How to put people off contemporary art

Inspired by Nicky Getgood’s excellent Digbeth Is Good blog, I looked up the web page for the current exhibit by the Mexican collective Tercerunquinto at Ikon East.


Stuart Whipps
photo: Stuart Whipps


The exhibit looks great, but oh, how my heart sank as I read the accompanying blurb.

Apparently “the inscription of language onto buildings particularly corresponds with Tercerunquinto’s established interest in institutional self-definition through architectonic modes”.

I’m sorry?

“institutional self-definition through architectonic modes”

Repeating it doesn’t make the meaning any clearer, does it?  I have no idea what institutional self-definition means, and I had to look up the work “architectonic”.  Pertaining to architecture, it seems.  Did someone else have dibs on the work “architectural”, so the Ikon people couldn’t use it?

From the pic, this exhibit is bold and accessible. I could see it appealing to a wide range of people; maybe some who wouldn’t normally sample contemporary art.

But compare it with the words that someone has chosen to drape over it like an obscurantist shroud.

What on earth does the person who wrote this nonsense imagine its effect will be?  It doesn’t interpret the work; it clouds it.  I can’t imagine that many people would be more likely to visit Ikon East having read it – apart from a small group of institutional self-definition enthusiasts, that is.

I like contemporary art.  I’ve recently visited the Psycho Buildings exhibtion at the Hayward Gallery, and the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design end of year show.  I’ve even commissioned a piece, in a very small way.

But I long ago learned to ignore the pseudo-academic verbiage that accompanies contemporary art.  Let the work speak to you directly.  You decide what it means, if it means anything, and you decide how you’re going to react to it.

After all, if you wanted an interpreter, wouldn’t you want one who speaks English?