Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another statement about statements

I’ve said before that when I'm king, the first thing I’ll do is abolish artist’s statements—which will make me very popular in the kingdom, as I’ve never met anyone who likes them. What I want to know is, how does something no one likes continue not only to persist, but become increasingly unintelligible and ridiculous? The form is only about 15 years old, and how it evolved and took root in the culture would be a (semi) interesting study.

However since I’m not king yet, and schools, galleries, and curators seem to require them (in fact graduate students complain that their teachers often put more emphasis on the quality of the statement than the artwork) I am pleased to provide a formula that’s been very successful for the artist I stole it from, and you can then use the time you would have spent on your statement to work in the studio:

My work emerges in the interdisciplinary space of art, -----------, and social practice. After leaving behind my formal training as a ---------- and relocating to ----------- (note: you MUST relocate. Jesus couldn’t work miracles in his hometown either) I have created a diverse body of artwork that explores urbanity, spatial justice, and land-based poetics. Employing a broad range of media from ------ to ------ to ------ these works examine the tension between politics and poetics, individual action and impotence.  I reconfigure time, making reference to the concept of --------, originating from the work of Charles Baudelaire and developed by Walter Benjamin (you may substitute Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard or Lacan for either of these).  Cyclical repetition and return also inform the character of my movements and mythology, contrasting geological and technological time through land-based and social practices that examine individual memory and collective mythology.

Notice that the artist left out a few essential terms, such as “gender,” “social identity,” and “the body.” So that all artist’s statements from now on don’t look exactly alike (you don’t want to be accused of plagiarism, not that anyone would notice) it’s your job to insert them in a creative way; just don’t spend more than five minutes doing it.
Of course after I wrote this, I realized that eliminating any kind of written accompaniment to an artwork would restrict creativity unduly, so I’ve decided to modify my ruling to allow statements if they fulfill the following requirements:

Are fun to read.

Shed no light whatsoever on the meaning and experience of, or impetus for, the artwork.

I liked my friend, Colin Brant's statement for his 2011 exhibition at the Bennington Museum, where he wrote:

My approach is one in which reverence and skepticism coexist naturally. I like to imagine the possibility of a world in which men and women in their underwear read poetry by a reflecting pool, looked on by deer and birds.

If Colin's paintings don’t fit the description of “land-based poetics,” I don’t know what does. But as for "reconfiguring time," well, only God can do that.

Colin Brant
Colin Brant


Adeaner said...

I'm with you when it comes to artist's Statements. When we see work that attracts or fascinates us we want to know more. Where everything goes wrong is when the artist takes themselves way to seriously. It's like hearing a beauty contestant speak about world peace. It'd be much more informative if she just told a childhood story or even a good joke. Simple is better.
There's a trap we fall into in explaining our work via the written word; we look at what we've said and it just seems too simple, too human and so we try to doctor things with big words and big ideas.
On the other hand, it is so sweet to read a concise Statement that's informative and personable.
I'm a firm believer in the "pretty picture". And when the aliens come all the wall text and statements won't matter a bit - they'll keep what they want and blow-up the rest. haha
I came across a great little interview-artists-in-their-studio site called gorkysgranddaughter.com
There are some real gems (in a good way).

deb said...

I was just in Stockholm (Sweden) at Supermarket (an independent art fair)- one of the most entertaining exhibits was this - www.art-words.net a project by Eva Beierheimer and Miriam Laussegger which generates an artist statement for you. I know it is not unique but it was fun.