The time we spent five days together at an art workshop was very interesting. We were driving to the workshop discussing Wal-Mart. Barb was arguing that WM was a lousy store and that they took away from the "little guy" and put smaller grocers out of business. Now I come from a long line of arguer/debator/lawyer type folk who will fight until someone draws blood and maybe even go for the kill. My little sister says she has to mentally gear-up for a family reunion knowing that she will be a target. As I have gotten older, I have tried to squelch this evil side of myself, but sometimes it just comes out. I have learned to attack only someone who is strong enough to take it and will give a good fight back. Barb is strong, but I can take 'er. And so, I attacked her arguments against Wal-Mart until Barb got so frustrated she said, "Well, you, you are just a, just a Wal-Mart lover!" My eyebrow went up and I laughed, Really, Barb, that's the best you can do? To this day, "Wal-Mart lover" is one of our favorite phrases.
Speaking of phrases, Barb often uses big words, and I like to tease her when she does. Like the time she used "ethereal" to describe a painting. Really, Barb. That's a word? Are you sure you are using it correctly? Maybe you should look it up. Of course, she is usually correct, but she gets so put out with me. It is the same when she reads some new art book and has a new technique to try. Are you sure about this, Barb. Cad red is a stainer - why would they use that? Phtalo blue - are you sure you are saying that right? Quiniacridone - say that again! Sometimes Barb will quote from newsletters and such. Although the quotes may be interesting, they often seem pretentious - and I will say so. Which brings me to this: After our usual brush-time and teasing last week, Barb sent me this little bit from The Painter's Keys. I thought it was right-on when it comes to pretensions art and artists. You can go to to the link, but here is the gist:
The purpose of gibberish
September 28, 2012
Yesterday, Michael Fuerst of Urbana, Illinois wrote, "We all receive written material and invitations to art lectures. A lot of this material seems to be gibberish. Can you explain the purpose of it? One invitation to a lecture at the University of Illinois included the line, 'a set of socially shared meanings the artist chooses to make visible in the space of art.' What does this mean?"
Thanks, Michael. That's the long way of saying the artist lets people look at his stuff. You'll notice that my interpretation is particularly dull and unimpressive. Fact is, some folks have a need to make things sound more important than they are. FYI, we've put some of Michael Fuerst's work at the top of the current clickback.
If critics and educators always told it the way it is and cut out the gibberish, they'd be out of a job.
Terms like "collaborative gesture," "foregrounding the power of context," and "insisting on the metapoint" have burned their way into the sophomoric vocabulary of the merely educated. Unless pressed, working artists seldom use these sorts of terms.
It's all about obfuscation. Just so I don't fall into the same trap with a big word, obfuscation means "covering up clarity." The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "to obscure, stupefy and bewilder." The human mind has determined that when a proposition is shaky, a certain amount of mumbo-jumbo is required to make it more acceptable. Some religions, for example, rely on whole other languages that no one but a chosen few can understand. Throughout history, this ruse has been the bastion of charlatans and it's still on the tongues of the high priests of art.
Obfuscation is an accepted way to influence otherwise bright people who don't have the time or inclination to figure things out for themselves. Bright people, because they generally obfuscate in their own way, tend to buy into the ruse--wink, wink.
Talking about visual art is difficult to do. Gibberish is a popular convention that has self-fulfilling benefits. Art that by its nature is confusing is bought by confused people who willingly submit to some form of verbal confusion. "Significant" and "important" art is magnified by the art of gibberish. Cut out the art of gibberish and many artists would also be out of a job.
PS: "Talking about art is like trying to French kiss over the telephone." (Terry Allen)
Esoterica: In these letters I have been known to fall into unacceptable gibberish, and I'm generally informed by return mail. Thank you. It's my firm belief that most of what we artists need and cherish can best be told in plain language. "Short words are best," said Winston Churchill, "and the old words when short are best of all." And when the sublime cannot be explained we have the option of silence. William S. Burroughs observed that "Modern man has lost the option of silence." I think just about but not quite. We artists are living proof that human creativity evolves in relative silence. But you can rest assured there will always be those who come to fill the void. "Taurus cacas exit cerebella," said Kjerkius Gennius (36 BC) "B.S. baffles brains."