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Goldsmiths, But is it Art? ep.2, BBC4

From: Martin Craig Michael
Date: 22 Apr 2010
Time: 06:49:00 -0500


The deliciously degrading spectacle continues, this time with added delectable awfulness. The students have finished their MAs and been unleashed onto the London art scene to torment us all with Facebook invitations to shows called things like 'The Devil's Necktie' and 'So!' The most consistent thing about them is that they have no ideas. Not that they have no ideas and sit around doing nothing and saying, 'Damn, I have no ideas', but that they make work despite having no ideas. Best emblem of the tendency is Blue Curry, a young American or Canadian who has his sensitive, thoughtful conceptual guy voice and persona down to a tee, and uses it only to patronise us with bland fatuities about what art is, which are really just weak justifications for his weak, idea-devoid work. Discussing a piece of his consisting of a basketball with two swordfish noses sticking out of it, he says that if someone showed him a work like this and said it was about a time in his life when he used to play a lot of basketball and his uncle was out deep-sea fishing and caught two swordfish, he would lose all respect for the artist. He thinks art should be 'harder' than that, he says, making the elementary error of mistaking impossibility for difficulty. It's easy to set up conundrums that have no answers: why did the hermaphrodite eat the icecream; why did the houseboat sink on dry land; what's the difference between a basketball and a swordfish. Meanwhile, conceptual artist Roisin, whose work consists in stealing objects and ideas from more established artists to trying to get a rise out of them and who seems obsessed with how 'valuable' these things are is disappointed that Ryan Gander didn't get back to her about the idea of his she copied and wonders snidely how that reflects on him as a person. Pretty well, I'd say. Tutor David Mabb, after admitting somewhat endearingly, and perhaps a little disingenuously, to being a 'failure', tells us that a heck of a lot of success is about hustling and networking and that the people who succeed therefore aren't necessarily the best people. Curry tells us that galleries aren't interested in you sending DVDs and such of your work, they'll just throw them in the bin and Roisin caps it all with the sub-sub-sub Duchampian blagger's charter: 'Art is whatever you say it is... but you've gotta say it like you mean it.' So contemporary art really is what people at their most prejudiced think: a bunch of chancers out there fronting for emptiness? Way too often, yes, though I still think that who dares to actually offer something of substance can win. Meanwhile, I refer all these people and you to 'Coke as objet petit a', chapter 3 of Zizek's 'The Fragile Absolute', with this quick precis: the Duchampian readymade is not a justification for any old shit, it's a way of pointing out the auratic, crypto-religosity of the gallery space and of the idea of art a monster that will not die.