony of it all. Nothing corrupts good intentions and political principles like a hefty wad of cash especially in the Halls of Academe….

What Fuller recognised (he was a good critic grounded in an appreciation of the English Tradition especially the writings of Ruskin, Moore, Sutherland and Hockney..read ‘Beyond the Crisis in Art‘ currently out of print) was the essential connection between an artists’s writing and their art. Especially if one moved closer to the arts and crafts area of Gill, David Jones and all the way back via William Morris to William Blake.

That tradition has never been broken it merely been supplanted by the hysterical whinnying of a thousand ‘on the make’ mediocrities in both studio and academia. Tie-ins and stitch-ups replaced a grounded and reasoned debate. A in-depth knowledge was not needed to spurt out a trendy 1000 word review of Hirst that never delved into his fragile and lately revealed lack of knowledge of anything remotely to do with art. Like the Peter Sellers film ‘Being There’ all that mattered was to be in attendance at the ‘Cinderella’s Ball’ to catch some benefits from the King’s largesse. Many very good painters and theorists (equally) retreated to the shadows …some never to return…..John Hubbard, David Blackburn, Simon Lewty, Gillian Ayres even artists with reputations as formidable as Athony Caro’s, John Hoyland’s or Tom Phillips’ were not safe. they were all pushed from the banquet table by the greedy and Sunday Supplement friendly advertising savvy new brood….they have never left nor raised their snouts since…..Chapmans, Hirst, Emin..you know the rest….

Now there seems to be a new mood afoot where not only Aesthetics but the artists themselves may once more be allowed their rightful place at the high table of art and there a very good chance their writing a lot better than the charlatans who supplanted them.

Read David Smith, Robert Motherwell, CY Twombly, Philip Guston, Picasso, Matisse…….it a long and noble tradition of both thinking and doing..

Hirst on Art………don’t make me laugh

World's Largest Henry Moore?

After all the gnashing of artist’s brushes over Wallinger’s Horse maybe we should honour my hometown’s pile of concrete instead ..to be frank I prefer the Power Station :-) Indeed Marina Warner argued for its preservation after it decommissioned as a Modernist Monument to the age of power and energy consumption..that may be sooner than we think..

cloud

source: http://edvaizey.mpblogs.com/2009/01/03/didcot-home-to-the-worlds-largest-henry-moore/

Didcot, Home to the World’s Largest Henry Moore
Didcot has just got a new arts centre, but this is not the town’s first foray into the arts. Mark Hedges, the editor of Country Life, has the memory of an elephant, Shortly after meeting me, he sent me an article from Country Life dated 3rd May 2007, which was an interview with Howard Colvin, the architectural historian. colvin is quoted as saying “I remember we [the Fine Art Commission] were shown scale models of the cooling towers for Didcot power station and Henry Moore spent ages moving them around to create a good composition. I saw them the other day from the train and think he did rather a good job”. So there you have it, Didcot, home to Henry Moore’s largest sculpture

Altermodernism is the new world order…discuss..

hrseshit

This just about summed up how clapped out and inane the contemporary art scene is….not content with just posing inane speculative theory grounded in nothing or as Bourriaud states..

Like modernism and postmodernism, though, it’s not easy to sum up in a sentence. When I ask for the one-line Wikipedia version of the theory, Bourriaud is cautious, saying it is a ­complex idea that can’t be simplified (FYI, Wikipedia defines altermodern as “an ­attempt at branding art made in today’s global ­context” and says it’s part of a commercialism backlash).

Bourriaud, who co-founded Paris gallery Palais de Tokyo and has ­written influential­ tomes on art theory, describes today’s superstars like Hirst as making “very static artworks” which are on their way out.

from The London Paper

Well there you have it – it too sophisticated to be explained…..I was going to give it benefit of doubt but when I see an article proclaiming a ‘new world order’ illustrated by a picture of a man wearing a badger on his head ( Marcus Coates – I kid you not:-) here it is…well what point satirising..it done for me…)

satellite1

The basis of alter modernism is ‘it moves around a bit’ ..because of age of mass travel stupid artists can move around the globe being well..stupid and that’s ok?

The fact that it attempts to replace ‘postmodernism’ ( i.e. real theories based in real world) with a theory based on ‘travel’ just at point where the collapse of capitalism will mean fewer artists travelling ..indeed most will find it hard getting work of any kind is ludicrous in the extreme. Like many so-called ‘movements’ before the design of the catalogue is good (..proper design agency Paris involved) and we have the conceit of welding disparate concerns into a box of the curator’s ideas…(typical posture – there been goodness how many attempts in last two decades to get WOW factor moving again post..’Sensation’ Saatchi’s ragbag advertising coup which enfeebled subsequent generations of British artists). So now we all ‘altermodern’. Bullshit.

Bourriaud is a typical game-player and self-publicist and shame on the Tate for falling for his inept trendy theories and shocking lack of substance but as we live in an age of form over content and curator over artist I am no longer surprised. There will be decent work in the show even Bourriaud will get it right occasionally but as for a new movement….just ask Friends of the Earth or any serious grounded envoronmental artist if the new world order one of travel…exactly…

Maybe curators can travel first class in the new world order…for the rest of us its buses and tubes as usual and drivel from on high whether it be banker or man with badger on head……

Love to hear Brian Sewell on this…for now Ben Lewis does a lovely job on it

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/arts/show-23592557-details/Altermodern:+Tate+Triennial+2009/showReview.do?reviewId=23636018

CODA
From Moogee on Guardian blog in response to Charlotte Higgins on Wallinger’s Geegee..

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/charlottehigginsblog

As Marcus Coates is presently being touted as a symbol of Nicholas Bourriaud’s ‘Altermodern New World Order’ for wearing a badger on his head maybe we could build a statue of Nicholas with his head up a horse’s rear instead?

Thereby we would not only be creating a visual affirmation of our own cutting-edgeness but also showing a clear sign to our continental knowledge economy rivals of how brilliant we are….of course it would not be built of local cement that no longer exists….a bit like the Oxford Mini..a casualty of global market I’m afraid but the frisson of the impermanent would tie in beautifully with the altermodern golbal perspective…in fact lets retrain all the unemployed car workers to be curators ..

On second thought lets just forget the whole thing and spend the money wisely instead ….a very modernist idea whose time may finally have come….

CODA 2 and 3

Wallinger is a ray of sunshine in a bleak artworld..I like Charlotte will look forward to the show..
see my comment on M.W. from 2008 here..

http://belcheresque.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/art-politics-ed-vaizey/

A more compliant bunch than that would be hard to find. Indeed Wallinger stands out as one of few artists who had more in common with the left wing artists of 1970’s e.g. Conrad Atkinson than their cash-laden capitalist benefactors. To see how the colour supplement crowd actually got into bed with mass-marketing (most notably with Charles S.) and how that coincided with a lot of spare ‘profit’ from banking in late 1980’s is a book unwritten…they went hand in hand of course….

BUT…

how the hell did he end up being involved in something as rightwing as spurious regeneration

If his politics are to be believed ( and I do believe he sincere) did he do it for a joke and it all gone terribly wrong….???

sad…

I just read Jilly Cooper on said horse…it so stunningly idiotic a piece of writing it defies satire..just read it for oneself….
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/feb/12/ebbsfleet-landmark-art-jilly-cooper
British culture is in safe hands….or should that be whip hand?

I wonder if she would have said same if it had been a giant statue of a car worker with his nether regions exposed towards Europe?….

the enthusiasm may not be so great then eh Jilly

toodle pip darlings….

Postmodernism is dead? Really?

french1
http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/altermodern/manifesto.shtm

Altermodern
Manifesto
POSTMODERNISM IS DEAD
A new modernity is emerging, reconfigured to an age of globalisation – understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an altermodern culture

Increased communication, travel and migration are affecting the way we live

Our daily lives consist of journeys in a chaotic and teeming universe

Multiculturalism and identity is being overtaken by creolisation: Artists are now starting from a globalised state of culture

This new universalism is based on translations, subtitling and generalised dubbing

Today’s art explores the bonds that text and image, time and space, weave between themselves

Artists are responding to a new globalised perception. They traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs and create new pathways between multiple formats of expression and communication.

The Tate Triennial 2009 at Tate Britain presents a collective discussion around this premise that postmodernism is coming to an end, and we are experiencing the emergence of a global altermodernity.

Nicolas Bourriaud
Altermodern – Tate Triennial 2009
at Tate Britain
4 February – 26 April 2009

Eyeblog review
http://blog.eyemagazine.com/?p=150

Dancing on the YBA grave…

ozymandias1

A response to a Jonathan Jones blog entry on the Guardian website
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2009/jan/30/contemporary-british-art-recession?

A generation of lo-fi subversives may finally have found something to be lo-fi and subversive about. After all, Hirst, Whiteread and their generation found their striking voices at a moment of recession.

The artists who think like this are kidding themselves.

Thankyou JJ I am pleased if I dumped in the ‘Lo-Fi’ bin with all the rest….sadly you utterly wrong because as an urban white middle class professional you cannot see past the ring-fence that been in operation for the past twenty years and which the ‘revolutionary joy’ about which you complain actually directed at….put simply I live and have lived outside that area for most of my life until now…ironically…you have no knowledge or experience of that so how could you comment or are you thinking of the shallow subversives of our modern art schools as they the only ones you ever met?

see Nick Cohen on this factor here..
http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/jan/25/television
as he says..

In general, though, literary writers and filmmakers (AND ARTISTS/CRITICS my addition!) had little interest in deprivation and wealth, and failed to see the connections between the two. Raised in public-sector families, educated in universities and working in academia, they were the artistic equivalents of Westminster’s political class: narrow professionals with few experiences of life beyond their trade. No writer is obliged to write a state-of-England novel, but so few wanted to that the critic DJ Taylor complained in 2007 of “the fatal detachment of the modern ‘literary’ writer from the society that he or she presumes to reflect”.

Two generations of artists were as badly damaged as they were helped by the art market YBA years…..one of my best friends actually committed suicide because of it because of the depression of trying to survive with skills in a market which dumped those values and rode the stock market instead…..money and trash made good bedfellows …

So I found my subversive voice now have I??…sorry wrong again.

I like some others have been subversive since day I left Hornsey back in 1981…..I and others like me walked away and turned our backs on this parade of Goldsmiths driven rubbish and were ignored or worse pitied for our opposition.

There is no glee in my heart at all just a sad realisation that not only real lives but art school ethics and skills training has been dumped along with the giant YBA baby……Hirst was a giant Cuckoo in a very small nest who managed to distort a difficult occupation into an impossible one…now a lot of magpies, rooks and ravens are coming home to roost….they will pick a lot of corpses bare not just Hirsts….

CODA

Yesterday by some quirk of nature I found myself cheek by jowel with Mr Saatchi along with a dear friend who has been painting brilliantly in a council flat with no support from state or bankers for 30 years…..it was a strange moment to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea of real artistic talent…..I know which knew more about art….

The only difference between them was about a few million pounds…..I have no doubt Mr.S believes he right and doing good for artists…I do not think he was right and the period of YBA you identify RIP YBA 1991 – 2007 is just another lazy soundbite piece of journalism…. the rot had set in way before and the damage will last far longer and goes far deeper than you realise…

Does this matter in face of mass poverty and recession probably not…..make hay while the sun still shines for its going to be a bitterly cold year in all the arts….I take no joy at all in any of this….

In fact I trying to rebuild from ground zero like a lot of others……the view from the ivory tower is over….

Moogee

The New Depression Gallery

trust

To be serious for a moment (it happens) the last post  from Badam saddens me greatly. I too was a ‘serious’ artist with unpaid bills, a freezing studio, an interview at Goldsmiths (same year as Hirst if accepted..I wasn’t ..too serious for the times it appears..Fuller/Bacon self-portraiture didn’t ‘hang’ well with a interview panel of a graphic designer, a conceptualist and a student who hung black bin liners in rows…I kid you not.. to look for the real tale of why art where it is go to the enfeeblement of the art schools by profit and Thatcherism and YBA’s)…

I hung in there in the starving artist manor a lot longer than most – in fact until 2004 when I finally did teacher training and I now teach multimedia students.

What saddens me is that Saatchi being a willey coyote knows that with the collapse of state support as grants and the recession hit the art schools we will see a downturn in both student numbers and ability as working class students fail to make the financial sacrifices demanded of them. What chance a new Hockney, Moore or dare I say it Hirst these days??

Then Hey Presto! here comes a new income stream for his ‘global reach’. No longer able to afford art school ..just log on and become a famous artist Charles’s way…no need for time consuming education. The fact that one in a million becomes your betting chance of success as opposed to 1 in 25 or less AFTER graduating from the Royal College or any other Art School (official statistics reveal that you may become a teacher but a successful artist….well you have a cat in Emins chance)

So as art education collapses for lack of support who better to take over the education of our new ‘elite’ than…Saatchi Enterprises..who was rumoured to be preparing his own Art School as we speak..privately funded of course and what better way to promote it than getting prime time BBC2 coverage to get it going…no fool that one.

He no more interested in the talent than Lloyd Webber……their real talent is pushing their tie-in profit making concerns..via these programmes…pure Cowellism.

Musicals or Singers or Artists its all the same racket….

As for Badem…do it for yourself mate there are no silver linings, no Galleries paved with gold…..my lesson in reality started early.

Unable to attend a Royal College M.A. in painting because Thatcher slashed funds I wandered into a gallery with some slides….

‘Don’t bother showing me the slides’ said the gallery owner..
“Dear boy we toddle along to the Royal College M.A. every year and pick the ones with prizes’ They choose for us the rest like you are forgotten….”

How true…

So well done Charles for proving that nothing ever changes..as for poor students…at least they don’t have to waste years paying off loans..they can be rejected from the get-go.

A Rake’s Progress indeed?

I shall be first in line for dismissal in The new Depression Gallery….

working

The Future of Art Education: Ikon Birmingham

Is there one?

Public Debate: The Future of Art Education

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

Monday 6 October 2008, 6.30pm

 

A debate about the future of art education is raging on the pages of Art Monthly. In October readers will have the opportunity to come along and put their questions to our panel of educational professionals and policy makers. The panel will debate the future of art education – is further privatisation, corporatisation and instrumentalism inevitable or are there alternatives?

 

Read all the articles from this debate at

http://www.artmonthly.co.uk

 

1968 and all that

Will the 40th anniversary of the 1968 protests inspire today’s students to demand radical improvements in art education?

Students at the London College of Communication have had enough and have officially registered their dissatisfaction by demanding the return of their fees in protest at staff shortages and the lack of organisation. Staff, for their part, are over-burdened by bureaucracy, rising student numbers, low pay and low self-esteem. Vice chancellors, meanwhile, are focused on corporate-style branding and the commissioning of gleaming new buildings. The legacies of St Martins School of Art in the 60s, or Goldsmiths in the 80s, should serve as reminders that it is not buildings that make for a dynamic teaching environment but people.

Extract from editorial April 2008

 

Mayday Mayday

The sad truth about art education today is that New Labour has finished what Thatcher started

Ironically, Thatcher’s plans for factory-style education were only to be truly achieved under New Labour. It was the setting up of the dreaded inquisition, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), by the first New Labour government in 1998, barely one year after the election, which made the institutionalisation of what Stephen Lee in his letter aptly describes as ‘educational Taylorism’ possible. The QAA, and its spawn, the Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA), became the means by which the product, broken down into bite-sized pieces as a result of the imposition of American-style modularisation, could be tested. Since the government had already begun to refer to the arts as the ‘creative industries’, a term first coined when Labour was still in opposition, this must have seemed like a perfect fit between the so-called ‘aims’ and ‘outcomes’ of an art education.

Extract from editorial May 2008

 

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Anyone considering studying fine art (at undergraduate level) in England and Wales should google the National Student Satisfaction Survey, particularly the Results By Institution. Six of the bottom ten are or were art schools. Bottom of the survey, that is to say the ‘least satisfactory’, is the University of the Arts London. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has studied or taught there recently.

Link:

http://education.guardian.co.uk/students/tables/0,,1574395,00.html

Extract from letter by Graham Crowley published in April 2008

 

Educational Taylorism

I can appreciate the current state of educational Taylorism and the overbearing, corporate-style management that Graham Crowley describes. The corporate model is a powerful one. It tends to be one-dimensional and seamless, where accountability and success can be clearly measured. To understand the impact of the corporatisation of art schools it’s important, I think, to examine the language or jargon used to organise and disseminate learning, then look at the extent to which fine art students adopt this language. Fine art graduates talk of promotion and marketing, or finding a niche market for their work. If a critic writes about a graduate student’s work, the artist may not necessarily see this as participation in an independent critical arena. On the contrary it’s likely they may see it as an opportunity to gain an additional promotional tool with which to market their work. My point is that the corporate model is pervasive in our wider culture industry

Extract from letter by Stephen Lee published in May 2008

 

Creative Industries

Estelle Morris posed three questions for debate. ‘Will the structure in the paper – with all its committees – actually damage creativity? Will the accountability mechanisms jeopardise risk-taking? And, will mainstreaming discourage some people from wanting to work in the creative sector in the first place?’

Extract from report on the government’s new strategy document Creative Britain: New Talents for a New Economy published July-August 2008

 Excellent sarcastic ‘Reader’s Digest’ version here and if you have atime to waste the full report linked off image

http://strategydigested.blogspot.com/2008/02/creative-britain-new-talents-for-new.html

Debate panel will include representatives from Colleges, Unions and Government Departments.

 

This event is free but booking recommended

To book call 0121 248 0708