before I begin

Life is too short to live behind lies

Friday, 11 March 2011


This post is directed at all those institutions  organisations and individuals who have been sucked into the use of nonsensical 'artspeak'. It amazes me that the arts, the bastion of free thought democracy  and creative potential should tie themselves up in  simplistic catagorisation .

I could list many examples of frankly meaningless and often diliberately elitist terms such as 'contemporary practice' and 'internal dialogue'. Such terms only serve to isolate large sections of society, not because these people  are stupid but because  it is difficult  for them to interpret this language. It is a language often born in the corridors of art colleges and universities, the codes and secret words you need to satisfy academic testing. Like many laguages it is also a reassuring badge of identity, a way of recognising 'your own kind'. At its worst, the use of such language is a smoke screen  to hide truth that a particular exhibition or event is frankly BAD! Its what I call the 'kings new clothes' syndrome. I'm sure there are those who may read this and say that I am naive,, simplistic and that I 'dont understand'. Heres the many others, I DO understand and I know exactly what I am talking about...So , dare I say it, maybe the problem is yours!

In particular I want to comment on two terms used by some arts institutions and individuals. They are;
'Mid career artist'
'Emerging artist'

Firstly, how do we define 'mid career'? If an artist dies at the age of  40 , was he 'mid career' at the age of 20 or 30? At what point to we mark the start of any individuals creative 'career'?
This leads me to  'Emerging artist'. A most nonsensical and pretentious term. A term which usually means 'just graduated from college' or 'A (young) artist we really want to promote'. Unfortunately this term is often presented in a way that suggests that this ( usually younger) artist has something new to say to the art world.
Sadly the art presented to us is usually poorly resolved and often consists of the remains of a degree show.

It should not be the artist who 'emerges' but the Art . As I stated at the begining of this post, it amazes me that an aspect of our human endevour which should be inclusive and without boundaries actually catagorises by age!  I know there are gallery directors and 'curators' who will claim this is not the case but believe me most 'mid career' artists will fall into a certain age band and most 'emerging artists' will be in a band somewhat younger. I apologise if the following analogy sounds almost 'biblical' but surely the fruit of a hundred year old tree is no less complex or important than that of a five year old tree.  Both contain the same potential. The creative statement is no less profound because of the age of the artist or the meduim used.

For an area of human endevour which is meant to encourage the notion that all things are possible and all individuals have potential, the art world seems obsessed with chronological measurement. Technques and indeed artists are catagorised into 'contemporary' traditional' 'new' 'emerging' etc. Increasingly, the terms 'new ' and contemporary' are associated with the methods and materials used rather than the ideas of the artist. Of course I do not suggest a return to some exhausted traditions and methods of centuries past. What i AM suggesting is that important art ( and good art..dare I say it ) should not be measured by age and the methods of its creator. To be really aware of where we are..we need to look around in ALL  directions.

Isn't it time we stopped taking this linear, one directional view of creative activity? Isn't it time that art institutes,organisers and curators promoted art for what it really should be....... trully '3 dimensional', limitless and ALL inclusive.