Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Most art criticism is a joke...

A great response was posted in Guardian comments in relation to the Jonathan Jones article:  The artist who lays eggs with her vagina – or why performance art is so silly replacing the words 'Performance Art' with 'Art Criticism'.

Unfortunately it looks like moderators took it down for trolling but luckily it was copied, so here it is in its full glory: 

The artist who lays eggs with her vagina – or why art criticism is so silly

 Most art criticism is a joke. Taken terribly seriously by the art world, it is a litmus test of pretension and intellectual dishonesty. If you are wowed by it, you are either susceptible to pseudo-intellectual guff, or lying.

 Is that overstating the case? Probably. There have been some powerful works of art criticism – but most of them took place a long time ago, in the early 1970s, when the likes of Marina Abramovic and Chris Burden were risking all. Or perhaps the golden age of art criticism was even longer ago, in the days of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916. Back then, art criticism was a real menace to society, when Hugo Ball stood in a wizard costume declaiming words that made as little sense as the world war then raging.

 Today, most art criticism that claims to part of this modern tradition is an embarrassing revelation of the art world's distance from real aesthetic values or real human life. Take, for instance, the criticism of the latest nude egg layer from Germany.

Performance artist Milo Moiré creates abstract paintings by pushing eggs filled with paint and ink out of her vaginal canal. She does this while standing naked in front of an audience. The nudity, apparently, is artistically essential. As for the act of pushing paint-filled eggs out of her body, it is – as no doubt you perceive – a powerful feminist statement about women, fertility and creativity. And yet it's not a strong statement at all. It is absurd, gratuitous, trite and desperate. Anywhere but an art gathering, this criticism would be regarded as a satire on modern cultural emptiness.

Reading on mobile? Watch film of Milo Moire creating a PlopEgg painting

And this is the thing about art criticism – it has quite rightly become the stuff of satire. When the film director Paolo Sorrentino wants to capture the brittleness of contemporary European culture in his film The Great Beauty, what does he show? art criticism, naturally. A group of arty folk watch as a woman runs towards a stone aqueduct and bashes her head against it. Afterwards she struggles to explain herself in an embarrassing interview.

Yet in mocking the art world's weakest tic, its indulgence of ludicrous critics, Sorrentino is not even that original. It's an old joke that fits his nostalgic mood. As long ago as the 1970s, art criticism was already comical. The perfect satire on it was created by the Muppet Show when the Great Gonzo bashes a rock with a hammer while shouting "Art Critics!"

 Art criticism is funny for a very simple reason – it takes itself more seriously than appears justified. Anything that takes itself seriously invites mockery, from politics to religion: but when the gap between ostentatious importance and self-evident silliness is as vast as it is in so much art criticism, the only honest response is laughter. Add to this the pomposity of an art cult that defends such stuff against the mockery of the multitude, and you have a recipe for biting satire.

 If art criticism did not exist, bile-filled commentators on the modern world would have to invent it. For what else so perfectly captures the cultural inanity of our time?