Friday, 26 June 2009

Whatever! Criticism is not a democracy...

If you haven't worked it out already, I have a fairly sweaty intellectual crush on Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones. He managed to mirror so many things I feel in my voluminous gut - plenty of instinct there - and be so wonderfully succinct with it.

Once again he's done it with his spot-on post "Art criticism is not a democracy"

Jones writes :

"The reason so much average or absolutely awful art gets promoted is that no one seems to understand what criticism is; if nothing is properly criticised, mediocrity triumphs. A critic is basically an arrogant bastard who says "this is good, this is bad" without necessarily being able to explain why. At least, not instantly. The truth is, we feel this stuff in our bones. And we're innately convinced we're right."

Monday, 8 June 2009

POI: Moving, Mapping, Memory @ Cornerhouse

Yukari Yoshikawa

Despite the British summertime deciding to stab the nation collectively in the back with this shitty weather, and a yummy dose of anonymous bitchiness, my previous state of pessimism about art in Manchester has somewhat lifted.

I feel a little bad for writing rather brutally about the last few thing I've seen at the Cornerhouse. It is perhaps too easy to blame the institution for what it contains. However, art by it's very nature is always going to be hit or miss with individuals.

The first of a series of Editions, a new Cornerhouse scheme to introduce us to new and experimental art, POI: Moving, Mapping, Memory is a very mixed collection of work, all tracing path around ideas of how we map and remember time.

For a subject which could get really bloody stale rather quickly, POI for the most part nimbly avoids the worst pitfalls and in places introduces really innovative ideas.

Here I don't mean the same-old-same-old wearing a t-shirt with the word "INNOVATION" on it. No, actually innovation! and with out being depressingly clunky like a 90s era website.

Joel Porter's Ubiquitous Interactivity is a lovely introduction to the exhibition, although it unfortunately needs to be explained a little too much. Toying with the number of IDs we now have to carry which contain RFID chips, the work relies on participants to wave a card - either their own or provided by the artist - over a scanner, which then triggers changes on an opposite screen. These smashed together images are both attractive, eerie and playful.

Unfortunately the first gallery is dominated by a video projection which is accompanied by a soundscape which manages to be both obnoxious and generic. To be an artist, or indeed a curator, is famously about making choices. Why do, so often, people make the same bloody choices about what works of art sound like?

Fortunately, the use of sound is much more evocative and lovely in Gallery 2.

Yukari Yoshikawa's Colour and Colours has to be experienced, beautiful and hopeful, this work for me makes the exhibition. It draws you in with a flirtatious, powerful but not un-nerving, use of sound and colour. It intriguingly hints at narrative and an almost ephemeral, yet palpable, sense of something "more". Very simply, it is a visually and mentally delicious experience.

Instantanes ( Marseille ) by Eimer Birbeck is in principle very simple, but in reality rather an appealing and vivid auditory manifestation of the streets of Marseilles.

Upstairs, Andrea Zapp's Google Gaze, textile renderings of urban scenes, do not stand up well against the playful, and often beautiful, interactivity and dynamism of the other works in POI. Equally, An Exploration of Consciousness by Richard Charnock - e.g. that rabbit thing - seems a little overly complex and clunkily implemented when considering the actual result.

In an exhibition where some of the objects are, each in varying measures, joyfully playful, smoothly interactive and verging on beautiful, the low points are not spectacularly low. The lack of politics and aggressive intellectualisation - as seen in State Legacy - means this is a really assessable exhibition, and perhaps a good introduction to what can be done with digital methodologies in terms of art.

As for low points, the nasty soundscapes in the first gallery and the rather disparate and unconnected organisation of the top gallery spring to mind.

It would be easy to point out that I can be ruthlessly critical. However, in my defence, I refuse to be pointlessly celebratory. POI: Moving, Mapping, Memory is not perfect, but it's a happy step in the right direction.

( If that direction is keeping my fascist sensibilities happy.)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Cutting Room Experiment - a final word on the matter ...

Encouraged by a rather creepy comment, I've decided to finish my commentary on The Cutting Room Experiment.

I've decided to reappraise and reassert my expectations of the Arts & Crafts stream of The Cutting Room Experiment.

For the record, I had no problem with the Experiment it's self, rather how people's paltry, and frankly depressing , imagination manifested through it.

It would be easy to point to me and demand I do something about it. However, I didn't spend years of my life studying art and culture, pumping up my critical muscles at expense of everything else, to become a mere-participant. I am a historian, not a failed artist.

My own idea - submitted on a Bank Holiday afternoon after being plied with rose-aye wine - was whimsical and, yes, fuelled by a vague sense of competitiveness. Which I believe is exactly what the organisers hoped would happen.

The Experiment itself will almost certainly be considered by all involved a success, however for me its been a poignant demonstration of our apprehensions and stultifying precognitions about art.

It was a hot coal that I refused to pick up, but that doesn't mean I can't be dispirited by no one else rising to the challenge.

Image from flickr here, used under a creative commons licence.