Sunday, December 19, 2010

the making of an illusion of...

In her article appearing in The New York Times, December 16, 2010, Roberta Smith summarizes what happened in the 2010 art scene: an unwelcome revival of culture wars, a rise in participatory art, and a strong presence by female artists. She appears not to like what she calls "rise in participatory art."

In museums participatory art was noticeably on the rise, creating an illusion of egalitarianism. Visitors to the retrospective of the performance pioneer Marina Abramovic at the Museum of Modern Art could enter the exhibition by walking between closely spaced nude performers standing at attention, and hold staring contests with Ms. Abramovic in the museum’s atrium. In the Whitney Museum’s Christian Marclay exhibition visitors wrote musical notes (and lots of other stuff) on a wall for pianists to improvise from.

Things were taken further at the Guggenheim Museum, where Tino Sehgal combined the participatory and the invisible. He demonstrated that it is possible to have an engaging art exhibition involving nothing but walking and talking. It helped to have Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling rotunda serving as an architectural metaphor for the path of life. (Another blow for the nonvisible was struck by Susan Philipsz, the first sound artist to win the Tate Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize.)

I did not like the way The New York Times reported about Tino Sehgal, and once wrote about it.

When creating nothing you can see or touch, those artists are actually not so optimistic about whether their creations will emancipate the spectator. For them, "creating an illusion of egalitarianism" is not what their works are all about. Generalizing like this would stop further thinking. I also felt the same about the recent The Guardian's articles about Susan Philipsz.

Smith expresses her dissatisfaction with the poor critics following the conservative attack on David Wojnarowicz's video work.

A few harsh words from the conservative Catholic League and a handful of congressmen caused the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution to order the removal of a truncated version of a 1987 video by the activist-artist David Wojnarowicz from an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The piece included 11 seconds of ants crawling over a plastic and wood crucifix that, it was said, would offend Christians. This institutional crumbling in the face of what was after all only criticism (hello!) showed a shocking lack of intellectual spine. Heaven forfend that art should challenge people with its intense emotions or with thoughts they don’t already think.

I also want to see some "intellectual spine."

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