David Thompson
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April 29, 2013

Comments

Sam

These people should try 'exploring' the job centre.

svh

If I say I'm really really shocked will they stop pissing about?

AC1

A metaphor for the violence that immigration has brought to the country.

AC1

“how to make contact with something that has no function.”

I'd have thought anyone meeting the aptly named Dimchev has already achieved this.

rjmadden

inevitably includes vigorous self-pleasure with what appears to be a wig

I'm glad at least one person there was having a good time.

David

I’m glad at least one person there was having a good time.

Quite. And it’s always a pleasure to see the European Union’s Culture Programme spending taxpayer’s money wisely. The EUCP is of course “enhancing our shared heritage” with “intercultural dialogue.”

It’s possibly worth noting just how often performance art is literally masturbatory. In the mid Nineties the Other Half and I were dragged to an ‘event’ in London. I can’t recall much about it other than that it involved a woman standing onstage, fully dressed, while pretending to masturbate and looking terribly bored. More bored than us, even. (I assume she was pretending. It was difficult to care either way.)

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

inevitably includes vigorous self-pleasure with what appears to be a wig:

I didn't watch the video, but I wonder if Mr. Dimchev has ever heard of a merkin.

David

I didn’t watch the video,

Well, that’s hardly fair. I don’t see why you should get off so lightly.

bilbaoboy

I did watch the video and so I say to Ted from the Catskill Mountains, I admire your choice.

Anna

I’m glad at least one person there was having a good time.

I want to see video of the audience watching this crap and pretending to like it.

AC1

Friday came and went ephemeraless...

http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/patterns_emerge/

I've also noticed that the left see inconvenient facts as a stream of "unconnected random" events.

Chris S.

I've always wanted to gather a group of friends, and dress the part of the sort of people who would attend these sorts of events, and actually go to one of these things. Then loudly proclaim that the artist clearly is stating their support for UKIP or the like. Then have your compatriots join in a lively disagreement and eventually all come around to your side that yes, the artist is obviously one of those racist conservatives. You'd have to work on your arts-bollocks speak to make it convincing.

mojo

"Ivo", by the by, means "Archer"

Make of it what you will.

john s

While I appreciate the fact that you did warn me, I am now irreparably damaged.

David

No refunds. Credit note only.

Spiny Norman

In the mid Nineties ... a woman standing onstage, fully dressed, while pretending to masturbate and looking terribly bored.

And yet, in the nearly 20 years since, our "daring" performance artists have not discovered anything new.

Spiny Norman

Curiously, Written on Skin is the name of a chapter in an erotic novel (by "erotic", I mean very explicit and pornographic - the name of which escapes me, but one of those cheesy paperbacks from the 1970s), following the adventures of a cocaine-and-hot-tub Disco Don Juan. This particular chapter dealt with a millionaire's wife he was having an affair with who would trace letters describing what she wanted him to do to her, and he was supposed to guess. It's odd, the things one can recall from more than 30 years ago.

(The book was surprisingly well written. My guess is it was probably written under a pen name by some novelist who later became famous.)

Spiny Norman

"traced letters on his back"

Sorry, I deleted too much out when I edited that. I wish there was some way to edit one's comments after they've been posted.

JuliaM

"...purchasing a pleated white dress, briefly worn by a happening pop artiste named Lady Gaga, and vomited on by the performance artist Millie Brown."

Japan's PM got off lightly in 1992 then...

Joan

“explores” the “provoking functionlessness” of various objects,

Really? How?

David

Really? How?

A while ago, I suggested a drinking game involving random art press releases. Every time you spot the word ‘explores’ or ‘interrogates’ you take a swig of tequila. Oblivion would beckon very quickly indeed. These words are all but obligatory – it’s a way to signal phony intellectual heft – and given the context, they’re usually meaningless. The particulars of this alleged mental activity – all this exploring and interrogating - never seem to be stated clearly, and no conclusions ever seem to be reached or announced to the public. But that’s because these words aren’t meant to refer to reality. You’ll see they’re used pretty much randomly. They’re just there to let the credulous punter know that the artist is supposed to be clever and therefore deserving of attention and taxpayer subsidy.

CharleSays

About that clown interacting with objects? Let's just say Jonathan Winters he's not.

jones

OH GOD....IT BURNS.IT BURNS...

AC1

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-04-29/and-highest-paid-college-majors-are

the wolf

I cut my hand cleaning the kitchen last night. Perhaps I should take a picture, call it "Explorations Of Aversion To Housework" and sell it.

David

AC1,

As noted at the time of the 2010 tuition fee protests and riots:

The average lifetime financial return on an arts degree is estimated at around £30,000. Set against the cost of courses, accommodation and lost earnings during the period of study, the net result is most likely a reduction in lifetime earnings. In short, there’s no longer a return for the taxpayer and little economic incentive for inter-generational subsidy. [...] In the UK there are currently around 20,000 students of fine art, 10,000 philosophy students and 27,000 enthusiasts of media studies. But is there a corresponding economic need? If the investment of time, effort and (other people’s) money doesn’t pay off with a lucrative and fascinating career in the private sector and a return via taxation, then how is the process justified in its present form?

And yet the reaction of many art students seemed to be, “I refuse to pay for my own degree, which won’t get me a job and is worth bugger all outside of academia. Other people, who will benefit even less, should be the ones to pay for it.”

Karen M

the theatrical stylings of Mr Ivo Dimchev, a “radical performer” acclaimed for his “gripping sensitivity”

This is one of those special needs 'care in the community' things, isn't it?

JuliaM

"And yet the reaction of many art students seemed to be, “I refuse to pay for my own degree, which won’t get me a job and is worth bugger all..."

Probably still worth a hell of a lot more than a degree in 'Women’s Gender' and 'Sexuality Studies'...

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=48887

David

Bad dog!

Bart

"Every time you spot the word ‘explores’ or ‘interrogates’ you take a swig of tequila"

I suppose spotting 'challenging preconceptions' means you have to down the whole glass.

David

I suppose spotting ‘challenging preconceptions’ means you have to down the whole glass.

Even government ministers now bang on about the need for art to be “challenging” and “iconoclastic.” As Fabian Tassano noted, this endorsement of radicalism by the state makes it seem unlikely that any actual iconoclasm will be welcome or encouraged. And likewise, when academic art courses routinely stress the need to be “subversive,” and therefore fit in, it’s reasonable to suppose much the same thing. If you look through the teaching materials aimed at art students, you’ll find reams of guff like this:

Digital arts practice often involves a conscious subversion of the aesthetics of mainstream technology. Artists interrogate, explore or react against the way consumer technology looks and feels, creating new aesthetic genres, which are in turn subverted.

It goes on like this for quite some time and there’s lots of blather about “orthodoxies” being “subverted.” It soon becomes clear that interrogation and subversion are given much more weight than, say, making something beautiful. In fact, such terms are often frowned upon as unsophisticated:

‘Your work is so beautiful,’ a fellow artist once said to one of the authors; a statement which at first seems a compliment but was actually a fairly scathing criticism. For her, beauty was the opposite of truth: a façade, uncomfortably redolent of the technological orthodoxy, which her own work critiqued.

And so on. Yes, everyone is busy letting us know how non-conformist they are. Which may help explain why the art world produces so much wilfully ugly and laughable wank, like that of Mr Dimchev and his peers.

Dr Cromarty

Wanking into a wig. For state-supplied cash. We really have lost it as a society.

Zeppo Shemp

Tom Wolfe's book The Painted Word, and several subsequent essays, have discussed the development of modern and conceptual art: increasing abstraction and theoretical pretense, decreasing reliance on actual talent. From the book:

"In the beginning we got rid of nineteenth-century storybook realism. Then we got rid of representational objects. Then we got rid of the third dimension altogether and got really flat (Abstract Expressionism). Then we got rid of airiness, brushstrokes, most of the paint, and the last viruses of drawing and complicated designs [...] there, at last, it was! No more realism, no more representation objects, no more lines, colors, forms, and contours, no more pigments, no more brushstrokes.[...] Art made its final flight, climbed higher and higher in an ever-decreasing tighter-turning spiral until… it disappeared up its own fundamental aperture and came out the other side as Art Theory!"

another recent example:

"Students at Carnegie Mellon say it’s freedom of expression, but the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh calls it inappropriate and disrespectful.

"At an annual art school parade, a female student dressed up as the pope, and was naked from the waist down while she passed out condoms.

"Even more, witnesses say the woman had shaved her pubic hair in the shape of a cross."

http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2013/04/29/cmu-parade-controversy-over-woman-naked-and-dressed-as-pope/

At the very least, Carnegie Mellon University is a private school, so perhaps there's a lower risk of
taxes having been wasted on this daring and transgressive concept.

David

…witnesses say the woman had shaved her pubic hair in the shape of a cross.

I suppose one has to appreciate the attention to detail.

Watcher

One supposes all this radical art is designed to shock and (possibly) create awe in the observer. The reality is that it has probably all been done before, and as we 'advance' our understanding, there will be less and less to actually shock (and awe) observers.

We are heading to the era of 'Meh' where we have seen it, felt it, thought it and are no longer interested.

Art therefore has increasingly no meaning, no relevance and eventually no observers. Artistic people will therefore vomit and masturbate alone, as they usually do.

David

We are heading to the era of ‘Meh’… Art therefore has increasingly no meaning, no relevance and eventually no observers.

Well, it’s often hard to distinguish between supposedly daring contemporary art and the kind of momentarily amusing tat I sometimes include in the ephemera posts. And while I’m happy to browse tat online, and laugh at it, I’m not so keen to waste an afternoon in a local gallery doing much the same thing, even though I’m forced to pay for it. But I’d imagine there’s always something worth seeing, somewhere. Whether that something ever finds its way into the local modish galleries may be another matter, and whether modish galleries will retain much of a connection with things worth seeing is another matter again. The things that please the eye may not even be recognised by artistic institutions.

Part of it, I think, is that the gatekeepers of such places often favour art that affects cleverness and political radicalism and thus flatters the gatekeepers’ own imagined cleverness. And so we get taxpayer-bankrolled tossers who tell us they’re “exploring” and “interrogating” something or other (in ways never made clear or discernible) and that they’re “trespassing upon patriarchal society” with “acts of resistance,” etc - all while presenting nothing you’d care to look at, except perhaps as farce or a joke at your expense.

Often, what’s funded and given space isn’t meant to be visually pleasing, or memorable, or even competent; it’s meant to be clever, at least in theory. As the critic Brian Ashbee wrote back in 1999, much of the art that’s in favour among our betters “isn’t art to be looked at; this is art to talk about and write about. It doesn’t reward visual attention; it generates text.” Which is to say, it exists for the benefit of a tiny minority of insecure incompetents who are part of the same subsidy-seeking hustle. And as they already have your money, extorted via taxation and dished out by the Arts Council, why should they care whether anyone turns up? Why should they care what you, the lowly punter, think?

[ Added: ]

Whether or not Barney The Pseudo-Artist gets that £20,000 grant has very little to do – probably nothing to do – with whether the public likes what he produces, or with whether anyone will even turn up to look at it once it’s been paid for. Which is why you can browse sites like Vimeo and find dozens of taxpayer-funded videos promoting these taxpayer-funded art events, the stats of which reveal that almost no-one was interested in watching them. Typically, we’re talking about less than fifty views, often less than ten, and sometimes none at all. Which doesn’t exactly suggest that these events were meeting some vast and hitherto neglected public appetite. But that’s the whole point of the Arts Council - to circumvent the preferences of the public and how they’d spend their own money voluntarily.

And the more fatuous and uninteresting such art events are, the more likely you are to hear a lot of ponderous bollocks. For instance, the creative titan behind the laughably bad Unrealised Potential ‘event’ describes himself like this:

My art practice is interdisciplinary and research led, framed by an exploration into revealing the ‘myth’ of the artist’s vision against the audience reading. I intend to expand and challenge an audiences experience whilst offering alternative bridges/means to interpret; this is usually through multi-part works that sit between ‘performance’ and ‘curation’. However it is the continual habit of cross-referencing seemingly opposing disciplines, narrative structures and interpretative motifs that invigorate my critical concerns/subtext to my work/projects as this paves the way to widen cultural gaps and make transparent ideological conditioning for a non-didactic ‘creative frequency’.

Readers are welcome to suggest how that statement might relate to or improve the actual crap on show.

Jonathan

This is how Civilisation ends.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=PNGzoJFj9g8

Rich Rostrom

Almost entirely crap - but Loren Fetterman does appear to be a real artist. His website has a gallery of fantasy subjects that are gorgeous representational art. He can actually draw.

Dunno how he got roped into this "performance art" shuck. And I shudder at the thought of Ms Elrick's budy being even temporarily mutilated in a very painful way (and I don't think it ever heals completely).

But it doesn't look like just art bollocks.

David

Rich,

He can actually draw.

Yes, and some people might even pay Mr Fetterman – with their own money - to draw comic books, posters, concept art, tattoos, etc. He even has an online shop. So you can see the problem for the intellectually insecure. How ghastly and commercial it must seem. Art, we’re told, is meant to interrogate and subvert the commercial world, because that’s what clever people do. Hence, presumably, the need to “dissolve boundaries” and affect an intellectual veneer by adding some transgressive self-mutilation.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

We keep being told art is supposed to be "transgressive", but then somebody comes along with a poster that transgresses against the wrong group.

OK, technically it's probably not art in the sense most people (regular people, not art critics) would think, but it's still funny to see the horror of quasi-artistic expression that's not backed by the proper sentiment.

stef elrick

Written by someone who came to Written in Skin ::

http://johnjameslynch.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/writteninskin/

It fascinates me how vitriolic some people can be, particularly those crouched behind a facade of intellect, blinkered and proud of the limitations of predefined knowledge. Is that why ‘exploration’ makes you uneasy? Frightened of losing your co-ordinates?

You’ve reminded me exactly why we did this. Why we ignored the second guessing of our intentions, those repressive little hisses full of bitterness and self-importance.
Thank you.

David

Stef,

It fascinates me how vitriolic some people can be, particularly those crouched behind a facade of intellect, blinkered and proud of the limitations of predefined knowledge. Is that why ‘exploration’ makes you uneasy? Frightened of losing your co-ordinates?

Heh. So gentle mockery is vitriol and the façade of intellect can only refer to those who aren’t sufficiently awed by what you do - those who, according to you, must be made uneasy, perhaps due to their fear…?

little hisses full of bitterness and self-importance.

Methinks you project, madam. I might be inclined to take you a little more seriously if you weren’t so keen to flatter yourself.

Thank you.

Likewise.

Christopher Scurrah

Critics tend to be full of shite, especially the ones who don't do their research properly and hide behind their own worthless words. Stef should get her partner Loren to tattoo your comments on your own body David so she can watch you wince with the pain of the worthlessness of them!

Spiny Norman

David,

Because you dared to criticize, even with "gentle mockery" (which makes it far worse, I gather), you must be made to wince in pain for your cheek.

I've always known publicly-funded artistes were a haughty and pretentious bunch, but now I guess we need to add "thin skinned", "vindictive" and "sadistic" to the description.

Anna

Is that why 'exploration' makes you uneasy? Frightened of losing your co-ordinates?

I don't think Stef's been told that when you're in a hole it's best to stop digging.

Stef should get her partner Loren to tattoo your comments on your own body David so she can watch you wince with the pain of the worthlessness of them!

Oh no... vitriol!

That's what you get, David, when you blaspheme.

Christopher Scurrah

Well you could at least allow the subject of your mockery to defend herself instead of blocking her!!!

David

Christopher,

Well you could at least allow the subject of your mockery to defend herself instead of blocking her!!!

No-one has been blocked. That’s not what I do, as many regulars will confirm. I’ve also checked the TypePad spam filter, which is sometimes a little flaky, and there’s nothing snarled in there either.

David

This is the comment that Stef was apparently unable to post, emailed directly to me and reproduced in full as requested:

Yes it's Stef. That's reassuring, so presumably a glitch? I posted it up - re-read it and now it has gone and I can't post it afresh on the site. Seemed odd and you can understand why I would assume it had been deleted.

My response was ::

We never expected awe nor did we seek it - we had no expectations whatsoever, something that this thread is saturated in, the core of all projected response.

The dialogue that’s been opened up is a perfect counterpoint to everything we asked people to consider and I welcome the conflict of thought. Our relationship is utterly symbiotic but your opinions might be better rooted if you were responding to an experience rather than an idea. It resides in a world of abstraction.

Naturally I'm going to respond to the 'gentle mockery' contained within, the phrase in itself a pretty euphemism for rhetoric drenched in misplaced superiority.

If you're going to belittle the efforts of other people at least do it with honesty and conviction. Then this insipidly condescending tone might have some genuine worth beyond the transparent walls of a cyber stronghold.

If you want to repost it you can, I will happily leave it as a closing statement seen as though I am suddenly unable to respond.

Thanks
Stef

Franklin

we had no expectations whatsoever

I believe it.

David

Stef,

Naturally I’m going to respond to the ‘gentle mockery’ contained within, the phrase in itself a pretty euphemism for rhetoric drenched in misplaced superiority. If you’re going to belittle the efforts of other people at least do it with honesty and conviction. Then this insipidly condescending tone might have some genuine worth beyond the transparent walls of a cyber stronghold.

I’m not often accused of being insufficiently honest or lacking conviction. I will, of course, try harder. It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that, so far as I can make out, the more vigorous comments below the post weren’t actually aimed at you or your, um, performance. They were more general in nature, many based on direct experience of inadequate art, with links to illustrative examples involving other people. Your own contribution to human betterment was rather overshadowed by these more comical offerings.

But among many artists, curators and commentators there are recurring patterns of self-flattery, indeed comical conceit. If you follow the links above or browse the hundred or so posts tagged “art,” you’ll see dozens of examples, many of which are quite striking. Claims like your own – that unspecified “exploration” (the results of which remain mysterious) must make critics “uneasy” or fearful - do tend to flatter the speaker, generally by implying that a failure to be enticed or impressed, or to feel transgressed, is – can only be – the fault of the critic or audience. A typical example was quoted in a recent thread. Interviewed in the Guardian, on the subject of “new” art, the artist Michael Craig-Martin said,

For many this is the first time in their lives they have come across against something that does not find a comfortable place in their picture of things, something that resists their understanding. It is a very unnerving feeling, and they often dismiss the work as rubbish or the artist as fraudulent. Could it be the consequence of a failure in their education?

In terms of condescension and, as you put it, “misplaced superiority,” this is hard to beat. The thinking, which is almost a default, seems to be that if you, the lowly punter, aren’t impressed, it must be your own fault for being “uneducated,” uptight, terribly bourgeois, etc. Because the artist is never fraudulent, or incompetent, or comically unaware. And I’m sure you can see how closely your own comments to me fit with what is pretty much a standard conceit.

sk60

Is that why 'exploration' makes you uneasy? Frightened of losing your co-ordinates?

Oh dearie me.

Franklin

Stef,

This piece by our host is not a review, and as such he is not obliged to give it a first-person viewing. He is commenting upon its institutional representation and the institutional language being used to advocate for it, which is a valid topic of dialog despite your zeal to marginalize it in favor of your own preferred narrative.

It's a shame that you can't engage honestly with the remarks being made here. Instead you assume an insider position and attribute the author's reaction to out-group philistinism, betraying your inability to participate in serious self-examination regarding your own work. Are there no truly shortcomings in it? Is it impossible that this work might be coming off as narcissistic masochism rather than a creative exploration? If you really had no expectations, why privilege other, more flattering readings over David's? What does it say about this piece that its defenders are rudely advocating violence in its defense? What does it say about you that you don't disavow such violence?

And that's to say nothing about its derivativeness and triteness, which is not of concern to David, but is obvious to those of us in the topic-full time. Chris Burden, Maria Abramovic, and Vito Acconci were making similar statements, more emphatically, four decades ago, examining the same topics. For that matter, this is inferior to people committing their imagery and expression permanently to their flesh, in ink, and thus your piece has nothing in its relative favor except institutional context, as if semi-committal statements in the white cube trump fully committed statements in the vernacular.

This is the kind of retrogressive, academic, salon-style thinking that prevents art from moving forward.

Anna

What Franklin said.

Rafi

We never expected awe nor did we seek it - we had no expectations whatsoever… I welcome the conflict of thought.

Sorry, I don't believe this for one minute. Franklin's covered it already but let's recap: David laughed at the premise of your art and the way it was presented and you got all bent out of shape about it. People who 'belittle' your art are 'blinkered' and 'frightened of losing their co-ordinates', remember? Sounds like 'conflict of thought' is the last thing you want.

David

The review that Stef linked as affirming her work is quite funny too, if you like that kind of thing. The reviewer, an art student, spends a lot of time – many paragraphs – fretting about the artists’ intent (which of course remains unclear) and what it all means, how “uncomfortable” it makes him, etc. “Does this work in some way reference childbirth?” he asks. Alas, we never learn the answer to this great mystery. Such is the way of things - these things, anyway. The nudity apparently shocks him too, which seems rather implausible given its near ubiquity in bad performance art. Apparently, it’s “troubling” – “I was aware that I was looking at somebody female, attractive and naked. For a male you have to question, why you are looking.” This is followed by some cod rumination on voyeurism, which would presumably apply to any performance involving nudity, and a conclusion of sorts:

But I can say this work is complex. It is sophisticated, but without sophistry. It has layers of meaning, not all of which are obvious to me, or probably to the performers. Even the reasoning and motivations of the performers must be vastly different.

And this is the thing, the same old same old. The reviewer feels entitled to hail what he’s seeing as complex and sophisticated, having quickly stepped around less flattering possibilities. It’s “a work of ephemeral beauty,” says he, though the reasons for this remain at best nebulous and inconclusive, and somewhat removed from the gallery press release. There is, though, a willingness to beg the question and fill in the aesthetic gaps with suppositions of his own. Suppositions that may well have nothing whatsoever to do with whatever it is the artists actually intended. (Is it referencing childbirth? Or capitalism, or time-travel?) And if you don’t know what the artists are actually trying to do - if your review relies on so much tendentious guesswork - how can you judge how well they’ve done it, or how far short of their goal they’ve fallen? How can you be sure you aren’t crediting the artists with ideas they didn’t have and work they didn’t do?

Franklin

And too, how can the artists be sure that they're not crediting themselves with unearned artistic accomplishment? The presumption here is that they're going in with no expectations about what this art, or what any art is supposed to do - that's our failing, you see, for harboring such bourgeois notions - and once it garners any reaction whatsoever, then that is what the work is about. Hence "you’ve reminded me exactly why we did this" and "the dialogue that’s been opened up is a perfect counterpoint to everything we asked people to consider." Debating this, as I put it once, is like punching a hill of meringue. It's also, in epochs measured in the contemporary art world, an ancient strategy.

Annemarie Moore

This "performance" reminded me tremendously of my 15-year-old non-verbal autistic son. You know what? It's about time he started earing his living! (Or should I affect faux rage at the (unintended) and potentially demeaning imitation of his common behaviours?)

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