David Thompson
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February 27, 2008

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Candice

While I do find his art to be interesting, the subjects reflect his obvious leftist bias. Why couldn't he have depicted the number of people fed by USAid per day, for example? Instead he decides to pick on the usual suspects.

David

Candice,

Yes, the “issues” Jordan raises are pretty standard and selective and I wasn’t endorsing his politics. I suppose we’re meant to fret about how profligate capitalism is or something. (Unlike, say, Socialism which only lays waste to human ingenuity and things like, oh, honesty.) But the piece above is visually striking and some of the statistics are interesting in and of themselves. Whether the various stats and “issues” add much to the aesthetic experience is perhaps another matter.

I suspect the work wouldn’t so easily get funding and attention if it didn’t “raise issues” of a particular kind, which probably says something about the arts establishment and much of the gallery-going public.

Paul

Yes, he's a cheery old bark isn't he? I agree with Candice - why not something nice, like a smiling infant's face made up of the faces of the thousands of children who are innoculated against disease every day?

David

Well, a great deal of art, or what passes for art, seems to need validating with “issues”, generally of a vague and fashionably dreary kind. A few years ago, the ICA had an exhibition of conceptual art called “Publicness” in which three artists - Jens Haaning, Matthieu Laurette and Aleksandra Mir – were apparently “interrogating the notion of the public realm.” According to the ICA press release, they did this “interrogating” with “works ranging from projects either under development or constantly evolving, and proposals for projects that may never be realised.”

http://www.aleksandramir.info/texts/publicness.html

One of the, um, projects, called “Redistribution”, claimed to “create a one-to-one exchange between the art institution and the external environment.” If you’re wondering what that means, the press release helpfully explained: “The work will consist of removing all the chairs from the ICA café and placing them in a street in Pakistan. At the ICA café there will be a framed photograph of the chairs in situ in Pakistan.” I’m not sure what this feat of intercontinental furniture removal actually achieved, or what its aesthetic value was, but the ICA reckoned it would make us “question the Western world’s perception of, and relation to, the rest of the world and to raise issues around topics such as the global economy, culture and cultural exchange.”

Though I did wonder if it was really just an insurance scam to get some new chairs.

It goes without saying the whole thing was ugly, vacuous and utterly unrewarding. But it did make the obligatory noises about globalisation, environmentalism, minorities, etc. Which is apparently what matters.

the wolf

I think his bias runs more along the lines of "These Big Numbers Are Scary." Lacking context for his big numbers (some of which seem a little, er, weird), the viewer is left only to wonder what the point is. I suspect we're supposed to have a knee-jerk "that's bad" reaction; however, one looks at a picture of millions of shopping bags and wonders, "Well, how exactly do you get your groceries home?"

David

Wolf,

“I suspect we’re supposed to have a knee-jerk ‘that’s bad’ reaction.”

If it were a more objective look at quantities and scale, Jordan’s work might be more engaging. But there are the usual remarks – lots of them - about “runaway consumerism”, “a slow-motion apocalypse in progress” and “we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.” Elsewhere, there’s the claim that, “[Hurricane] Katrina was not an entirely natural event like an earthquake or tsunami. The 2005 hurricane season’s extraordinary severity can be linked to global warming, which America contributes to in disproportionate measure through our extravagant consumer and industrial practices.”

http://www.chrisjordan.com/statement.php

And, yes, there are the mandatory references to the “Bush Administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Brendan

I think Jordan's effort has a lot of merit. I'm not going to read Jordan's "statement", but the theme is very cool and mostly visually stunning (not all his work is equal in my view). It's contemporary, it reflects common, everyday concerns and it is superior in many ways to the fraud normally perpetrated upon us by, um, "high art" and it's critics.

I think your all grasping at straws by diminishing the visual effect the artist has achieved. It's not his fault he must exist and survive it the intellectual vacuum that constitutes today's art world. You are right that he might have shown a billion tooth picks in use this week and done as well, but where's the relevance to everyman? As I said, I didn't read the statement, nor will I, because if he says nothing it would be effective and emotive. Best we are left to our own thoughts and conclusions with any piece of art.

David

Brendan,

“I didn’t read the statement, nor will I, because if he says nothing it would be effective and emotive.”

Yes, the statements seem to compromise the effect, rather than adding to it. Visually, I quite like the aircraft vapour trails, for instance, but the clumsy efforts to steer us towards a particular political viewpoint are unwelcome and unnecessary. (Unless one views art as just a vehicle for politics, which quite a few people do.)

Some of Jordan’s work is more interesting than that of, say, the trio mentioned above. The Cans Seurat piece is at least cleverly done, albeit (I think) with readily available software. But it still only engages me in the sense a half-decent advert would. And some of the best adverts have much greater visual and emotive power. If I were a budding artist, I’d be aiming to work in advertising, which, at its best, is much more disciplined and much more effective.

Brendan

Surely Jordan's not using something like 'my mosaic' to generate his work is he? That's simply cheating.

I do like the prison uniforms installation on his web. That does give you an idea of scale, but of course it's only interesting an not an aesthetic masterpiece by any means.

I agree with your point about commercial art. Coke was doing these mosaics 25 years ago for example, before the advent of computers.

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