Archive for January, 2019


From manuals, textbooks to fiction – Gallery Commodities.

Saartjie entered. Looked up at the ceiling and glanced around for the drinks table. There was tension in the air, and I waited for the crowd to circulate some more. The gallery wasn’t far and I was glade *** had brought me along.

“Modern art has traditionally obscured the distinctions between the beautiful and the ugly, but rarely so systematically as now has it blurred the categories of good and bad, the indifferent and the committed.” Max Kosloff 1961.

I didn’t care much for the artworks though. I had seen this sort of stuff before. In the eighties or nineties. The works were very boring, ‘drawings’ of ‘casuistic’ toys, works in black and Grays with a little natural ‘gel’ colour, very internationalised images that could have been made anywhere in the world by your average art student or toy maker. They bore titles like Madonna, Chair, and the likes.  A video-piece with a popular classical tune appropriated, like dead meat hanging from a meat hook, was the focal point.

As soon as I entered the gallery, I saw that the works were figurative and voted a certain abstractness. Texts were quoted from magazines, phone books or government documents. The documents were often drawn or illustrated over. The largest object referred to a collage of recent and fantastic events. The juxtaposition was dubious, and seen up close, the execution proved crude but at a distance and with it the effect was possibly lyrical.

There was a crowd; the gallery was trying to look like a post-car sales room, all white, with dividing walls and stands hidden in alternative corners. The cost to achieve this effect must have been staggering. In one corner, a sound system supplied a piped deafening noise. Everyone walked absently past the artworks to crowd around the table and grab the stem of the tuberous wine or sherry that was on offer.

The air was smoke-free and effluent-ting a slightly material odour. Everyone was converting, busy consuming the snacks. I stood in the middle and observed how the ‘wine’ glasses began to stack up on any of the surfaces that was at hand. This was not surprising as the floor was also splattered with staggering guests. And the one man said, “How are you?” then the cat said, “I’m fine.” “Go home”, said the pig.

These are people who make it their business to expose their sensibilities in the context of “the important art of their time”. This has resulted in the curator’s selection as standing in itself as a critique and furthering of similar projects and exhibitions.

The consequence of the prevalent mediocrity is possibly that curators are consumer providers not intellectuals or artists. Yet, they, in a small way are the artists of the future, as many artists have realised. The curator is the ultimate Post-Modernist. But, modern curators still tend to follow a particular approach, to the exclusion of other approaches. This tendency can be described as ‘Curatorial Preferencing’.

Recently, however, sporadic attempts have been made to find points of agreement in the various apparently mutually exclusive approaches. These attempts can be said to be aimed at developing ‘meta-approaches’, i.e. “comprehensive, global approaches that assimilate and integrate different, separate approaches which by themselves are very limited”.

The methodological approach is the accumulation and interpretation of information characterised by the use of empirical methods. The professional and specialised approach looks for the development of certain trends and tends to develop a thematic approach – a particular ‘subject’ within a particular ‘branch’ within a particular ‘trend’. This often results in a dogmatic point of view; a view narrowed that asks limited questions. The eclectic approach tends to select from various approaches, trends and theories which the curator finds personally valuable – possibly an easy way out when the curator is faced with many contradictory trends and theories.

The biggest problem is that no real synthesis is achieved and contradictions are not eliminated. The last approach is a kind of interdisciplinary awareness. Where the curator finds other fields of agreement in philosophy, science, history, literature, politics, etc. The mutual borrowing of applications, concepts, ideas and theories promotes a fruitful co-operation. But is this co-operation necessary?

And is it effective?

The curator provides the consumer with the tools to hide when confronted with content by changing context. The curator uses the art forms available as a tool ‘to’ gain, but is it a gain of self-knowledge or commercial accomplishment. The result is to make selections of works on the profile of the artist regardless of the work. The issue is conveyer belt manageability. The bottom line credibility of the curator is a business background rather than that of humanistic.

“Much of the structure seeks to impress and convince by the intricacy of its didactic structure”.

Few people remained motionless; the crowd was intent on a kind of spiral movement, like vultures searching for the kill. Though not looking for anything in particular, I moved into the vortex.

At a certain point I felt trapped, as if I had lost my presence and felt as if I was in a Mall looking at the brilliant commodities that were on offer. Seeing; but not seeing, experiencing; but looking for something else.

Then the predator pooped…