So here’s an art tip:
Should you be thinking of tackling issues around the Middle East and Islam and feeling a bit weird or uncertain about it, just start reading about the mixed bag that was/is the Dubai Art Fair and your confidence will be restored. I understand it’s better now, but what I was reading from 2009 said: “Much of the rest, though, was either pretentious or too literal, either decontextualized or straining to project a context.” Fabulous. I spent way too much time this morning reading Artforum’s Diary archive (one of those rambling internet search moments) – but I feel revived.
It’s easy to forget, sitting on a farm in remote Nova Scotia, that much of the larger art world is really just a glitzy, vapid, hot mess where the work that gets high praise (and dollars) wouldn’t survive two seconds in a first year art crit at your local art college.
Check this out and then imagine trying to justify it in front of a skeptical art prof: http://www.artknowledgenews.com/Bonhams_Dubai.html
Now, before I sound bitter and disillusioned, let me say that much of this actually makes me feel the opposite. Looking at bad art that’s ‘made it’ is actually quite freeing. Rather than feeling all hung up about how to present your ideas in a subtle intelligent way that reads well without being too obvious, you can see someone who took all those ideas you already abandoned as too literal and just barfed it in a gallery. Nice. Now maybe you don’t have to be so precious and tormented right?
There’s something about telling people you’re making a prayer rug out of eggs that sounds fairly ridiculous and reductive, and I’ve been struggling with this since I started. There’s also that nagging feeling of not being ‘allowed’ to dip your toes into certain cultural subjects if you can’t speak from a position of authority. Now I say, screw it. If I flip it around and think about someone in Iran with a Canadian grandmother wanting to explore ideas of Canadian identity and the English language in their work, I would see that as perfectly valid, as well as interesting.
Here’s some work I did on this subject in 2010, but never put on my website, as it never really seemed to ‘fit’ with the rest of my practice:
'Abstracting gestures of worship may lead to interpretations of Islam (and your work) as mysterious and unknowable'
'This is about difference and Islam, but also about how exotic I look with lots of eyeliner and a veil. I'm hoping I look more Iranian than I actually am.'
These are obviously takes on Shirin Neshat’s work, specifically her ‘Women of Allah’ series (a series I did write about, quite critically, in my art history Master’s thesis – a lifetime ago). Work about ‘identity’ often treads a fine line between self-indulgent cliche and profound reflection of what really makes us all who we are. Tricky business, with – I would argue – less room to maneuver when you’re basically white.
So, right, some art today…
Ok, so attaching a video is apparently not possible here (I need to upgrade or something). Hang on…
Hmmm…embedding doesn’t work either. Right, here’s the vimeo link then:
It’s called ‘Do you speak English?’ I’m not going to stick around and see if it works (it’s still processing through Vimeo) as it is stormy out there and I’m looking forward to the comfort of the house. Nothing quite like a snowstorm and a bubble bath – as long as the power doesn’t go out.
I’ll leave you with a final quote from the Artforum Diary (though in this case about Vanessa Beecroft), a world away from my little snowy art corner:
Like black crows, the art fans massed around the installation, staring in rapt contemplation of the naked posers, the classical art references, the inexorability of death, and the fact that we were stuck out in LIC [Long Island City] and there were no refreshments…