Turner Prize opening invitation – not mine…
It’s that time of year again – the critical celebration of the establishment’s annexing of the avant-garde on the planet Art. Watch in wonder as the vetted panel make their selections in terms of politically correct under representations and live in fear of accusations of knee-jerk philistinism should you dare to oppose this state sponsored cultural fascism.
It is no secret that the cultural Emperor of old, the Academy, realised that it couldn’t compete let alone beat the new young Turks of the early twentieth century art world. So it transformed itself from Napoleon to Nosferatu and set about draining the life blood from new art by letting it join the club. The new establishment is about state approved, quasi avant-gardism.
The work presented at the Turner Prize is not intrinsically bad because it is on the short list of the Turner Prize, I’m not even suggesting that it is bad. However it is not new, just because it is short listed for the Turner Prize. Neither is it good, just because it is short listed for the Turner Prize – that is the line that we the punters are being asked to swallow.
Because primarily of the nature of the work, as opposed to its merits, the current star of the crop is Emin. Her work is being discussed in terms of how honestly she bares her identity, persona and life history to the viewer. As if a pissed-off, self-obsessed, miserable artist were something new.
Well here’s news for the culture pundits:
All the artists I know, and I count myself among them, are madly selfish, egotistical, depressive, self-centred and narcissistic – and if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be artists. I don’t hold these to be faults; they are positive character traits required to enable artists to stick mind jarring ideas forcefully into the viewer’s subconscious.
For an artist, work in this vein should be naturally simple, and relatively straightforward to get across to the audience. There are formulae in the visual arts as there are in music. Ask Leonard Cohen – there are certain rules to creating a successfully miserable piece of music.
The subject matter of much art today is not original and neither is the methodology of its presentation.
Since Duchamp made his greatest cultural mark (not getting exhibited) at the 1917 SIA Exhibition, the idea of the found object as art, combined in an unholy alliance with ‘conceptualism’ have taken over a critically neutered contemporary art scene as the only way forward. When the new art vanguard adopts the credentials of an eighty year old avant-garde and claims that other art methodologies are old hat, it rings a little hollow.
Firstly, conceptualism is as flawed as painting in league tables of artistic purity since it still relies upon the transportation of the cerebral into the material.
Secondly, the contention of progress in Art from point A (less good Art), to point B (intrinsically better Art) is based in most around modern (post nineteen-sixties) art history education which in turn was based on the loaded theorising of American critic (and puppet master of Jackson Pollock) Clement Greenberg. The apex of Modernist art practice just happened to peak two paces to the left of Greenberg and he was there to document his entire history.
The new avant-garde attempts to define itself simultaneously in terms of its post-modernity (creators and critics) and in modernist theorising (critics and curators).
We have recently been witness to the Tate wheeling out their duly appointed ‘Curator of Interpretation’ who is as guilty as the obsequious critics in continually ‘interpreting’ the artworks in an obscurantist jargon cocktail of modernist, post-modernist and metaphysical epithets. No doubt he is convinced of the validity and substance of the artworks but not even he can convincingly explain them in terms that those outside of art academe would understand. Some would even suggest he was unable to explain them to viewers with a solid grasp of art historical language. Yet surely the nature of his job is to do just that – relate ‘high art’ and its theory to a wider audience.
From his recent television appearances it is plain he was trained to deal with the reactionary tabloid hack, but when confronted with an intelligently questioning journalist he gave the appearance of a startled bunny contemplating its own road-kill.
This is the kind of post that only a hardened masochist would knowingly take on – as long as the ‘Curator of Interpretation’ is available to field the flak dished out by an increasingly art-disillusioned public and media, the higher echelons of the public art bureaucracy can maintain their distance and continue justifying Greenbergian careers of fame by association.
The Turner Prize is not worthy of its namesake as long as it has to be defended by these razor suited administrators. It is no longer a celebration of the best, or most significant of British Art. It has become, especially since its regular sponsorship by television, another money generating side show for the British public art establishment to pompously celebrate their assumed cultural superiority over a supposedly art ignorant public – maintaining a closed circle clique of approved creators, colleges, critics and curators in their own chummy camp of post Dadaist, pseudo-intellectual arrogance.