Talking Balls 2: ‘artspeak’

“These images represent the juxtaposition of the timeless and majestic elegance of nature’s sensory-surpassing miracles with the entangled and growing tensions of our time in culturally reconnecting with the shift away from the human condition of love.”

You know what this is, don’t you?
It’s the first sentence of an ‘artist’s statement’, the artist in this case being photographer John Kilar. (Apologies, John; I’m not picking on you out of personal spite, just by way of a bone-idle, half-assed Google search; you are very, very far from being alone.)
A couple of John’s photos accompanying said statement:

“In giving careful attention to the mediating filters that propagates socially-constructed irreverence, I aim to address the necessity of breaking down the symbolic paradigms of understanding to revisit the overlooked empathy for humanity…”

Ah, now I get it.
That’s not just a lardy fry-up; he’s not just a raving lunatic with a Messiah complex: they’re ‘symbolic paradigms’.
Read the whole thing here: pay particular attention to the comments; is Mr/Ms ‘rien de le monde’ (sic) for real?

“…a glimpse into the unmanaged consciousness that searches for meaning amongst the chaotic jumble of stigma, tropes, tenets, and tradition…”

Or taking the piss, big-style?
How very postmodernly ambiguous.

I was inspired in my seconds-long quest by a great article at pondering on the past and future of International Art English, aka ‘artspeak’, or as I prefer to call it, ‘bollox’.
It, IAE, consists in the main of pseudo-sub-Derridean-esque-ian drivel which, from my own observations, must increase in inverse proportion to the quality of the artwork to which it is attached, and which, as Richard Feynman once famously said of quantum mechanics, “nobody understands”.

Understanding, of course, not being the point; the ‘democratisation’ of art, the great post-modern, defiantly anti-modenist ‘project’ – “we’re all artists now” – has run concurrently with increasing obfuscation and obscurantism in the way we talk about art. So banal is so much ‘art’, it must rely on words in the form of arcane/portentous titles and mystifying accompanying text, convoluted exegesis, to give it any heft whatsoever; ie, to compensate for shocking levels of mediocrity.
There is nothing ‘democratic’ in this; impenetrable bamboozling jargon is always exclusive and elitist, in whichever sphere it operates.

Of course, it’s terribly easy (and fun) to parody this type of discourse, as was shown by Charisma Robot’s Bottom Boom in my last post.
And remember the Sokal Affair? A ‘postmodern essay’, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, was cobbled together randomly from “…grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense… structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics]…”
It was created to prove a point; hilariously, it was accepted for publication; rightly, the shit hit the fan.

Yet back here in ‘Art’, the crap goes on. And on.
This is not a good thing.
For one thing, you can still get away with misogynistic, ‘titillating’ rubbish, if you frame it ‘right’:

“Though the subject itself is revealing and seducing, the intimately intertwined images weave the viewpoint and gaze in such a way that the work becomes less an open seduction and more a psychological game of voyeurism and ways of looking.”

This from the blurb accompanying the work of Lee Horyon; and you know what I thought about that. “Ways of looking”: reference John Berger obliquely, and it’s alright, mate; it’s cool. We dig.

Happily, I reckon the game may well be up. Or it will be if the rather marvellous artybollocks generator has anything to do with it.
Dipping into the Golden Treasury of Delight that is the Museum of Bad Art, I officiated at a marriage made in the Ninth Circle of Art Hell:

Circus of Despair (yes, really) by Someone From Whom All Art Materials Must Be Forever Withheld:

“My work explores the relationship between Critical Theory and life as performance. With influences as diverse as Munch and Frida Kahlo, new tensions are created from both opaque and transparent structures. Ever since I was a pre-adolescent I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of the universe. What starts out as hope soon becomes debased into a dialectic of defeat, leaving only a sense of failing and the inevitability of a new beginning. As shimmering phenomena become distorted through diligent and diverse practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the inaccuracies of our existence.”

Fabulous. I could do this all day.
But my point is serious: language, words, are, I firmly believe, the greatest tools for good or ill that we have; it matters, more than anything, how and to what ends we use them. Use language disingenuously, without clarity, honesty and forethought, and you make the world just that little bit shittier.
‘Art’ is a language and it speaks for itself; if it cannot, maybe it should keep go away and keep its gob firmly shut.

Lovely post by Ann; the portrait of a marriage…?

Picking up the Pieces: David Halliday

We are living in a world of collage.”

The more I think about it, the truer it feels.
Maybe it’s an ‘age’ thing: the awareness that there is no over-arching narrative; there’s just stuff happening, one thing and another.
A world of jarring juxtapositions, odd contiguities; dislocation; disjunction; fractured and fragmented.

Except for the Cymbalta:

“Something is eating a hole… There are too many names in my head. PINS… And a friend. In the Nut House told me. That insanity is not all that it’s cracked up to be.”

David is Canadian, a published writer and artist; that’s about as much as I know. We ‘met’ in the blogosphere; his posts, combining haunting, surreal collage/photo montage with prose poems (micro-fictions?), struck a chord; no callow, eager-eyed youth he; here was a man who has Seen Life.

Still Wearing An Apron: Confessions of a newly divorced woman:

“At the bottom of the stairs. I used to wait for you. To come down. Head first… I can take heart ache. Who doesn’t want to find their husband. Jerking off. Over the dishes?”

His style is spare, staccato, disruptive. No ‘thens’ or ‘becauses’; nothing to imply coherence and understanding, rationalisation; just the piling up of words, phrases, sentences, their only connections being those which we, as we do, read into them.
Like a collage.

There Must Be A Special Home: Drinking buddies:

” For old men. Who still pine… I have to wonder if my liver. Would have outlived. Yours.”

Life; relationships; time itself, experienced not as linear progression, but through snapshots of memories, flitting back and forth; past, present and future commingling uneasily to form an idea of ‘now’:

“Every moment around me. An ambush. Of memory.”

Too Busy Tonight:

“I sat alone in a restaurant. Eating snitzel. And reading the New York Times. Across Church Street. She stepped out of an apartment building. Swimming. In the arms of her lover. Who looked like he’d just taken her. For a test drive.”

Pudding On Your Plate: An old man goes mad cooking dinner:

“Jesus is a wrist watch. That never keeps time. But at least it distracts you from. The point of getting older. My only concern about time. Is how much I have left… The glass is too frail to be half full. Turn my head back to the table. I thought you should know. That isn’t pudding on your plate.”

Just bits and pieces.
We, it, words, images are discrete quanta, bumping up against each other yet remaining forever separate, abstractions in a composite; and this thing we call ‘life’ is something far more grotesquely absurd, far less orderly, than we like to think.
A jigsaw that will never –  quite –  fit:

“The scars from the war. Were still waking him up. In the alley. Between those condominiums that were being renovated… The President is handsome. Aren’t they all.”

The Girl In My Heart: Melancholia:

“The condition of the world. Has sucked off my soul. And you’ve got to get over the feeling. That this has been said. Before. I leave. That the girl in my heart. Is the one. Over there. Her head on my shoulder. Her hand in my pocket.”

Multiplicity and heterogeneity.
No sense of things hanging together comfortably.
Pessimistic? Depressing?
Not at all. (At least not to me. Absurdity is always blackly humourous, I’ve found.)
If art –  the arts –  have one purpose it is surely not to ‘explain’ but to record in a way that we recognise and yet makes us think differently.
David’s work does this, for me.

I’ll leave the last thought to him:

God Or Not:

“There are 2 things.

If there is no God, then the universe is like a haunted house. And freakin’ scary.

And if there is a God. He’s a prick.”


See more of David’s art and writing here: