What if your friends’ art sucks?
September 23, 2022 8:30 PM   Subscribe

We were here to “Make friends, not art!” Well, that sounds fun. But what if your friends’ art sucks? Documenta was always a pacesetter — and this year’s edition certainly put its finger on a larger shift, seen too in our museums, our art schools and our magazines, away from aesthetic ambition and intellectual seriousness and toward the easier comforts of togetherness, advocacy and fun. If your friends’ art sucks, that’s actually no big deal — because being together matters more than doing something well. And if the German press say your friends’ art sucks, that’s OK, too — reassuring, actually, as evidence that this rotten colonizers’ world has no place for us.

Twice a decade, for exactly 100 days, the world of culture turns its eyes to this midsize German city for Documenta, a giant exhibition whose intellectual ambitions and hefty budgets have ensured its reputation as the world’s most prestigious show of contemporary art. This year’s edition got off to a dreadful start in June, when its most prominent artwork, an agitprop mural incorporating unmistakable antisemitic caricatures, had to be withdrawn amid national outcry. The 15th Documenta now comes to a close on Sunday — not before another controversy that has seen artists, scholars and politicians trade accusations of antisemitism and racism, harassment and incompetence.

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posted by Toddles (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
As ever, the NYT comes so close to the radical conclusion - festivals like Documenta aren’t really relevant any more - and comes to a completely conservative, anodyne conclusion - so the next one will be market friendly.

The conclusion that my friends and contacts seem to be reaching, independently and in groups, is that big festivals of all types have been captured by capital, and what we need to do is provide spaces for art that aren’t spectacle but instead part of the norm. Documenta captured some of that, but its insistence on older power structures and 1970s thinking is quite embarrassing at this point. It’s not even the 90s bro.
posted by The River Ivel at 1:13 AM on September 24 [12 favorites]


This earlier review linked in the article above touches on the controversy but also paints a picture of what was exciting, open, and vital about this year's show.

As ever, the NYT comes so close to the radical conclusion - festivals like Documenta aren’t really relevant any more - and comes to a completely conservative, anodyne conclusion - so the next one will be market friendly.

And curated by an expert who has been fully vetted by establishment art standards.
posted by Well I never at 5:27 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


is that big festivals of all types have been captured by capital

What part of the art world hasn't been? I don't quite understand your conclusion in that it seemed like this Documenta was the least "captured by capital" edition they've had, and there was a collective spirit to the event, but also that the art was largely bad and forgettable.

Having not been there, I'm only repeating what I've read, so I'm curious why folks believe big festivals were once so worthwhile and now they are not?
posted by gwint at 7:07 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


If your friends’ art sucks, that’s OK.
If your friends’ art incorporates unmistakable antisemitic caricatures, get new friends.
posted by scruss at 8:19 AM on September 24 [14 favorites]


Critics are grumpy.

We went to Documenta 12 and it was awesome, but that was long ago.
posted by ovvl at 6:56 PM on September 24


The description of the antisemitic art was, indeed, yikes. I can see how Indonesian activists that have dealt with state violence (ie the artists that made the piece), if they have no Jewish friends, could fall into these stereotypes; very few people have done the reading required to know this stuff. I hope someone's taken them aside and given them a crash course. I'm Jewish and I've seen how marginalized co-workers can get swayed by conspiracy theories (nearly all of which are antisemitic at their core) when the state and society really are out to get them! But that's why it's important to be like, "Hey, buddy. Yes, the world has its boot on your neck, but not in the way this book/youtube video/podcaster is saying."
posted by pelvicsorcery at 12:27 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


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