Guffwatch - Biennale edition

April 29 2015

Image of Guffwatch - Biennale edition

Picture: Spectator

In The Spectator, Jonathan Meades takes a sharp aim at the sort of guff we're likely to find at this year's Venice Biennale. He lays the blame on the new breed of 'curators':

Curators were, till a generation or so ago, urbane historians of the renaissance or donnish scholars of the Beaker people. The dusty smell of muniments rooms hung about them. Today they are — well, what are they? Achingly hip neophiliacs who have mastered the peculiar illiteracy that comes from having been the willing victims of critical theory, cultural studies and art history, which, as we all know, begins with Duchamp — and ends with him too. Where once museums and galleries were repositories of what already existed, they have mutated into stores of stuff commissioned by their amply funded curators who impose their pensée unique upon a public too timid to protest that this is a load of balls. That taste is of course avant garde — the thoroughly conventionsalised, institutionalised art of the establishment.

Curators have moved from the passive to the active. From being receptive to what is actually made to being controlling. From accepting random expressions of individual creativity that belong to no ‘school’ to proposing taxonomies and ordering up ‘site-specific’ works: where creation ends and curation begins is moot. The spectre of ‘collaboration’ looms. And so, too, does that of the century-old modernism and the anti-establishment posturing that is de rigueur throughout the establishment. This consensual frivolity is, of course, taken seriously; there can be no more damning proof than the risibly self-important language that the curatocracy employs to explain installations so mute they are meaningless. It is, laughably, called ‘art writing’: ‘…on the one hand cultural productions are symptomatic of these relations, while on the other analytic of them — having the potential of intervention and critique, again with a specific placement and angle, or, if you will, method of intervention and mode of address.’

No. Me neither. Curator shall speak unto curator.

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