File spoon-archives/avant-garde.archive/avant-garde_1997/avant-garde.9711, message 7

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 08:45:03 +0000
Subject: lost the knack

I got over to see the show at the Institute, despite the off-putting
name of the exhibition (Is It Art?). Interesting. 
    I'm always dismayed at artshows with little messages posted by the
works explaining the art or the intent of the artist, how to "get it."
It's an indicator for a society that has lost the knack of the art
experience, and I've always considered it regrettable and distracting.
Those little notes serve to interfere with or pave over the desired
experience -- but of course, you don't have to look at them.  
    In the show at the Institute, you do. The little messages are the
main idea. The art is on the side. It seems to be a sendup of this art
explanation practice. If you take the show as a whole, you can see the
ironic comment on our society, and the satisfying tricksterism of having
such a clumsy and inept display touring universities and small gullible
art institutes. The messages are still small, they're just printed
large, as if this was a show for the nearsighted or learning impaired,
or perhaps small children. The "see Dick run" delivery of the
presentation is immistakably tongue-in-cheek, pie-in-the-face. To have
this show taken seriously is a pretty good joke, you must admit. Imagine
the organizers gleefully planning the elements, the black, the shitt
moderne construction. The white vinyl helvetica type, spaced out for
difficult reading, but so late-50s chic. You can picture them giggling
with the artists. 
    The messages are so condescending, so pathetically remedial, it
plays to an audience of idiots. So, I give them high marks -- good job,
you pulled it off, but it's among the more depressing art installations
I've been to.  
Ed Atkeson

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