Confessions Of A Gallery Hater (Part 2)
Owen Edwards, an astute critic, once wrote: “The better a photographer is, the more miserable and neurotic he or she seems to become”. Well, if Edwards is right, you can train yourself to become a miserable, neurotic human being first, and then you will be known as a great photographer, no matter how stupid your pictures are. As for me, I have been attending psychological analysis for the past year in order to discover who I am. It worked. I am now able to reveal for the first time in public that, in actuality, I am Madonna. Now, finally, I feel wonderfully liberated. Through proper professional therapy, I have discovered a delicious secret: I can now say and do whatever I like because I do not have to take personal responsibility for anything. In my newfound enlightenment, though, I feel a little embarrassed that so many artists and critics discovered this secret long before me. They have been talking and writing all this time while I was struggling, silly me, to understand what they said, as if they actually took personal responsibility for their remarks, expected them to mean anything, or cared if they were true or not. Now, of course, I know better. It is gratifying to find out that artists and critics invent their nonsensical sayings because they are nice people. And if they are asked a dumb question, or do not know the answer to a good one, they will make the effort to think up a response. So they are not only generous but also nimble of mind. That’s to be applauded. Let us see how this works in practice. Here’s how you too can be considered a profound thinker and maker of deep images.
1. Copy down a paragraph (any one will do) from a current critical theorist. Memorize it. Then, practice a halting, stumbling delivery with screwed up face until you can recite it as if the words were being laboriously dredged up from deep in your psyche with gut-wrenching sincerity. Here’s a good example, culled from a recent review of an exhibition: The artist was “connecting the illusion of perception with the reality of thought, the inner reality that is beyond tangible” … And may the Force be with you. Don’t worry if you flub the lines. The point is that your delivery must be intense and convincing. I know, it would sound more sincere if you made up your own verbal rubbish rather than scrounge around in the garbage heaps of critical theory. Fortunately, with a little practice, you too can learn to gibber. Here’s how. List a few buzz words and phrases beloved by the pseudo-photo-thinker. Here are some appropriate examples: contextualize, taxonomy, dialogical ethics, multicultural, signification, metaphysics, re-representation, polysemy, semiotic subversions and revisions. I stole these in a few minutes from one issue of a particularly unintelligible art periodical. Now all you have to do is string them together like this: “I contextualize the taxonomies of dialogical ethics by revisioning and representing the polysemy of multiculturalism”. I know these words do not mean anything: Their only purpose is to sound dense and important. Now the beauty of these incomprehensible chunks of verbal offal is that they are useful in any circumstances, not only to describe your own image as it is being scrutinized by a baffled gallery director, but also for impressing dates. What you do is this: Meander around an art gallery and come to a jarring halt (enough to startle your date and capture his/her attention), squint at a particularly hideous piece, scratch your chin thoughtfully, bend at the waist and, without taking your eyes off its lower left corner, move crab-like to within a few inches, then slowly back up and mutter (loud enough to be heard by all, but as if musing to self): “An interesting semiotic subversion of multicultural contextualization”…
2. Stick to banalities. There is no point in stuttering a lot of complicated words (their effect is somewhat diminished if someone starts correcting you) when there is a simple alternative. In this strategy the idea is to say the tritest thing in such a manner that it sounds like the deepest profundity. This is a technique which has been perfected by fine-art photographers who lecture at academic institutions. In a voice oozing sincerity, say: “I’m interested in [pause…] Time”. Can you manage that? Good. Now try it while pinching the bridge of your nose. To some members of the audience this will indicate that you had to think long and hard to utter such a profundity. Once you have mastered “Time” you can try the same sentence but substituting “Space” or “Light”.
3. Create a diversion. And the most effective means of not answering any question is to say: “I’m glad you asked me that…” and then ramble on about an irrelevant childhood event, preferably one including dogs, or sex, or both… If you make it long enough and tedious enough no one will remember what you were first asked. You can also embellish the story with a profusion of trivialities, and if anyone seems bored, remind them that you are conducting “emotional archaeology” (a popular concept nowadays).
4. Be political. Practice speaking sentences containing a lot of sibilants through pursed lips in order to get the spittle flying. Strangely, this strategy is particularly effective when talking to arty rich nerds in suits and ties. The point here is to intimidate, and you accomplish this most effectively by ranting and by cultivating a wild-eyed manic appearance.
5. If all else fails, act dumb. This is the cleverest ploy of all because it plays right into the minds of those who believe that the true creative genius resides in some sort of inarticulate autism. These people, you must realize, do not expect you to be able to hold an intelligent conversation because you are “VISUAL”… The smart strategy, therefore, is to act as dumb as possible. Give them what they want!
Enough said. But please, remember to read this post once more before your next exhibition…