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Bitter Blog About Art

Bitter Blog About Art

The main body of today’s blog consists of a long paragraph, printed below, from an email I sent to my collaborator on the Pure and Remote project,  Rand  Chatterjee, and to Kate Chouta of IEAS, an email about the press release that we are about to send out,  now that that PRV series is complete and posted both on the IEAS website and on this one. The similar press release that we sent out some months ago announcing the series, sent to many publications and reviewers, generated how much response, how many published articles? Answer: none, zero, zilch. Nobody seems to have noticed it--I waited for phone calls from reviewers eager for more information and quotes--none came. We hope for better responses to the one we’re sending out in a few days, probably on Monday. This one will also be posted on this website, and sent out to my many email addressees. If you know an art critic, ask her or him to pay some attention to our send-out and our project. But meanwhile, here is the bitter paragraph that I wrote to Rand and Kate:

“As for critics’ responses: I am hopeful, but only moderately hopeful. The first full-scale visual history of one of the two great pictorial painting traditions in world art, presented in a new medium, free for everybody to watch? Is that big news in art these days? Of course not. What is big news, worthy of NYTimes Arts Section full-page treatment with big illustrations, is some woman performance artist making her audience sit for some ninety minutes while her performers, dancers dressed in black, walked around in circles backwards. (Great bore for audience, excruciating for dancers.)* But IT’S ART! So big news. Or the Tate Modern spending eight million (pounds? dollars?) to buy lots of the little ceramic sunflower seeds that Ai Weiwei had his workers make to scatter all over the gallery floor for people to walk on--except that by miscalculation they produced a dangerous dust and had to be piled up in the middle of the gallery to be gazed at, not walked on. THAT’S REAL ART! I respect Ai Weiwei as a dissident in China but not much as an artist. His other notable work was having his assistants (big artists don’t dirty their hands much these days) cast larger-size copies of bronze animal heads from the Yuanming Yuan. Ai Weiwei belongs to the category I intended to symbolically finish off when, many years ago as I became (for one bad year, was it 1977-78?) acting director of the University Art Museum, I told the staff at our first meeting that we were going to hang a big sign from the highest balcony reading DOING DUMB THINGS AND CALLING IT ART IS OVER! The sign was never made, much less hung, and doing dumb things has gone on to become the very center of art. Augh. I have lived too long.”

I should add, again, my other old observation on art today (i.e. 20th-21st century): If only someone had said, at the right moment, “Good joke, M. Duchamps, a urinal exhibited as a piece of sculpture, ha ha! Now let’s go back to making art”--if only someone (or everyone) had said that, instead of the collective “Oh wow!” that greeted his joke, 20th century art would be very different--and a lot better.
James Cahill, March 8, 2012, from Berkeley

*New York Times for March 7, Arts Section p. 2, almost full-page, Sarah Michelson work of performance art at 2012 Whitney Biennial.

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