“Don’t talk. I can’t hear myself see!”

a post inspired by Slow Muse

As an art critic I have for a very long time been concerned about all kinds of written statements accompanying art exhibitions. In our post-conceptual area written descriptions and declarations more often than not dominate the art arena, at the expense of visual sensibility.

As a critic I expect an art exhibition to be self-explanatory, as a viewer I expect the artist to be able to express what she seeks to articulate in a visual language, not having to explain herself in any kind of written document.

I see the need for written instructions to be a sign of deficiency, of the artist not being able to express herself visually.

I know artist statements have become fashion. And just as trends and fashion shifts, I really hope the artist-statement-trend soon will find itself to be out of date.

I want to see the show the way a viewer would see a show—with no inside information. I might ask, “What’s the material?” or “Which one came first?” Something simple, but I don’t want to hear at all what the artist thinks. And I’m not writing for the artist. I’m writing for the reader, and I want to tell the reader what I think.

Jerry Saltz 

An important thing for a critic is a kind of disinterest…I think the work of art, whatever form it takes, is the artist’s statement. And I don’t want secondary statement—

- Roberta Smith

Of course the artist can also be a writer, but then the written work would be an integral part of the exhibition’s totality, and not understood as a kind of secondary explanatory document. It could for example look like this:

tn_750_500_Chiharu-Shiota-Love-Letters-2013-Installationsansicht-Kunst-Textil-Stoff-als-Material-und-Idee-in-der-Moderne-von-Klimt-bis-heute-Kunstmuseum-Wolfsburg-Courtesy-ARNDT-Berlin-.97c7be9ebdd6b142b154e57e6c1453d8Chiharu Shiota, Love Letters, 2013, Installation, Size variabel, Courtesy ARNDT Berlin, Foto: Marek Kruszewski

A studio space is an intimate space, which puts the critic in an awkward position. You are no longer objective. It’s almost like hanging out in someone’s bedroom and thinking you can still be on their jury at trial.

- Christopher Bollen


Its not always about art:

In December 2012, the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center and the NASA Earth Observatory released a new map of the Earth as it appears at night. Built with data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite, this revision to the iconic “night lights” map offered better clarity and resolution than ever before, and much more sensitivity to light.

It also offered several surprises. VIIRS detected an abundance of human activity amidst the rural natural gas fields of North Dakota. It found extensive light in the bush country of Western Australia, where most people thought there should be none.

And then VIIRS found something fishy off the coast of Argentina.

About 300 to 500 kilometers (200 to 300 miles) offshore, a city of light appeared in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. There are no human settlements there, nor fires or gas wells. But there are an awful lot of fishing boats.

Adorned with lights for night fishing, the boats cluster offshore along invisible lines: the underwater edge of the continental shelf, the nutrient-rich Malvinas Current, and the boundaries of Argentina and the Falkland Islands.

… but even if things aren’t primarily about art, I guess they could be made into it – like these wonderful enchanting images of the night-fishers .

What a wonderful world we inhabit!

… discovered, but still a secrets

I came across this very interesting video:

Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) was an American street photographer. Maier spent most of her youth in Europe, but returned to the U.S. in 1951 where she took up work as a nanny for the rest of her life. In her free time however, she was a photographer. Consistently taking photos over the course of five decades, she would ultimately leave over 100,000 negatives.

Vivian Maier: Self Portrait, 1955 © 2013 Maloof Collection, Ltd.

Her photographs remained unknown and mostly undeveloped until they were discovered by a local Chicago historian and collector, John Maloof, in 2007. Following Maier’s death, her work began to receive critical acclaim.

In the foreword to Vivian Maier, Street Photographer, edited by John Maloof and featuring images from his collection, Geoff Dyer approaches Maier through a consideration of her reclusiveness. “Not only was she entirely unknown to the photographic world, hardly anyone seemed to know that she even took photographs,” he writes.

Vivian Maier: Self Portrait, 1953 © 2013 Maloof Collection, Ltd.

Vivian Maier definitively had a talent for seeing, but still – her self-portraits are enigmatic. It’s like she isn’t really there, in the picture.

Having such a fantastic talent and not letting anyone know seems so very strange in a self-centered culture like ours. I wonder why she kept it to herself. What was she thinking …? Dyer finds it “unfortunate, perhaps even cruel” that she went unrecognized through her life, but can it be a choice of free will, not to have been seen, working in private?

In opposition to Dyer, John Maloof, editor of the new documentary film on Maier, says: One of the things that fascinated me early on was the fact that Maier was shooting photos prolifically while she had a career as a nanny and, at the same time, didn’t show her work to anyone for feedback. So, to me, this is the mark of a true artist; someone who can create a large body of work by themselves as an expression of their true self and it speaks to all of us in our own way. That’s important. She didn’t try to become famous, she didn’t create images for others and she didn’t see things that she knew others would appreciate. She saw the world in a personal, uninfluenced way, and her photos are a raw depiction of that world she saw. The photos are beautiful and important because, not only are they great images, they are not contrived. …

In my personal writing I’m working on a story about a person who suddenly (unexpectedly?) finds herself at the outskirts of the world. I don’t know very much about my character yet, and amongst the things I’m wondering about, is if her exclusion from the world as we know it is a result of choice or if she is expelled.

In some ways the story of Maier is a parallel to what I’m working on, and not knowing my character yet, I find the contradictory views of Dyer and Maloof  very-very interesting. I really need to have a closer look at Maier’s life and work  - !


ps: Julia Cameron would call my experience an example of Syncronicity. Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, whereas they are unlikely to be causally related. Syncronicity, says Cameron, is a coincidence that’s meant to be