Here’s a review of a recent failed art exhibition that I wrote for The Thousandth Word blog: “Bang a Drum for the Losers.”

Be forewarned: My take on the show at hand, “Millions of Innocent Accidents” by the artists collective Hardland/Heartland at the Minnesota Artists Gallery (at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts), is a tad harsh. But I had a point to express, related to the cause of so much artistic failure across the land of late, which was this:

Shrill gestures like breaking windows, destroying property, and flouting the rules of civilized society do not make compelling symbolism. Instead, acts of a hopeful, imaginative, empathetic, or out-reaching nature are what’s needed to attract and capture the attention and support of others….

….As soon as I walked into this gallery and saw the poorly conceived, dolefully hopeless work that this well-meaning group of artists purported to consider compelling visual art—all their random and indistinct trash and burnt paraphernalia and jumbles and piles of detritus and tossed off dreck and doodles and goats’ heads and black tar corner accretions—my spirit fell. The show was a disaster, off-putting and uninspiring, and it was clear at a glance that this loudly shouting, in-your-face visual group had failed to reach out to others in any meaningfuly to get their righteous points across….

The chief problem is that, while it’s clear that Hardland/Heartland’s hearts are in the right place and they have the energy to make a lot of work (and I mean a lot of work), they just don’t know how to make much that is compelling and symbolically relevant or that embodies and expounds on their frustrations, fears, and angst in a way that someone else would care to look at. There’s no hope here, no imagination, and certainly nothing to empathize with.

2 Responses to “Bang a Drum for Artistic Failure b/w Why Can’t We Just Try to Empathize with Each Other?”

  1. bob schulz says:

    If only a new political thought could be murmurred in an art exhibit before I die, then I too could be lured into one of these otherwise predictable heartfelt, poorly conceived and dolefully hopeless jumbles of tossed off dreck.

    Shocking, it would be. Front page stuff, “Artists physically attacked by curators as they attempted to assemble inappropriate exhibit.” Sorry to fall back on something which has never been fully understood, I couldn’t stop myself.

    You would agree that there is an entire genre of political thought not yet examined by artists in our contemporary era? Not that it should be examined, just that it is not examined. Not that artists would be correct examining it, not that there would be anything wrong by not examining it, given that the audience should be offended, and rightly so, by such an examination, i.e., the antithesis of what is normally presented as a political thought in, what else, a contemporary art exhibit. No reply necessary.

  2. bob schulz says:

    One question, shouldn’t the voice of the critic be neutral as to the flavor of political content? As a teacher before a history class, no evidence of bias during a political discussion from the profession should be apparent. No?

    What are your thoughts? If the teacher, leader, authority figure, tips their hand, the freedom of open exchange is in danger of being squelched. No? And what can be learned in such an atmosphere?

    Another question, would an exhibit with the proper amount subtlety, workmanship, beauty, cleverness, but political content considered inappropriate for the political hubris inherent within the arts have been exhibited?

    It’s never enough to say, “that’s just the way it’s always been, get used to it!”

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