Wednesday, 22 April 2009

State of the Art : New York @ Urbis

I am behind the times in nearly all senses of the phrase, finally getting myself down to Urbis to go see State of the Art : New York today.

If I had to imagine a parody of a collection of quintessentially New York-ian art - based upon, having never been there, poorly remembered adverts from Art Forum and far too much CSI : NY - it would look almost exactly like this exhibition. Almost entirely State of the Art: New York consists of a ugly mish-mash of hip-hop imagery and trite clumsy pomo heavy rhetoric.

You can just imagine the types of people who made this stuff, people for who cool was a career choice. The US equivalent of those people who end up living in Hebden Bridge with unused AGAs and fixed gear bicycles, probably an undiagnosed STI or two and writing smug self-referencing nonsense for the weekend supplements.

If this was an episode of CSI: NY I know exactly what would happen. The beautiful cool artist is actually plagiarising the work of his/her lover with the collusion of the shady gallery owner, who is probably trafficking crystal meth in pop culture referencing art works. The lover kills the artist in an appropriately artistic manner, the greedy gallery owner looks to make a killing as the value of the artists work sky rockets, but is revealed to be a drug smuggler and the lover gets to live out his/her days in solitude indulging their artistic urge in the comfort of the the prison cell. The squinty eyed guy says something twee and everyone else pisses about with tech looking pretty to the tune of whatever the cool hunters are saying will be the "big thing". The Who plays.

Anyway, unfortunately, it's not an episode of CSI : NY. It's another smug and achingly cool exhibition at Urbis.

I should have been an art critic in the fifties. When modernism was actually modern. Just imagine the things I would have said to Greenberg....

Monday, 20 April 2009

State Legacy @ The Cornerhouse

Why does every exhibition at the Cornerhouse have to be read like an essay?

I mean seriously, I find myself leaning towards graduate group shows and single commercial offerings to escape the endless, mind-chilling didacticism the Cornerhouse seem hell bent on producing. Sometimes my award winning brain-eye combo just wants to look at things.

A while ago a friend said to me ‘when was the last time you saw something really great at the Cornerhouse?’ and I had to think. I did contradict her, since the last thing I had seen was Masaki Fukihata’s ghostly playful solo show ‘The Conquest of Imperfection.’ 

However, ‘The Intertwining Line’ came along and I had to shamefully eat my defensive words.

Not to say that I don’t like some of the elements of State Legacy, but it feels as though they are elements, not distinct art works. The title gives it away I suppose, ‘Reseach in the Visualisation of Political History.’ It’s not for the looking, that title says, it’s for the brainy ones with doctoral degrees.

It’s a clever essay, with some lovely works of art in it.  Sui Jianguo’s Raising Speed on the Railway, generously occupying the whole of the top gallery, is certainly hypnotic. There is something absorbing and tinged with that futile Dickensian humour about a train rushing around and around a testing track. 

The very act of watching a train - unless you are an anoraked locomotion aficionado - especially when its projected onto a wall under the egis of art and cultural investigation feels almost tragicomic.

It's all a bit like watching motor racing on a hangover. Perhaps, for me at least, that sums up the whole of State Legacy. There are nusiances to this which you’ll never get and are essential to the enjoyment of the event. 

This exhibition, this essay, suffers from occupying uncomfortable space between art and cultural politics. It's too worthy, too educational and it's position is too clearly stated and too forcefully held. 

Give me something nice to look at ...