Tag Archives: postmodernism

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

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