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 artinfo.com 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.

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