calm it, Sister!
Don't get me wrong - I love all art forms. But what I do not love is the shit chatted by poncey art critics spouting off about blobs of paint being 'existential' and boats bobbing in the Seine filling us with 'longing'. Have any of these critics actually ever been involved in the creation of anything themselves? Or are they just highly opinionated onlookers? We all have an opinion - sure. But we don't all have to scour a thesaurus to make it sound valid.
Here are my top least favourite bullshit phrases art critics often seem to say:
'...in his typically idiosyncratic way.'
Idiosyncratic [DEFINITION] :- pertaining to the nature of idiosyncrasy, or something peculiar to an individual.
Well, yes, it would be, it's done by one person, so yes, it would indeed suggest something of the individuality of that person.
Art critics always talk up artworks with this word, usually in a gently amused, inclusive way, with a nod towards the camera, to let us know that yes, indeed, this concrete crater filled with perspex dolphins is a bit wacky, which we love, which is, indeed, why we love it, and yes, we know it's a bit wacky - a bit, to use another art critic cliche, avante guarde. A bit experimental. This artist is, after all, the only human with an exclusively unique vision, idea, talent, style, mentality or public image.
BUT WHERE IS THE LINE, ART CRITICS? HUH?! YES ALASTAIR SOOKE, I'M TALKING TO YOU.
'... really is an exploration of The Human Condition.'
This is basically just a twattish way of saying 'being alive.'
It is there, on the tongue of the art critic, to show that while the goat does appear to be enjoying playing that violin, the swirling blues beyond in fact hint to the artist's troubled childhood years at their ancestral home in Boulogne - which the critic has a unique understanding of, never before thought of by art scholars, or even, dare I say it, artists themselves. It's there to show depth, to show, among other things, sadness. Honest, aching sadness. All art is in actuality showing the true emptiness and nihilism of life - whoops, I mean, of The Human Condition.
(I might go to the Tate Modern and try out a new phrase of my own that I have just invented. It encapsulates the true dichotomy, ambiguity and blue-tinged nuances of all existence and experience - it is called The Human Centipede. 'This picture really is an exploration of ... The Human Centipede.')
'... which really is fabulous.'
I have long despised the male 'reclaim-the-cunt' culture shift in attitudes toward the word fabulous. It used to only be used by orange homosexuals and peeling, overweight ex-Hollywood starlets. Now straight white males are brandishing it around in order to prove how unafraid of theatrical language they are in the modern metrosexual world.
'... and af course the gilding on the portico really is fabulous.'
Instead of being said in the Californian-tinged drawl of the gay stereotype, 'Fabulous' is used by the art critic with a bounce to it, with a pow! behind it, a bravado to show confidence in their recent ownership of a word they would previously have deliberately steered away from. FIne. Do what you want with this word. It's not in my top five anyway. But stop looking so damn smug about it in relation to Baroque vestibules.
'...actually is quite phallic from this angle.'
No shit. People think about sex a lot. Even sculptors need to make the beast with two backs in-between hardcore shifts with the clay.
Usually said in a tone that fails to conquer embarrassment at their parents hearing them say mention 'the male sex organ' on national TV, 'phallic symbol' has long been the bourgeois cop out for art cock. I'm not saying I need it spelt out to me in a simplistic, specific way (see 'Idiosyncratic'), I just think they need to stop the incredulity. For example, check out this piece by Louise Bourgeois (no name pun intended):
wait - is that a .... ?
'.... It's more the stuff of which nightmares are made.'
This is another of the art critic's jokes. He leans briefly towards us with a sardonic smile. Yes indeed, we silently agree, nodding towards the television set, it is a bit dark. Not the stuff of dreams, but, in fact, the reverse. Van Gough had some bad times going on so he painted himself minus an ear. Not a dream - oh no, no - a nightmare. Remember that.
And the most obvious I left until last:
'....not just a street scene, but an image that truly encapsulates the EXISTENTIAL ANGST of that age.'
I have so many problems with this kind of remark I almost don't know where to begin shredding it from.
Firstly, can anyone really encapsulate any one protracted period of time of a city, state, continent, etc, in one image or item? Often famous paintings and photographs from the early twentieth century are regarded by critics to symbolise the entirety of that period, and usually foretelling the horrors of the first world war - '...there's almost a prophetic quality of doom in the dog's eye that seems to suggest the oncoming proliferation of bloodshed ....'
Secondly, is anyone just sick of hearing the phrase 'existential angst?' Particularly when you are being told that this is what you feel from a painting. Not everything leads back to the 'what am I doing here?' question. Some might lead instead to 'I ran out of money so had to finish it here,' or, 'thought I'd try it out with a darker blue,' or even, 'I don't remember doing that one. Yeah - I was pretty high that day.'
See what I'm saying?
Just tone it down a bit, art critics. Why not just try and say what you see? It's a classic method ... in it's typically idiosyncratic way.
(If you don't know what this video was inspired by, you are probably one of four people left on the globe. If so, wander over THIS WAY.)