Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Critical schmitical

Okay, so I think my new name should be Ranterella or Polemica, something like that. I’m always outraged, and I’m always outraged that I’m outraged. I prefer action to passivity any old day, and outrage, though elevated, is ultimately passive. So, it’s a frustrating situation I’ve created for myself.

The rant of the day relates to the recently released short list of Turner Prize nominees. I haven’t gotten through the list yet and I’m already confounded, annoyed and well, outraged.

First work I’ve looked at is Zarina Bhimji

Great name, interesting work, but Turner Prize worthy? Not clear on why. Whenever I’ve been able to, I always make it a point to see the Turner Prize winners in London, at the beautiful, regal, original Tate Britain. Last one I saw was quite a while ago, when the only photographer included was Wolfgang Tillmans.

He was certainly an innovator, his unusual, random, scattered, installation harkened to the surrealists, while his loose, erotic, intimate, imagery challenged the formality and beauty ideals of the then current Photo Lords: Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Gregory Crewdson et al. He was a controversial selection, but look at most popular art and commercial photography today and it’s directly traced back to him.

Lets get back to Bhimji. Empty spaces have long been a favourite of grad school art projects, vacant lots, off-season swimming pools, derelict homes, and on and on. Some have done it better than others, and though originality is not the only marker of creative achievement, in my opinion, if you’re going to revisit a well-used concept, let the crux of your work rest on a familiar trope, then there must be an element of reinvention.

I don’t see that in Bhimji’s “Love” series. I don’t see the creation of a new object, or a reformed beauty in the object either. And if the value in her “non-narrative imagery” lies in the narrative surrounding the subject matter, then I see it more as a journalistic record. Photojournalism is totally valid too, and maybe the risk that the Turner Prize is taking, is by aggrandizing that medium.

Vented. Released. Relieved.

Okay, now I need to look at the other artists.



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