Post Modernist Writing
". . . invents puzzles out of nonsequiturs to seek congruence in seemingly incongruous situations, whether visual or spatial . . . inhabits those interstitial spaces between understanding and confusion."The above quote is from the Whitney Museum's Biennial exhibition of contemporary art... yeah.
That elitist deconstruction of the English language is what passes in some circles for art lingo, but the Wall Street Journal's Eric Gibson has it right when he writes that "there is no excuse for a museum letting nonsense of the sort quoted above out in the open, particularly an institution whose mission includes educating the public. If the Whitney continues to snub this public -- its core audience -- by "explaining" art with incomprehensible drivel, it shouldn't be surprised if people decide to return the favor and walk away."
Bravo Mr. Gibson! Read the whole article here.
I visited the Biennial a few weeks ago intending to write a review, but I just couldn't justify spending time doing so. Everything seemed... so common and typical... nothing stood out in my mind.
For example, Oliver Mosset's work is exactly like a the work of a couple of hundred art school students each year (and because I am curating a student exhibition even as I type these words... I know!) and even like the work of a few Artomatic artists every time that there's a new AOM. As is Ry Rocklen's... or Frances Stark or 97.756% of these artists' works.
It is not to say that they are all bad, but what it does says -- to anyone who visits a few art fairs and a few hundred art gallery openings a year -- is "I've seen a few dozen artists who do exactly this stuff... yawn."
In this blue chip setting, I and we want to see something that WOWs us... never mind the shitty writing to explain the shitty art.
We say this because we expect this show to -- at least-- show us a couple of artists and works which really stand out, but instead, it seems likes it continues to degrade into a masturbatory event of "what-does-the-chosen-curator-who-never-actually-goes-to-gallery-openings-regularly... so that he/she only has a tiny perspective..." think is "new" and worthy of inclusion.
But it is not the curators's fault, but the mix of curators.
Whitney Museum: Throw in some common sense in there and you'll be shocked by the changes. Add a small time collector to the curatorial mix; not a multimillionaire, but a guy who owns a dry cleaners or a deli and has a passion for collecting art, or a bartender from NYC who has a passion for going to gallery openings and whose apartment is full of art. Include a small city curator or gallery director with a very focused perspective and you might be surprised what some commoners' blood does add to your blue blood curatorial effort: stamina and a new set of eyes (and new eyes have new perspectives),
For arts' sakes, connect to the "outside the art world" world... somehow.
Otherwise, stay they way you are, and resign yourselves to be the laughing stock of the critical and public world, but at least show me at least one memorable fucking painter or at least one video worth remembering, or one installation that doesn't look like garbage.
Pick out a really young artist whose name hasn't come to you via the usual routes... someone still in school but struggling to deliver something that is good and still someone can choose to display in their homes, for after all, some significant parts of the production of the art community are commodities -- not all mind you -- but not all are just ideas and undecipherable conceptual art.
It's supposed to be sort of a survey... right? So stop trying to be so edgy, because by the time you get to the edge, we've already seen it before when we got there first.
Because unlike you, we are not stuck in offices in museums, waiting for someone in our inner circle to tell us what is the latest and greatest in edgy art, so that we can then re-invent the English language to explain it.
Get out and see some stuff, and remember what the word "survey" means. Or take the approach that some Latin American nations' Biennials take (such as El Salvador and Costa Rica) and open the Biennials so that artists can send submissions for consideration. In this cyberspace world, it is not that hard to do and not that difficult to view and jury.
As for the text, it also brings me to the non-issue of: since every signage in public spaces these days are of the bilingual nature, why isn't museum wall text also displayed in Spanish?
Oy Gevault! Imagine translating all that crappy writing into Spanish if the Whitney Biennial was to travel around the US, as some have suggested.