The Anti-artist-statement Statement

I’ve written a couple of posts about artist statements (firstly proposing the Bovine Doo Doo Award and secondly discussing International Art English, or IAE. A reply to this second post from Karen gave a reference to the Arty Bollocks Generator which allows you to produce your own Bovine Doo Doo Statement.)

I was interested, therefore, in a post on the Hyperallergic website by Iris Jaffe.

“I also don’t know who decided that artists should be responsible for writing their own “artist statement.” Maybe it was an understaffed gallery in the 1980s, or a control freak think-inside-my-box-or-get-out MFA program director, but regardless of how this standardized practice came to be, the artist’s statement as professional prerequisite (at least for artists who have yet to be validated by the established art world) has long overstayed its welcome. And I don’t think a new one should be required in its place….

“To begin with, visual artists are visual people: we communicate visually. Descriptive writing requires much more specificity than visual communication. If we had a preference or talent for expressing ourselves through text, we would just write essays in the first place — right?”

William Powhida, "Artists Statement (No One Here Gets Out Alive)" (2009), graphite and colored pencil on paper, 18"x15" (Image courtesy the artist and Charlie James Gallery)

William Powhida, “Artists Statement (No One Here Gets Out Alive)” (2009), graphite and coloured pencil on paper

Jaffe discusses various types of statement, such as the “Artistic” Artist’s Statement, the “Up Close and Personal” Artist’s Statement and the Overly Vague, Say-Nothing Statement. She then makes some suggestions:

“In conclusion, because the existing system is so problematic, I believe artists and art institutions alike should seek alternative methods for providing supplemental information to educate audiences and facilitate the viewer’s appreciation and understanding of visual art. For example, I often find that interviews (text, audio, or video) between artists and curators, or artists and other artists, etc., provide a great deal of insight into an artist’s work and creative process. Documentation of the artist’s studio is another way to inform an audience — and Art21 is an online video series that combines these two formats (interview and studio documentation) nicely.

“The internet enables art professionals on all levels to administer their own improvisations within the existing “art world” system (via digital publication, commerce, etc.) and even offers the potential for creating new systems — so why not? Creativity is rooted in change. If the avant-garde did what everyone else did, it wouldn’t be the avant-garde, and art wouldn’t really be an innovative enterprise — it would be a repetitive one.”

The whole article is worth a read.


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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3 Responses to The Anti-artist-statement Statement

  1. It’s been happening since art colleges were sucked up by universities in the ’80s and ’90s. Universities want people to do research and write it up, not living breathing art.

  2. Pingback: In Defense of the Artist Statement | notes to the milkman

  3. Pingback: Calvin’s Artist Statement | notes to the milkman

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