OUR COLUMNIST MIKE GIVES HIS OPINION ON JOSEF STRAU’S OBSCURE POST-MINIMALISM (CURRENTLY SHOWN AT VILMA GOLD). TO READ MY REVIEW ON THIS SHOW CLICK HERE.
‘I will begin by admitting I am on thin ice, as I am not at all familiar with Josef Strau and his work, but being provoked by this review, I have examined this exhibition online. Seeing work online is not at all the same as seeing the works in reality, so I understand I am perhaps way off the mark, but a few issues have arisen based on this review.
First, it would seem his audience is a coterie of people who will know his “signifiers” and nod knowingly at the gallery’s blurb of:
“Strau’s work is sardonic intervention, a celebration of contingency parading as ritual completeness. This aesthetic fragility betrays its own purchase as a signifier: just as there are concealed truths and uttered variances in the most digestible of narratives, Strau’s anti-narrative deals in cogencies (anti-ideational, anti-commodity) that beg consumption.”
It seems his work is incomplete, insignificant, contradictory and incomprehensible…and this way on purpose. Perhaps I am an idealist, but I would never want my art to be presented in this manner.
If your work does not communicate to your community, then it is a failure. Yes, we live in a complex world. Yes, text plays an overwhelming role in our daily lives. Yes, memory and identity are issues common to all people. My question after examining this is: How does this work address ANY of this issues in a way that significantly challenges the viewer to re-think their lives, cultures and technologies that they use?
What is the point of this exercise of mendacity that is posing as an exhibition?
The “clever allusion to illuminated manuscripts” is not actually clever. It is an easy way out that is poorly executed on the visual level and that is trying to cover itself by obscure language. Ironic that language is such an issue for this artist, as he seems to use it to cover poor form. The physical manifestation of his “ideas” (I think gimmicks is a more accurate term) is simply slapdash and (speaking as an artist) embarrassing.
Next, the visual work is simply dull. Boring. I tried reading the text, but I soon became disengaged, as the narrative is trite and mind-numbing. Yes, that is the point. If so, then all it does is shut off the viewer’s receptivity.
Congratulations! You have broken the communication with your audience. So again, what’s the point.
The artist could have saved everyone the time and effort by simply not exhibiting. It would have exactly the same effect. This is coming from someone who is visually educated and has plumbed the depths of the abyss of Artspeak. If I can’t stomach it, what is the response of someone who is not visually educated?
An outsider who may be interested in art would have one of two reactions I reckon.
1. This must be so profound that I am too ignorant to understand it. (This is the one the gallery is hoping for I am assuming, as it allows them to play “expert” and explain why it’s so profound).
2. This is crap. If this is art, then art is in a new phase that should be called Crapism. It does not invite viewer participation or engagement. It is shoddily made and presented in such a slapdash manner that I feel I am looking at the equivalent of a used car lot.
But as I mentioned earlier, I may be completely off the mark, but somehow, I think this shot in the dark is closer to the bullseye than the outer ring.’