Friday, May 19, 2006

Just popping out to have my preconceptions challenged, dear

One of the joys of patronising the Arnolfini, Bristol’s contemporary arts centre, is that I get some glorious emails advertising new exhibitions.

This one, heralding Kirstine Roepstorff’s A Handful of Once, ticks almost every box:

At first glance Kirstine Roepstorff’s intricate and ornamental collages belie their more serious subject. Her baroque photo-montage combines geometric shapes, glitter, jewellery and gems with lush tropical landscapes and floral motifs. National Geographic images of birds, fish and mammals are juxtaposed with dancers and sports people, politicians and protesters. Much of the imagery is drawn from newspapers and magazines - the stuff of ‘current affairs’.

By removing the material from its original context and reordering it within this other space, she performs a surprisingly powerful, political action addressing issues as diverse as the ‘War on Terror’, the global distribution of wealth and contemporary gender politics. Asking, “Who decides who decides?” her work questions the authority, identity and power of the individuals and organisations responsible for the particular reality we experience and the ways in which meaning is constructed.

Absurd title? Check!

Juxtapositioning? Check! (‘Juxtaposition’ is the art word for arbitrarily putting any two different things next to each other)

‘War on Terror’ in scare quotes? Check!

Reality is ‘particular’? Check!

Preconceptions about gender roles challenged? Check! (though I’m not sure who the hell still has any unchallenged preconceptions about gender left. Maybe the Bulgarians. The Bulgarians are notorious for not spending enough time visiting art galleries for a good preconception-questioning, poor sods).

Sadly, casual sacreligious insults appear to be missing, but A Handful of Once does sound like it has the important “a child could do that” factor in abundance, given that Kirstine uses that correctly-underrated art form, the glitter, glue and magazine cut-out collage.

I'll probably go and look at it tonight.


Hey Skipper said...

Like fashion commentary, this sort of art puff-piece is both perfectly serious and beyond caricature.

But not beyond incisive, and funny, exegisis.

Good thing I had just finished my coffee.

Brit said...

As a sometime copy writer, this puff piece seems to my eye to have all the hallmarks of the classic 'how the hell do I write 300 words about absolutely nothing?' quandary.

Basically you chuck in some buzz words and some stuff about about 'identity' that almost seems to mean something, then toddle along to the editor with a hopeful look and utter that immortal hack's cry: "Will this do?"

Peter Burnet said...

It isn't just what she is saying, which is mindless drivel of course, it is the deadening monotony of having to listen to this stuff year after year, show after show. Sort of as if "Imagine" were at the top of the charts each year during an entire eighty-year life. I sometimes imagine this is what is must have been like in the 19th century for religious homilies and popular books. Never mind the content, it's the repetition that becames unbearable. For me, this is the strongest argument against scientific efforts to extend life. If it takes a whole generation to die off in order to renew ourselves intellectually, pass me my gun. (ditto for anyone who even whispers the word "self-esteem".)

Brit, I can't believe you would waste a good Friday night on this mind-numbing nonesense. If you are going to insist on staying sober, can't you at least find something fresh and stimulating like Vespers?

Duck said...

"Artspeak" is the kind of lingo that lends itself to automation, as many have done with "Business Speak".

I am convinced that you can do the same with CatholicSpeak. I had a test in cathechism class in 9th grade, and there was one of those theological questions that I never really understood what it meant, so I just started writing CatholicSpeak> "Through the Holy Spirit, the Blood of the Lamb of the Son of Man, through the Sacred Heart of Christ, is one with the Sheherd who will come again...". I got an A.

Peter Burnet said...

Skipper does the same thing with Darwinspeak.

Brit said...

I heard you can automatically generate Bob Dylan lyrics too.

When I was writing a lot of advertising letters, I did a spoof 'Emergency Marketing Letter for Use with Any Product'. It was amazing how many people thought it was genuine on a casual first read.

Lawspeak is the worst though, as Peter must know. All that heretofor and herewithinunder business.


I didn't go as it happens, but the Arnolfini is by no means a waste of a Friday night. Five minutes to whizz round the exhibition, then four solid hours in the frankly excellent bar.