Art Monthly 326: May 2009

Art Monthly cover
Elizabeth Price

Interviewed by Paul O'Neill

Gothic v Gothick

Gilda Williams

Another Fine Mess

Sally O'Reilly

Vlatka Horvat

Profile by Graham Parker

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Elizabeth Price HELP - that's what it says 2001



Mad Love

Elizabeth Price interviewed by Paul O'Neill

Elizabeth Price's practice began with sculptures that had no finished state: such as an endlessly growing ball of brown packing tape, an increasingly damaged plinth that is left unprotected when transported between shows, and a trophy engraved with the name of each gallery that exhibits it. More recently, Price has turned her attention to defunct bequests, enacting their wills and instructions in order to create archives of labyrinthine complexity. In this interview she discusses her relationship to 1960s conceptual art practices, and the neurotic fantasies that bureaucratic administration can create.

'In 2006 I made a video, called A Public Lecture and Exhumation, to tell the story of the Chalmers Bequest. The video started out like a local history lecture but ended up more like a gothic romance, and that trajectory mirrored my own move from a post-conceptual artist to an inventor of ghostly fantasies.'



Gothic v Gothick

Gilda Williams on the embarrassing, campy cousin of the uncanny

The term 'Gothic' has seen a remarkable resurgence in the art world over the last few years, but it has often been applied liberally to artworks that have more to do with Halloween-style theatrics than a genuine discourse around fear and anxiety. Here Gilda Williams attempts a definition of 'the Gothic' in relation to contemporary art, and draws a distinction between truly unsettling work and that which camps up its horror.

'The Gothic undead, by the way, differs from Derrida's hauntological ghost. The Gothic ghost is not, like Marxism, a good ghost whom we hope will stick around. Ghosts in Gothic tales are disturbing, unwanted presences who return for a specific, often vindictive purpose provoked by a debt left unpaid. The plot usually centres on determining who has to pay the debt - and in what currency. Contemporary painters seem to sense in the first person this indebtedness to painting's history, and pay the debt by spilling more paint, like more blood, on more canvas.'



Another Fine Mess

Sally O'Reilly ponders themed group shows

Responding to the vogue for themed group shows, Sally O'Reilly explores this trend in the hope that it might lead to a productive examination of how these juxtapositions create meaning - rather than merely offering easily digestible exhibition packages for gallery marketing departments.

'"The art world is a productive mess, and that's fine if you are not interested in saying what the art means", by which we can surmise that this is not fine with James Elkins. What the art "means", though, is notoriously difficult to establish. In fact, meaning in general has become so problematised through insistence on relativity, pluralism and subjectivity that at times it seems impossible to use the word at all.'



Thinking the Unthinkable

It is 30 years since Margaret Thatcher came to power, bringing with her a new, market-driven philosophy to arts funding. The mantra that arts organisations should bring in funding from private sources, something that the current government has pushed even further, has led to a perilous situation for many artists and public institutions. In the US, where such thinking is firmly entrenched, galleries are suffering massively in the recession as the private sector sucks in bailout money while withdrawing sponsorship.

'No one would now advocate a return to the cosy, mostly white, middle-class administered culture of the past. However, since the arts have surely proved their economic viability and their social, as well as their primary aesthetic value, it is time to think the unthinkable again: public arts funding needs to be totally restructured.'


Dave Beech responds to those who, he feels, misunderstood his article on criticality after Postmodernism. Mark Dunhill (dean of art, Central St Martins) and Alister Warman (principal, Byam Shaw School of Art) respond to last month's letters from the students who occupied Byam Shaw, with Dunhill highlighting what he perceives as a 'lack of awareness' on the part of the students.


Michael Craig-Martin blasts the British Council over their lack of touring exhibitions; Hazel Blears announces grants for the creative use of empty retail units; new studio developments; the results of a survey of artists' earnings; gallery openings and closings; and all the latest news on art world appointments, events, commissions and more.

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Vlatka Horvat

Graham Parker profiles the young New York artist

Vlatka Horvat's practice is marked by the use of her own body in simple, rules-based performances or playful photographic projects. However, her more recent sculptural work, as seen at The Kitchen space in New York, references the artist's body in absentia.

'If there has been a common thread it has been a tendency towards deadpan absurdity that reads as art practice as an endless 'knock knock' joke - amusing, then irritating, then mesmerising, as the artist insists on a repetitive set of call-and-response loops from the viewer or herself.'



Voids: A Retrospective


Anna Dezeuze


Rikke Hansen

Trying to Cope with Things that aren't Human

Martin Herbert


Larne Abse Gogarty

The Associates

Rosie Lesso


David Trigg

Robert Mangold: X, Plus and Frame Paintings

Cliff Lauson

Minerva Cuevas: S.COOP

Coline Milliard

Ashok Sukumaran

Colin Perry

Peter Coffin

Eliza Williams

Jack Strange: In the Pines

Andrew Hunt



Gest: Laboratory of Synthesis #1

Peter Suchin on an experiment that encourages new modes of art writing to emerge

'To suggest that criticism's recent bout of navel gazing lacks all sense of crisis is not my intention, but surely such reflexivity runs in tandem with a whole glut of transformations within culture that began at least as far back as the appearance of Conceptual Art. That art writing's general mutation can be considered a crisis in the strict sense of that term is highly debatable. It seems more convincing to propose that criticism's apparent decline owes more to art's relation to the culture industry than to an innate, medium-specific demise.'

So Exotic, So Homemade

David Briers on Ian Walker's study of English surrealist documentary photography

'The outcome of narrowly focused academic research can sometimes be tedious to read. This is not the case here. Walker's study amounts to more than just a scrupulous examination of a neglected corner of British art. The book is not excessively long, but a great deal of newly discovered or freshly interrelated information is compressed readably and often amusingly into each page.'



Robert Cahen: Passage

Chris Meigh-Andrews on the French filmmaker and sound artist

'This theme of travel is important, perhaps crucial, to an understanding of Cahen's work, in terms of both the source material for his imagery and his attitude to working with that material. For Cahen, travel is "a way of changing places, of passing from one state to another ... of not considering something as finite, but of seeking the infinite side of reality, the side where everything continues". The video images that Cahen selects are often fragments from remote or particular places and locations.'



Appropriation Art and Fair Uses: Cariou v Prince

Henry Lydiate on Richard Prince's most recent court case

'In the UK, a more conservative approach is taken by copyright law. Fair dealing with a copyright work is permitted for the specific and limited purposes of: non-commercial research; private study; criticism or review of a published work; or news reporting current events (but not using photographic works). Note the absence of comment or parody permitted by US law.'



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