dot 35: [art]speak

It becomes extremely hard not to speak in the language in which you are being spoken to.

– David Levine –

I recently became intrigued with the idea of what ‘artspeak’ is after having read an article about the South African ceramicist Lucinda Mudge. Mudge’s recent pieces have been chosen to be shown at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao later this year.

What I find interesting about Mudge’s story is the fact that she is able to combine both global and local references whilst suspended in a treehouse in the vicinity of the Keurbooms area. The article sketches Mudge’s working environment as one in which she is surrounded by nature, highlighting the fact that she is totally removed from “artspeak.”

Re-reading Emma Jordan’s article ‘Firing our paranoia in clay’ in The Times I started wondering whether the production of unique artwork requires keeping artspeak at bay? Put differently, does artspeak influence originality negatively ..?

David Levine and Alix Rule explored the impact of artspeak in the art world in their extensive 2013 research project International Art English (IAE). In an interview with Levine and Rule by  Andy Beckett, Levine says:

 “You can’t speak in simple sentences at a museum and be taken seriously. You can’t say, ‘This artist produces funny work.’ In our postmodern world, simple is just bad. You’ve got to say, ‘This artist is funny and …'”

Yet there are artists who are seemingly able to manoeuvre themselves through and beyond artspeak’s net. An artist I can relate to for her thought-drawings and interest in sound and movement is Claire Cote’. From her Manifesto 2: I am for an able-art (2008), inspired by the form of Claes Oldenburg’s 1962 ‘Statement’, Cote’ writes:

I am for an art that is…..
open-able-close-able-soci-able- whimsic-able-politic-able-compos-able-recycl-able-understand-able-land-able-float-able- edib-able-simpl-able-complic-able-flexib-able-sandwich-able-fabrica-able-slam-able-clam-able-flam-able-ram-able-cram-able-frame-able-unit-able-beautif-able.

Elsewhere, in her Manifesto 3: I am for an able-art (2008), Cote’ writes that:

  • I am for art that lives in silence, but knows when to yell.
  • I am for an art that draws thoughts and maps ideas.
  • I am for an art that excavates thoughts and puts them haphazardly on universal shelves.
  • I am for an art that catalogues thoughts with made-up systems that take a lifetime to learn.

Cote’ is clearly able to think freely, imagine freely and speak freely. Her creative expression has not been netted by artspeak. Perhaps in the same way Mudge, safely hidden from artspeak in her treehouse, therefore is able to create her subversive pieces. At least here, language is hers to speak even if spoken differently in the [art]world.

LASERS IN THE JUNGLE: An Exhibition of 27 Vases by Lucinda Mudge, The Gallery at Grande Provence, Franschoek South Africa. 20 April 2014
LASERS IN THE JUNGLE: An Exhibition of 27 Vases by Lucinda Mudge, The Gallery at Grande Provence, Franschoek South Africa. 20 April 2014

For Claire Cote’ s full manifesto: here.

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