has conceptual art gone too far?

this was one of the headlines in last month’s YEN magazine. being a bit of a conceptual art wanna be, i got all excited that the term was making an appearance again in more ‘mainstream’ media – well, yen’s not exactly exclusive art/wank territory.

however the article, written by their new york editor, was such a pile of fucking shite that it put me in a bad mood. fortunately, or unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a copy online to link to but i’m still looking…

the premise for the article was to discuss art that pushes the boundaries of what audiences (and the mainstream media) can handle – citing two works which people were ‘up in arms’ about, both of which turned out to be unsubstantiated claims. the first, a work by a student at [some American University], in which she proposed to have artificially inseminated herself on a monthly basis, aborted/miscarried 9 foetuses, preserved them in flatwrap plastic bags, which were going to be displayed hanging from the ceiling. oh so damien hirst, but human foetus instead of dead lifestock and school gallery, not white cube.

the second absolutely shocking contemporary work she sited was the starving dog works, in which an emaciated dog was tied up in the gallery, with the words [something] spelled in dog biscuits on the wall. no gallery visitor chose to feed and/or try to release the dog, but made sure they complained to Animals America, especially after the dog ‘disappeared’ – apparently dying from malnutrition. They caused a big publicity hoo hah about it and then found out that the dog had actually been fed each day of the show, and taken back to its home.

for good measure, our trusty art journalist cited the animal rights ‘sensation’ caused by both Maurizio Cattelan Novecento – the ‘hanging horse’, and Mike Parr‘s video of a chicken being decapitated recently seen in the Sydney Biennale – her source, no doubt the same one i found through google – the trusty SMH, where the above pic is snaffled from, wrongly attributed to Attila Csorgo. And both works which have been in the public domain for, ooh, 10 years. Shocking.

and in terms of ‘going too far’, why didn’t our indignant editor get up in arms about the intense and quite violent videos of Parr’s, in which he stitches his own face up with thread and piercing needles? or his work in which he is dressed in the suit of guantanemo bay detainees and is willingly electrocuted by the audience? isn’t that controversial? what about his pain and suffering? and the discomfort of the willing viewer? surely April O’Neill our reporter needs to stand up for the rights of the viewer! it’s an outrage I tell you….

having made wild, eratic, finger-point gestures at some of the worlds most established artists, of course, our lovely editor mentions the whole debacle with Bill Henson (who isn’t a conceptual artist at all – he’s a fucking photographer) as some kind of evidence of conceptual art taking such extreme liberties with the innocence of unsuspecting gallery goers and paparazzi alike the public. will somebody please think of the children??

shocking. all of it.

and i don’t mean the work cited. in fact, all the works that our investigative journalist-cum-fashionista used as proof that conceptual art is evil, were all works that were developed into a controversy by the media.

wow. who would have thought.

the foetus/dog works’ complaints were false, the horse/chicken works are just proof that australia is 10 years behind the rest of the world – given that both works were made 10 years ago and for the most part, the controversy has passed. And the Henson? Well, like i said, he’s a fucking photographer, not a conceptual artist. and if you’re going to talk about the role of pornography/sexuality in art, etc, etc, talk about it. But probably not in a fashion mag that has 14-year olds with their tits out in a vice mag pose..

*i realise that this is the second time i’ve taken someone else’s published article to task on this blog of late, but you’ll just have to deal with it. sorry.

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those magazines again

some of you may recall that i decided to buy a new magazine a fortnight. well, i’ve continued on that front, so have a little stockpile of interesting bits and pieces to read.

since i finished reading my book and couldn’t quite work out where to go next, i decided to just catch up on all the magazines i’ve managed to collect on my ‘to read’ pile. i’ve had some real joy discovering some great articles, new mags and i figure that it’s about time i shared them with you:


monocle is ace! it covers Affairs, Business, Culture, Design and Edits.. a little like Time, but monthly, and lovelier. The ever-talented Mr Hill has been seriously involved in starting the mag, especially its great online element, but is sadly leaving. He talks about the mag in much more depth here, so read that.
The bits that I loved included the discussion on trains and train travel, the snippets of info from around the globe: including a super clandestine mission to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (before the fall, obviously); discussions with Lebanon’s answer to Veronica Guerin, May Chidiac about being blown up for campaigning against Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. There’s also a profile of Amos Schocken: publisher of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper and contemporary art collector, plus a whole section on urban planning, which is like mind porn for a geek like me.

creative review

ages ago, I asked for someone in London to read the Creative Review for me. Well, I finally got to read it myself and boy is it a corker: it largely centres around the Tate and Tate Media, it’s inhouse comms department, headed by Will Gompertz. There are several articles – a diary of Will’s day, which is enlightening, but also quite sweet – discussions with awesome designer James Goggin and interviews with Fallon, who have worked hard with Tate on the strategy of turning the Tate into what it is today. Their great Create Your Own Collection ads for Tate are Fallon UK at their most brilliant. [Will talks about the strength of Fallon and their strategy, which is encouraging, as Fallon UK have taken a major hit in my opinion of them lately, thanks to their desperate TVC turnout.]

There’s also features on how they work with artists to develop the communications for their shows and also how they work with designers: emerging and established to accurately convey what a blockbuster is about. It also covers the joys and perils of working with that Tate logotype created by Wolff Ollins – design blockbuster himself, and also the more intense ways in which a gallery like that is communicating to the huge variety of people it does.

From an artist’s perspective, it’s a great feature: a behind-the-scenes look into the world’s most well-known contemporary artspace. From a comms person in the arts sector, it’s brilliant. As pathetic as it is, it’s so satisfying to read that the head of Tate Media – an organisation with an overall budget probably 1000 times mine, never has enough time to do all the cool things he’d like to do either and has to make it through the minefield of creative vs strategy. As a bonus, the Fischli/Weiss manifesto is printed up nice and large on the back, which is surely the artworker’s 10 commandments.

*magnation is so rad – they have a great pile of discounted mags and a few weeks ago I was able to grab monocle and creative review for $20. what a deal!

un magazine

it’s the first one in aaaages. it’s great. it’s so lovely to have it back. there are a few great articles: my favourite being Daniel Palmer’s guide to making a speech. i haven’t read much more of it than that, ‘cos i just found where i put it after the launch, but i’m looking forward to digging in deeper.


big issue

how could you not love this mag? i can never manage to buy it each week, but once a month seems to be my rotation. i picked up no. 298, which focused on the gap year – that year between high school and uni (mine ended up being a gap apprenticeship of 5 years!), with a great article on working overseas: ich bin eine gastarbeiterin. other highlights include helen razer (the woman rocks, i don’t care what anybody says!) and mic looby, fiona scott-norman on drinking culture in australia, an interesting snapshop on polination control, plus the beautiful Beirut (Zach Condon) interveiw. bliss. i bought it from the vendor (on the corner of elizabeth and bourke) – i didn’t catch his name, but he had a beautiful smile.

art review

february’s issue is only just hitting the streets here, but I’m glad I was able to pick it up: liam gillick on the cover – he’s just brilliant and I loved hearing about him “re-gifting” half the space of his mid-career’retrospective’ back to the organisations to see what they’d do with it. plus there was a great interview with the grumbly smokey Belgian “saviour of painting”: luc tuymans.

another highlight: review of Will Self’s Psychogeography, which I’ve been going on about for a while (which is on its way from amazon as we speak) and reflects the early stages of some investigation into psychogeography that I wanna do. [edit: check this stuff out happening in sydney].

art world 2

I know I posted about art world last time I did this, but can I just say again how fucking great it is to have a good art mag in this country? it’s sold out of magnation twice now. thankfully I can pick it up at work… featuring Rachael Whiteread: hello? hello!

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more magazines

but some good ones this time.

When i started my new job, I made a decision to follow cynical rob‘s lead, kind of, and up my magazine reading/buying.

In the last little while I’ve bought Modern Painters and the new Art World mag, got Poster for free, plus received another issue of my Parkett gift subscription. i thought i might give you the low-down on them ‘cos they’re really intriguing me.

Modern Painters, December 07/January 08
When i was a first year art school swat, creating Thelma, a short-lived college zine, I used to spend a lot of time in the DOME bookshop, overlooking Ken Unsworth’s Shit On Sticks (or whatever the real name of it is), reading lots of magazines and lusting after the really expensive artbooks [and the A2 Helmut Newton book which was $350]. I swear modern painters was a thick, chunky mag back then, kind of like Artforum and Flash. Whatever, nowdays it’s a B4 format, down to a manageable length, but still quite solid on the content.

This issue’s top 5 highlights are:

Seven obscured(d) artists in profile (giving the Design Conspiracy kids a run for their money) including Trevor Paglen and Nicholas Hobo.
Art is the New Religion essay by Matthew Collings
Ed Park‘s article on Media
Diller Scofidio (+Renfro) book review (with interesting insight “+” as “more than a graphic tic”, which made me think about Wieden+Kennedy)
Massimiliano Gioni and his article on the clandestine career of Gino De Dominicis

Art World February/March
This is a new Australian version of the UK art publication and quite frankly, it’s the first time I’ve been quite so excited and almost proud of an art mag in a while. I know that it’s a syndication, but between this and the new un mag, things are starting to look up.

top 5 highlights:

Germaine Greer writing on Louise Bourgeois
Tracey Emin interview with Claire Armstrong (Trace looks so awesome and relaxed, it’s great)
10 Contemporary artists interviewed, including Mitch Cairns and Cao Fei.
The cover: hot chunky square serif typeface, no image, silver foil.
An almost ‘international’ feel to the mag and enough content to sustain me for a fortnight already.

Poster, Summer 07/08
As sponsors of the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program, I picked one up the other night at the launch. I’ve not seen it before, but loved this issue. Light on text, but quite direct when it was there. Imagery was quite luscious.

top 5 highlights:
Fashion shoot inspired by Joy Division and the Anton Corbijn film Control
Profile of work by Front, hot swedish all-female design studio
Su Blackwell article and folio
Review of Miranda July‘s No one belongs here more than you [remember that really cool promo site?]
Beauty product feature with direction by Colier, with the products shot underneath on glass, looking like their anti-gravity.

This is only a recent arrival and I haven’t had too much time to check it out, but that’s OK, Parkett is wonderful. Full stop. So I’m sure there will be lots more goodness to be discovered.

Top 5 highlights so far:
Ai Weiwei article by Charles Mereweather.
Discussion between Ai Weiwei and Jacqes Herzog (as artists/designers/architects for the Beijing Olympic stadium)
The fold-out cover with three nice glossy images from all three collaborating artists.
Editorial in German – I’m trying to keep my german ticking over and manageable parallel text like this is supreme.
Two covers comparison between Artforum and Frieze, both of whom featured the same Bruce Nauman cover image for their September 2007 issues during the massive Grand Tour season on Venice, Basel, Documenta, Munster.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

fuck this vain circle jerk of a magazine.

i hate vice mag and i hate vice mag kids. they probably all hate me too. that’s fine.

i do, however, love this ad in this month’s mag.

[click to enlarge]

bring it on…

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

tate.. ah, tate

While in melbourne, i had intended to buy the current issue of frieze, but couldn’t, for the life of me, find it anywhere! not even in mag nation! so instead, i indulged in buying a UK art mag i had never seen before, but noticed it had some really interesting articles.

Tate, Etc, apart from being an art mag with the worst title ever, is a surprisingly good read. it’s got a nice mix of pretty pictures and the articles are fucking great! they’re not so heavy that you get lockjaw from chewing through them, but not so light on that you might as well have bought who?, hello! or OK!.

Some of the higlights for me have been the articles written by external writers, artists, musicians, scientists, etc about their experience of works in the Tate Collection called MicroTate. Plus, there are also 4 different perspectives on works by a master – this time it was Hans Holbein the Younger, with Chuck Close, writing about Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Other top articles included one on erasure and the various ways in which the erased, absence or censored is treated in contemporary art. Writer Brian Dillon looked at a survey of artists, from Aleksander Rodchenko and his blacking out of executed leaders of Communist Party from photographs, to Idris Khan‘s overlaid images of the Koran and Chopin’s works creating a superimposed nothingness. He also referenced Ignasi Abalif‘s correction fluid works, Correction and Big Mistake as well as Michael Gondry‘s film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as works about what’s underneath the apparent erasure. And this of course lead to an article on Robert Rauschenberg‘s Erased de Koonig Drawing as an amazing performance of erasure. Two articles on the same topic, from different perspectives! Amazing!

David Smith has 3 articles dedicated to him and his work – two of which were written by his daughters. This was related to an exhibition being held at the Tate, but instead of it feeling like an outright plug, they use the mag to further investigate some of the ideas, to present different aspects of the artist and his work, and delved a little deeper than the media release.

Fischli and Weiss get a look-in, as do the Chapman Brothers‘ treatment of Goya – and whose exhibition will still be there when i get there in May – yess!!

Plus there was a freakily synchronious article by Will Self on the art of fiction. Self looks at how artists are portrayed in fiction, which i always find interesting because i actually read fiction too – not just art mags! and not only does he mention Dorian Gray (the book i’ve almost finished thanks to leaving it at home before i went on holidays), but refers to JG Ballard, who i’ve now heard mentioned at least 3 times by different people and have decided to check him out. The interesting aspect that that article (apart from said synchronicity) was his thoughts on having to be somewhat ‘in the know’ when reading about art/artists in books and the mistake of writing about artists as a character of art, rather than a character. OK, so it’s hard to condense, and i’m not so articulate when it comes to reviewing articles, but it’s a worthy read, OK.

Other big surprise was that there are a few ads in the mag, but they don’t take up pages 1 – 69 and 80 – 153 (unlike frieze), and it’s a variety of commercial and non-profit ads, plus the usual subscription boost for Tate.

I get the sense from reading this mage that these brits actually engage with their public art galleries and the collections within. And that the public art galleries expect a certain level of interest from them in return. There was no hint of patronising or populist exhibitions in the way that some of the galleries in Australia do.(If getting a bunch of people that aren’t writers to write about art is populist, well, i can deal with that.) There’s even an article about a writer getting to check out the Tate archives and channeling Paul Nash through his paintbox!

Man, if Agnes Wales let me at some of their archives, i could write pages!

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx