Terry Smith - What Is Contemporary Art?

Terry Smith - What Is Contemporary Art?

Postby CAP » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:19 am

Terry Smith: What Is Contemporary Art? Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009, 344 pp. ISBN: 13-978-0-226-76431-3.

(a review in the style of Matthew Collings)

According to Smith, Contemporary Art is basically installations and videos, especially those made in countries that were recently colonies. Painting and photography just hark back to Modernism for him, unless they too arise in a recently independent nation, where the people are good, the corn is high and the roots are deep or has added new extra-strength feminism or smash capitalism tabs, in which case they are okay and part of the fabulous new Post Colonial Turn, the global dance sensation you probably know about from biennales the web you tube and fascist book. Like! Share! Contemporary Art is better than Modern Art, which was just Modernist and is now a Dad’s Army thing and well over but is not Post Modernist anymore either because that too is over like Brit Pop before it really got going really so Contemporary is all the stuff later than anything else and really relevant and interactive and shit. That’s why all the best museums are called museums of contemporary art now and not museums of modern art which sounds old fashioned and like they have only got Modernist Art in them which is wrong and they can never fit all the really new art in anyway because it takes up too much room and is only meant to be site specific and temporary anyway so there.

When you hand the headsets in at the desk you get a refund.

Smith has been to Cuba and Windsor and all the really big museums, especially the new ones and the renovated ones that have all the latest contemporary stuff in them by people with multicultural roots and secret languages and tribal lore that can teach us how to teach ourselves proper freedom and cultural respect. Jah! Contemporary Art is all about these historical forces, coming together regularly and sharing information, and hopefully earning a bob, strictly through sponsorship, patronage, in a top-down, knickers-off, curators’s first, once the lifeboats are manned, kind of way, but that’s not capitalism which requires production and declared profit which is done off-site out-sourced to China probably who are brilliant at industry without unions, wages, environment or security and everyone there lives in containers anyway, unless they’re the Mandarin ruling class, in which case they prefer to operate off-shore, from nice white neighbourhoods. They go there for the schools, they say. Their heritage only got them into trouble anyway. Free Trade! Join The Party! It’s brilliant that art keeps getting younger and is funky fresh with drifters, refugees and guest workers that can turn out to be dudes or dorks like Cory Archangel who can programme software and merch and schmooze really subversively! Ooooh.

And Hirst - he’s bad superbad because its shallow spectacle or scandal that is just Modernism again, but not as good. It’s the Duchamp Warhol Koons riff we just can’t get away from for some reason. And then there’s Serra he’s too big to get away from and is definitely looking rusty and starting to sag. But what is he trying to tell us? Back us into a corner? Make us run like mice through his maze of metal? Is there an allegory there? If there is, it’s taking up too much room, taking too long. The symbolism suffers. And then there’s Jeff Wall he’s Contemporary but he’s bad too because he owes Modernism too much. He borrowed heavily and now the interest rates have gone up. That’s historicism and a Federal offence unless you’re too big to fail in which case you get to curate your own reality and go straight to Art Over21 in Venice live and let direct. Jeff if you can hear me put the camera down Jeff put it down nice and slowley. That's all any of us understand. A put down.

Smith calls the shots counts the hits buys his round but blurs his aim. He knows Enwezor, when he sees him. He’s a bit of an en-wheezer himself. Contemporary Art is for people who prefer sociology and culture studies and don’t look too closely or long at stuff like form and history and reasons to be righteous. It’s not a well known or widely read book but it’ll be on all the right reading lists still on curators’ web sites and catalogues. A resource! Don’t give it a second thought no-one else does.

A more academic version of this review appears on CAP’S CRITS.

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