Archive for the The Vicious Circle Category

Yesterday I posted, on the slowly failing group arts blog The Thousandth Word, a review called “Falling Man.” It’s about four recent documentary films that deal, somewhat indirectly, with the subject of artistic failure (though one of the films, “Man on Wire,” is actually, much to its own failure, about artistic success).

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

It would be easy to find oneself depressed after seeing all of this thwarted ambition and all of these shattered dreams. But I actually love these three films, mainly because they are real. They reveal personal stories that gibe with what we all see experience every day in this unfair world. After all, this is a country in which rich bankers reward themselves billions after extorting money from taxpayers, while good and honest and talented people can’t find decent enough jobs to support their families. These films show the truth: That the vast majority of us will come to the end of our lives having failed, over and over, to achieve our dreams. But then, that’s okay. This story about our inability to achieve our dreams is a beautiful, if sad, part of the human condition.

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.

On one of my other art-blogging projects yesterday, a guest poster published a fantastic piece, called “The Nester,” on the relationship between shitting and art-making, and how sometimes the most disgusting and deviant acts can inspire non-comformist, creative thinking. This is a particularly appropriate rallying-cry, I think, in this age of constantly diminishing returns in the culture. You’ve just gotta read this story; trust me, you won’t be disappointed (repulsed, maybe, or horrified–but not disappointed).

Here’s a sampling:

Artists have done themselves a great disservice in needlessly construing creative expression into the larger-than-life mythologies, brainwashing doctrines and pseudo-political advertisements that comprise the clusterfuck that art is today. We’ve created a framework for art that warps our hearts and minds into believing that art requires authority (galleries, museums, academia); precepts (formal aesthetics, airtight intellectualism); and high culture (icons, award ceremonies, magazines). We’ve convinced ourselves that art is an austere discipline and not the boundless, soul-searching siphon that can dredge out our deepest and most authentic creative desires. Unfortunately, art is just as much about popularity, ego, money, class, idolatry and condescending intellectualism as it is about using modes of creativity to purely and earnestly explore ourselves and our relationship to the universe….

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that people go clog some toilets to proclaim their creativity. Rather, I am suggesting that we draw from the Nester’s example the conviction that we can and must treat our own creativity with the dignity it deserves. We need to stop making art that relies upon a toxic art world, to stop making art that tries to find a way into Artforum, and instead finds a way into the deeply transformative creative passion that burns in each of us.

Warning: What follows is a bit on the self-serving side. Not that blogs in general aren’t all in some way an exercise in solipsism, but I just thought you should know, in case you were shill-sensitive, that this post is wholly intended to tout a new project I am involved in: A Twin Cities-based blog of art criticism and arts writing called “The Thousandth Word.” It’s being published by, and involves the effort of a group of six sharp-tongued and perceptive critics calling themselves “The Vicious Circle.”

Since you’re all religious readers of CAFA, you will likely recall that I reported here back in March that the Rake Magazine, for several years a chief supporter of quality coverage on the local visual arts, ceased print publication. Well, as it turns out, I was surprised to learn that Rakemag’s existence did not entirely blink out after that announcement. While there were drastic layoffs, and while the remaining staff were moved to a smaller, more humble location, Rakemag regrouped itself, retooled its business-model (in keeping with these virtual times), and began to expand its online-only list of offerings: namely, a growing roster of blogs on sundry topics.

“The Thousandth Word” is the result of weeks of discussion, negotiation, and planning. The first post of “The Thousandth Word” explains the process a bit, and lists the professional biographies of the six writers of this blog. The plan is for the Vicious Circle to fan out across the city and region, take a looksee at what’s being made and exhibited artistically in town, and write two monthly posts apiece on what we each discover. The result will be twelve or more critical posts on art for an information-starved community of local artists.

So, what we’ve got here, gentle art readers, is a bit of lemonade squeezed from the rock-hard old lemons of these current times of (artistic failure).