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Highly Strung

by Kavish Chetty / 26.10.2011

I feel the venom in my fangs about to drip incautiously. In an earlier draft of this review, I found myself committing to the same curiosity I sought to expose; encouraging the phenomenon I wanted to reject. In order to cure myself of this I essentially need to not simply participate in, but rather own my criticisms here. I’m not here to slag anyone off, but rather admit of my own aesthetic reaction and the philosophical terrain it marks out to skirmish over. This is polemic: not a matter of perplexity but vexed-ness.

Art has no sense of triage. Historically, it’s belonged to a kind of autonomous domain of cultural practice: some kind of free-floating discursive “space” rich with the leisures of contemplation. This space is free from the ravages of hunger, utility, urgency; those fleshed things which give our lives and the lives of others a hierarchy of needs. These things don’t remain mute even if (some) art disavows them. They are the spectres of art, its repressed content, and they mobilise a regiment of irresolvable questions which echo throughout the history of aesthetics; vital questions which remain endlessly rephrased, their answers endlessly deferred, but never any less relevant.

I’ve got to lay my cards down face-up here. I allowed my initial aesthetic reaction to Hoist – which was one of a rage in heat – to de-barb itself and become a kind of inquiring spirit. I spoke to an artistic circle involved in Blank Projects (the Woodstock gallery at which Hoist is exhibited) in this same spirit. Included amongst them was Michaelis prize 2010 winner Jared Ginsburg, author of the piece. Although our conversation was intelligent, adding texture to the themes, they remained in an essential deadlock of irreconcilable premises: mine versus theirs (multiply), with moments of sympathy and congruence. But I realise after-the-fact, that the conversation produced all its charms precisely because of my reservations about a certain tendency in conceptual art – it became serious because I took it seriously.


Before I expand on that, I should get the frames of reference in place. Hoist occurs in an (otherwise) empty room with asylum-white walls. A winch is fitted to one of the walls, and an object is suspended – hoisted – in the centre of the room. The objects change at Ginsburg’s will. He has variously hung a bed-frame, a chair and a trolley (also my recording equipment during the interview) in this space. This is all the labour required in the piece: winch, hoist, object, empty room. I encounter this anchoring description on the gallery’s website: “Hoist serves to relieve each object of its utility, jogging familiar associations and prompting an alternate engagement.” This, for a bed-frame hung in a room. In the Mail & Guardian, a commentator – I believe rather pretentiously – reaches for continental philosopher Martin Heidegger, writing “Ginsburg invites us to engage with Heidegger’s meditation”. The meditation in question is a tortuously complex one on subject-object relations, the relations between consciousness to objects, phrasing this with such alienating jargon like “noesis” and “noema”. This possibility of the Heideggerian meditation is not etched into the woodwork of the bed-frame – it’s conjured up, a reaction, the reflexes of a particular critic’s cognitive life. And all this for a bed-frame hung in a room: such a simple, experimental gesture; no boundaries violated, no force. A quotable friend of mine dismissed the everyday nature of the work vehemently: “for experimental art to impress me, it’s got to be batshit. This one is bullshit.” A case of two types of shit that act as the organising principles of conceptual art. This sends us journeying through history to the Italian art movement Arte Povera (1960s) where Piero Manzoni literally sealed up his own shit in tins marked “artist’s shit”. The contemporary form of piss-taking (or shit-taking) ranged against outmoded notions of high art are left depleted against the finality of these original gestures.

Marcel Duchamp is the single greatest influence on this tendency: he strained “art” to its splitting point by sneaking a sculpture he called “Fountain” into the Society of Independent Artists exhibition in New York in 1917. The sculpture was – with the brilliant jolting power of getting there first – simply a urinal bought at a hardware store. Cue the enduring insight that art is not the thing itself, but rather the idea of thing. This returns me to where I left off earlier remarking Hoist “became serious because I took it seriously.” Ginsburg, I suggested to him, is not the actual author of this artwork. He could almost be reduced to something of a labourer, a re-arranger of objects. The real author of Hoist is – please permit the masturbatory phrase – the discursive space of the gallery. The gallery is the arbiter of art. The gallery is the reason we are compelled, in the face of a suspended bed-frame or trolley, to contemplate subject-object relationships. The gallery is a place which produces the anxiety to contemplate. It produces the anxiety the moment we step inside, because it is a compressed space bearing the marks of history, operating under conditions of pressure. “Art” is not just some cheap designation, a marker, a signifier: it’s something alive with an aspirational quality. To call something “art” is to mark it out as culturally relevant, to mark it out as interrogative and intellectual in a way that the merer pursuits in life (the raw aches of sex and consumption and entertainment) are not.

So a bed-frame hanging in a gallery is made art by pure virtue of spacing, location. If I took a hammer and smashed the speakers on my desk, exposing its inner circuitry, “relieving it of its utility”, have I not then accrued all the prestige of artistry in my own bedroom? Or if I see some Joshua Doore employee hoisting a bed-frame to a third-floor apartment, has he not unconsciously inputted all the labour involved in the conceptual artwork? Under this inclusive conception – one which is being reiterated a century after its first arrival – art proliferates. Art is just there to act as a stimulus, a thing to react to, an act which in this case does not intervene but remains mute and cloistered in a gallery whimpering “look at me”. Art is just about a critical reaction and we have them everyday, from car-crashes splayed out on highways to the redemptory qualities of introspective boredom. We are eternally, unstoppably altered by the vortex of everyday life. So why should we take it seriously? And if artists don’t want us to take it seriously, then this arbitrariness licenses a strong criticism which I choose to charge here – arrogance. The arrogance is there, even if unconsciously. Ginsburg, in person, is the diametric opposite of arrogant; he arrests the stigmas of “artist”. The arrogance lies in the act of taking something you or I could do, throwing it up in a space accessible to the public, and thereby creating “art”. We need to get real about this.


Art of this kind is condemned – like literary theory’s pursuits of linguistic texture, a field I admit in “strategic self-deprecation” I am complicit in – to a circuitous private conversation amongst a marginal group of individuals. When I asked artist friends of mine to comment on the piece, they sprang into well-rehearsed defences and sympathies. One said to consider Ginsburg’s attention to process. Another remarked on its “sculptural presence” and “less laboured approach to artistic practice”. But non-artist friends of mine, having no stake in the industry, were quite willing to embody my own vengeance against what I perceive as absurd, dated, pretentious – even useless – artistic gestures. Importantly, these gestures are not limited to Hoist; the exhibition does not stand in isolation. Hoist is simply a representative of a broader trajectory, which reveals itself often enough to inspire invective. One acquaintance of mine said “Given enough time and energy we could rescue this thing [Hoist] as having value… but given enough time and energy we could do that with anything, so why bother?” Another said, engaging the substance, “[Hoist] is not just exclusive and politically irrelevant. It’s pretty much culturally irrelevant as well.”

The reason this kind of art can be perceived as essentially irrelevant to the world and our society is because of context and history. Hoist operates in that “autonomous domain of cultural practice”, unanchored from knowledge of time or place. When Duchamp, and (also) avante-garde literary figure Samuel Beckett, produced their art/literature they were operating under particular conditions that rescue them as more than just bourgeois wankers. Europe saw industrial-scale carnage after the war, giving umbral doubt to notions of “civilisation”. In their own way, these figures were trying to destablise the superstructure of capitalist/modernist ideology which produced this violence: this exposed, relevantly, the disjointed fabrications of what makes the world seem whole. But they were standing at the end of a “fascinating cul-de-sac”. They ruptured and deconstructed and constructively angered, but left little to continue in its vein: the terrain was staked, the gesture was complete. Hoist is an old idea which operates without all the urgency of all the former. Hoist happens here to simply be the unlucky representative of a whole vagabond nation of artworks which conduct themselves with similar narcissism, self-absorption; in short, a caricatural freedom to perform as willed and acquire legitimacy through the gallery. Such works are not inoculated from criticisms with the same serum that runs through Duchamp’s “Fountain”. They answer now to new conditions, new contexts, in which the laugh of critics, their essential disbelief and failure to care seem quite sane.

So finally, I realise that what I have produced is both criticism and contradiction. By engaging Hoist I have given reign to the basic stimulus it always sought to provide. But my point essentially has been that it’s not Hoist – it’s not some bed-frame hanging in a gallery – that prompted these discussions. It’s everything, it’s patience, it’s contemplation; it’s the condition of being embodied and colliding with material things that exist in the world. If Hoist was going to accomplish anything, it might more accurately satire its own irrelevance, its conformity, the structural autoeroticism which belongs to most art of its type. But its mute seriousness interrupts the possibility of this self-awareness. Is Hoist good art (this is a review after all)? Well, is it radical, is it clever, is it unique, does it entertain, does it reach out, does it disrupt, does it intervene, is it beautiful, does it reach people, does it contribute, is it relevant, does it have a regard for history and the historical conjuncture of its moment, is it funny, is it self-conscious, did it require effort, did it require formal talent, does it include, does it pretend, does it care? The rubrics of adoration are not equal. The well of this sort of art was poisoned a long time ago, and I think it’s time to furiously call “bullshit” on art of this style, not succumbing to the discursive pressure to convince ourselves of its experimental eccentricity: its “batshit”. Take away the benefit of the doubt, and the illusion, the aura, slips away revealing quite simply, a bed-frame hanging in a room. As Karl Pilkington once remarked, “What’s art about that?”

*Hoist runs at Blank Projects (113 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock) until the 29th of October.

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  1. Filigree Fie says:

    Are you kidding me? Seriously, is this a wind-up? where are the cameras? I can’t believe “artists” are getting away with this kind of pretentious shit in this day and age!

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  2. james says:

    considered review. i’d be wary of throwng the conceptual baby out with the bathwater though. the insertion of the idea between the object and its aesthetic context is still relevant exactly because we live in a world where aesthetic and philosophical critique is more necessary than ever as capitalism implodes. the kind of social relevance you partly allude to here is therefore not the only, or even the most urgent, alternative to an expedient and naive version of conceptualism.

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  3. Cake says:

    I threw this art installation to the ground!

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  4. Matthew Eriksen says:

    This is incredibly naive. It reads like a well-spoken kid who’s read a couple of books and now wants to point out the obvious in pseudo-academic prose. Who exactly are you appealing to? Certainly not the artistic crowd you apparently consider ridiculous. Certainly not “us ordinary folk.” Is that kind of writing supposed to impress? It’s painful and laboured.

    Everyone knows art is useless. Who cares.

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  5. Filigree Fie says:

    @ Matthew

    The world is divided into more than just the “artistic crowd” and “us ordinary folk”.

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  6. Jonah says:

    Unlike the reviewer, I don’t have a checklist for an artwork to qualify as “good” art. But let’s humour him: is this piece elegant and simple? Yes. Does it achieve profound effects with limited means? Absolutely. Is it beautiful? I think it is – the static object becoming graceful as it lifts off the ground – though the reviewer clearly doesn’t.

    No problem with a difference in opinion, except that the reviewer finds it hard to imagine that anyone could honestly hold an opinion different to his own. Because he doesn’t respond to the piece, he concludes that the piece is some kind of fraud.

    He seems to think that the art world in general, and Ginsburg in particular, are trying to have one over him, to trick him, to lead him on. He thinks it’s a club which no-one’s asked him to join. It’s hard to understand why else he could become so enraged over such a quiet, contemplative, inoffensive piece. Well, Kavish, there’s no such art world conspiracy. Just a bunch of artists trying to make things that they find interesting, and that they hope everyone else will find interesting. Do they succeed every time? No. Does this mean they deserve to have their work described as “bullshit”? No. That’s lazy reviewing. And putting the word in the mouth of a “friend” is cowardly reviewing.

    But this review is not really about Ginsburg’s work, as the critic admits. It’s also not about “bullshit” in the art world, as he thinks it is. It’s really a demonstration of a certain kind of blindness – the incapacity to imagine that there is value in things that one cannot understand.

    There’s something else that this reviewer doesn’t understand, and that is the role of a project space in the art world. blank projects is not a traditional gallery. It devotes a major portion of its time to showing experimental, non-commercial, or project-based work. There is a huge gulf between showing something in this kind of space and showing something in a traditional gallery. A project space is for trying things out, and a fair response would have taken this into account.

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  7. mr bile says:

    @Jonah – some of us believe it quite praiseworthy to become enraged over the presentation of wholly inoffensive art, particularly of a conceptual nature. The biggest naivite’ here lies in the artist’s assumption that such a mundane join-the-dots gesture could carry any weight in 2011.

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  8. billy bob says:

    @ Jonah

    The problem isn’t one of a conspiracy. It’s rather one of a sediment of ideas about “art”, the signifier art. I like the reviewer’s point about the practice of marking out art and its circulation throughout society.

    But also, I think where you think there’s a blindness in this piece is exactly the opposite. There’s a recognition of an enormous peripheral vision (I love this phrase “being embodied and colliding with material things that exist in the world”) whereby value is infinitely distributed, and the demands that a piece like Hoist makes – the demand to engage – seem absurdly underqualified. It’s not an incapacity to imagine “things one can’t understand”. Again, exactly the opposite. It’s the query about why it’s become de rigeur that if you dispute the premises of certain art installations, the immediate assumption is that this stems from a lack of understanding. Because, of course, you just “don’t get it”. This logic also seems strangely coercive to me.

    I think you and I have had surprisingly incompatible readings of this review, which of course, plays directly into the idea that “understanding” it is a thing which happens in the reception.

    But what interests me the most with these kinds of art is their ridiculous (I mean, prompting ridicule) ambiguity. Because, Ginsburg put no work into this thing, and now we’re all supposed to go, “oh wow Heidegger”. And if we don’t, if we say we think it’s bullshit, then suddenly, we “don’t understand”. What else can we let through the gates. I’ll take my shoe, thread in red laces and piss into it. And put it in a gallery. Then, if you criticise this, I’ll simply say you don’t understand it, you’re refusing to engage it. Because I guarantee you, as arbitrary as that sounds, meaning can definitely be wrenched out of that, beauty can definitely be found. So the endpoint of this demands that we commit to a relatvism which denies all possiblility of evaluation. Who are the artists now?

    It’s also not that the piece is a fraud, but that

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  9. Anonymous says:

    “calling bullshit” is a term similiar to “calling your bluff” , it does not mean the work is bullshit.

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  10. Lizzy says:

    right. most ‘conceptual’ art is crap. but i think that if the artists took the concepts further than they generally do (eg in this case the artist could have maximised the fetish concepts associated with the word ‘hoist’) – conceptual art could be interesting and engaging.
    artists are lazy. they are also working with the pressure of ‘its been done before’, and within the limitations of art education which doesnt engage and develop their theoretical and conceptual thinking correctly. I know this because I studied art at a technical institution for 3 years but only learnt how to think when i did a degree and took subjects like history, philosophy and politics.

    you also need to actually have some lived ‘experience’ to accumulate subject matter to use in the creative process if you want to produce art that is for mental as well as visual consumption.

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  11. The Pentagon says:

    this jackass hung up a bedframe in an art gallery and we’re all sitting around talking about it? jesus h. christ, we’re playing directly into his hands!

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  12. YsterHart says:

    Im probably repeating something that’s been said before, but honestly if it takes a Fine Arts degree to understand this art, then whats the point? I mean, do artists only make art for other artists?

    Because if thats the case then we can just lock them all in a room together and they can masturbate each other to death, and the world will be better for it.

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  13. The Pentagon says:

    what i want to know is this – when this artist is done hanging up his trolley, or his bed-frame or his deck-chair, with his best buddy sitting on it, does he have a sense of accomplishment? does he get that feeling that’s he’s done something valuable? that he’s contributed something?

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  14. moist says:

    OMG!! Art is so random!

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  15. Jonah says:

    @ mr bile

    I think you’re conflating two senses of the word “inoffensive”: firstly, not containing material likely to cause hurt or harm; second, as it’s sometimes used, to suggest having no power to move or affect one. Clearly I was aiming at the first meaning, not the second.

    @ billy bob

    I didn’t mean to suggest that any criticism of the piece is equivalent to “not understanding” the piece. What I meant to point out is that Kavish’s criticisms are based on the assumption of bad faith on the part of the artist, rather than being based on actually responding to the piece itself. He has misunderstood – I think wilfully misunderstood – the piece. He criticizes it for not being “batshit” – ie. insane, crazy, off-the-page, wild – well, it’s not trying to be batshit. It’s actually trying to be contemplative and delicate. But he’s not able to consider this.

    I also never said that art shouldn’t be evaluated – the reason I’m defending this piece is because I think it has value (as I said), whereas lots of other pieces don’t. The piece you propose to make sounds awful, and I don’t see how it being crap means anything for any other piece in the world.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    haha, ‘highly strung’. lekker review, getting them brain cogs turning, there needs to be more of this kind on mahala

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  17. Cant Paint says:

    Those who can, produce beautiful, thoughtful or provocative pieces using skill, time, patience and refinement of technique. Those who can’t hang shit off the ceiling and leave the audience to convince themselves that there’s some sort of meaning in it all, in the interaction between their mind and the space they are in, to read profundity into absolute banality – hell to even elevate that banality to something special. This is like getting someone to eat their own shit and imagine they are eating a peach, and that there is merit in this. I shouldn’t have said that – now somebody from Michaelis is going to go hang some actual shit off a ceiling or put on a public performance of eating their own shit. Hurrah for modern art.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    That’s the trick with this type of ‘art’. Make people feel stupid and ‘unqualified’ to understand it, lace big terms and concepts together, create confusion. It’s all just part of the little ‘high art’ wank. These artists all stroke each other, believing they have something special. This exhibition is meaningless, banal and tiresome. Fuck art, seriously.

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  19. mr bile says:

    oooh, no-one was hurt or traumatized during the making of this art – real merit there, hey.

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  20. billy bob says:

    @ Jonah

    Firstly, your “inoffensive” comment is misplaced. You think that it’s “unlikely to cause hurt or harm”. But what does harm mean here? Obviously it’s not going to harm anyone physically, it’s a bed-frame hanging in a room. Justin Bieber’s new single is inoffensive by the same logic, but it’s still open to critique. My critique is that that piece is offensive. It’s offensive because it’s lazy and arrogant and being treated as “art”.

    I don’t think this review is based on an assumption of “bad faith” on the part of the artist. Whether or not the artist acted in bad faith is irrelevant. The point is that by the time we get to it, we see it as lazy, arrogant and ridiculous. You say that the piece (and by extention my own agreement with the piece) is based on a misunderstanding. More accurately, it would be impossible to misunderstand the piece. Think about all the reactions this thing has inspired. I mean, Heidegger for the love of god, was one response! Your argument, boiled down to its essence, is that if someone doesn’t think this worthy of being taken seriously, it’s because they are “willfully” misunderstanding the piece. This leaves no room for someone to argue that the piece is crap. In fact, what you’re missing is that this whole article and all the comments here constitute a massive engagement with the piece. Just because we refuse to accept that it has merit doesn’t mean we misunderstand it. Or even willfully misunderstand it.

    You say that the piece I propose sounds awful. More awful than hanging a bed-frame in a room? Or are you refusing the engage the possibilities of the idea? I think you’re being contradictory and disengenous and taking a moral high-ground here that you seriously don’t have.

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  21. billy bob says:

    * I meant “my own agreement with the article,” not with the piece.

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  22. cathy says:


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  23. greatfun says:

    After reading the review and the comments, forming my own opinion, changing my mind (several times), and learning a great deal in the process, I find it hard to understand how any of it could be declared to be valueless.

    Thanks to the artist, the reviewer, and I guess “the discursive space of the gallery” too, for an enjoyable, provoking, and relevant discussion.

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  24. hungry joe says:

    it is beautiful

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  25. Crab says:

    jonah’s life imitating ginsberg’s art

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  26. Jonah says:

    @ billy bob

    Yes, your idea sounds a lot more awful than hanging a bed frame (and a whole lot of other stuff) in a gallery. But you’re right, I should be open to the possibility that when I actually see such a piece, it might just have the power to affect me.

    And this is the key point – have you been to see this exhibition? Have the rest of the posters here been to see it? Because it’s one thing to read “a bed frame hung in a gallery” and respond with a sneer. It’s a totally different thing to actually go into the space and experience it for yourself. You can’t understand how it could be beautiful until you go in and watch as the object changes from a boring nothing sitting on the floor to a moving, floating thing. I know, it sounds ridiculous – but it’s actually mesmerising.

    This is what I meant by “not understanding” – not that you need to read Heidegger to understand it, but that you need to be open to the simple experience of it.

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  27. billy bob says:

    Yeah, Jonah, so regarding my sneaker exhibition: “I know, it sounds ridiculous – but it’s actually mesmerising.” Do you see the circular logic being employed here? Do you see how we can stretch meaning and beauty infinitely? There is nothing special about this exhibition that couldn’t be special about everything else I can put in a gallery. Simple. You need to recognise the relativism at the heart of what you’re saying.

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  28. Jonah says:

    Sorry, but you don’t just get to decide that your sneakers will be mesmerising. They will be if they have a particular effect on people, and if they don’t, they’re not. It’s not about the idea, it’s about the effect.

    This is certainly subjective – some people will respond to Hoist in the same way as I do, some will not. That’s not the same thing as “relativism”. And it’s true, everything you put in a gallery is changed in some way. Kavish explains this, at least, fairly well. That doesn’t mean that everything in a gallery becomes interesting in the same way that this exhibition is interesting.

    And if you don’t find the exhibition interesting, if you aren’t mesmerised, that’s cool – just don’t go around saying it’s “bullshit” just because it’s not your thing. (Or say it if you want, but then don’t pretend to be a critic.)

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  29. Filigree Fie says:

    Jonah, if you honestly think this is beautiful, then I’m going to blow your mind. I’ve got old lounge suites and shit lying in my outside room which I can just dust off (actually, nah, let’s just leave the dust right on there) and get into a gallery space at your nearest convenience. Then we can sit around and “ooh” and “aah”. and don’t you dare tell me you don’t like it, because i know “it sounds ridiculous but its actually mesmerising”. you don’t need heidegger to understand my art, you just need to be open to the simple experience. capiche?!

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  30. billy bob says:

    Jonah, let’s try and see eye to eye here. I think you’re saying the same thing over and over again, which is this: if someone dislikes the exhibition, they aren’t allowed to have a negative reaction to it (ie: call it bullshit). If they’re doing that, they’re doing it because “it’s not their thing”. Right, so that’s pure relativism right there. You only like things if they’re “you’re thing”, and if they aren’t, you’ve got no right to call it bullshit. That sounds pretty relativist to me.

    Also, Ginsburg didn’t decide that his bed-frame would be mesmerising, presumably. But he had the gall to hang it up in a gallery hoping that this would be the case. Overwhelmingly, I think people are not going to be mesmerised by it (a brief sample of comments here works in this favour). So can they not call it bullshit, then, if they don’t like it? It seems like according to your logic, it’s impossible to call anything bullshit. Ever.

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  31. Michael says:

    Firstly, a factual correction: Chetty repeats ad infinitum the observation that this work consists simply of a bed frame hoisted in a room.

    This is a wilful denial of the facts that the images, and indeed the fourth paragraph of the review, give us. And wilful denials are always clear signs that the reviewer is trying to bend reality to fit his/her argument, rather than properly engage with the work.

    In Hoist it is not just the single object, but rather a succession of objects, that is hoisted. Some are everyday objects (and no less poetic for it), such as the bed frame, but others, such as the trolley piled high with cardboard (clearly the domain of a recycler of the sort that eke out existences in all major SA cities), come with more overtly socio-political content. The reviewer makes no mention of this.

    The parading of a series of objects in some sort of spectacle of the ordinary, isolating each one for closer inspection, is a fairly sound strategy. It’s hardly going to set the art world alight, but it has is merit and beauty.

    What worries me most about this review, however, is not its grasp of facts. In fact, on some level it is very compelling in its breadth of cultural knowledge, even though it ignores the history of 60s and 70s Conceptual Art, into the lineage of which this work would fit.

    Rather, it is the extreme mean-spiritedness of the review that alarms. Chetty’s vitriol centers around a single idea: that Ginsburg and all the other artists out there not producing within a craft or discipline methodology, or not making batshit work (a specific aesthetic, by the way, which Ginsburg has chosen not mine), are pulling a fast one, getting away with something, somehow conning their audience and the system.

    But what con is happening here? What does Ginsburg end up with that he didn’t have at the start? A line on his CV? Even a bank teller gets that for their work. A brief moment of focus on his endeavours? Even a karaoke singer gets that. The indulgence to experiment with ideas in a space specifically designated for that purpose (as stated by one of the commentators above), with no money changing hands? Where’s the heist in that?

    Why do people in SA keep on trying to call art out for its perceived non-performance? It speaks volumes about our subscription to a shoddy old Fordian capitalist ethos of productivity. Sure, work should be reviewed, robustly, but fairly, and I don’t believe this is fair comment. At the level of project spaces, a certain latitude with the terms of showing art, a certain spirit of experimentation, are to be expected. Chetty’s obvious desire to close these down reveals a reviewer not really terribly interested in developing culture.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    besides being a candidate for ‘most long winded comment of the decade’, the above comment is exactly the ‘Art Wank’ talk I was referring to. Art doesn’t need to be judged on what was done in the past. This hoisted WANK is not art. Two sneakers tied together and thrown over the power lines is infinitely more art than this waste of space. If the artist had wanted to gauge his ‘creation’, he should have licked his lips right after explaining this ‘piece’ to the curator. He’d have tasted wet steaming bullshit.

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  33. Hi Michael says:

    Why the fuck do artists keep coming on here and saying the same thing? If you disagree with them, it’s because you’re not developing culture, you’re not willing to embrace the piece, it’s not ‘your thing’, you’re being too harsh on their precious egos, you don’t see what they see. Shuddup you wankers. We see right through you.

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  34. Roger Young says:


    4th Paragraph. Chetty mentions a list of objects that have been hoisted.

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  35. Truce says:

    Are we really gonna argue with one another when the article itself is being sidelined? Put aside your petty disagreements.

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  36. zuki says:

    Jonah and Michael, thank you. You are zen-like to tolerate all these (frankly, insecure and abusive) uninformed reactions. Chetty, want to name some art that you do like? Tony Hart doesn’t count.

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  37. zuki says:

    @ billy bob: please tell us more about your proposed artwork, about the meaning and beauty therein.

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  38. Kavish says:


    Just a once-off reply, as critics writing on their own essays here tend to be recieved as performing a kind of cheap apologism; a defensive posture. I’d prefer to “abandon [this essay] to its essential drift,” to be interpreted, re-interpreted, misinterpreted etc.

    1. When you write “bend reality to fit his/her argument” – is this not precisely the logic of artistic interpretation? To take the mere, naked existence of a hoisted bed-frame and read into it – in accordance with your own cogitive/aesthetic framework – a sense of beauty, purpose… even a meditation of subject-object relations?

    2. If the “parading… of objects” is a “sound strategy”. It remains simply that; a strategy, a technique. A unfulfilled potential until proved otherwise in practice. We disagree on whether or not Hoist accomplishes this.

    3. You ask “what does Ginsburg have that he didn’t have at the start?” The answer is prestige, cultural capital, aura, accomplishment. The point of aesthetic evaluation – just one of the modes in which I write here – is to dispute this. I write in the piece of “irreconcilable premises”. This is essentially the deadlock you and I face here. We have two mututally incongruent ways of understanding and seeking to understand the piece.

    4. What I would find more interesting than all this is the recognition of the paradox in the first paragraph of this essay. This essay constitutes a critical engagement. The result of two hours’ of formal interview, several discussions, opinion and aesthetic reaction. In order to deny this piece the engagement its supporters want, I have had to essentially engage it. This capitulates to the threat.

    5. I don’t think this essay is mean-spirited. In fact, it’s relatively tame and restrained.

    6. When you say “I fail to properly engage with the work,” you are simply incorrect (as per 4). I am perfectly aware of the possibilities of interpretation that Hoist has; I argue that they are infinitely distributed possibilities and not unique to the work. What you mean by this, and why I won’t continue this conversation further, is that unless I address the themes which it is possible to read into this hoisted artefact, I am somehow consciously refusing to engage with it. My argument is a priori. My argument is before the substance of the possible theme. This “refusal to engage” thing tries to shut down the possibility of independent evaluation. It is the same logic of the artist who says “this piece is not an intervention and no one asked you to be impressed by it.” It’s a self-innoculating gesture that critics always ignore as worthless.

    7. I may note, this piece constitutes – as far as I am aware – one of the few journalistic treatments Hoist has had.

    8. The defences of this piece seem to marshall around the idea that if I don’t think a piece answers to any element of my “rubric of adoration”, then it’s because of refusal or misunderstanding. As another poster has pointed out, this is a strategy, a set of code phrases, for hiding a relativism which denies the possibility of critique.

    But, like I suggested in the opening of this comment, everything I have to say is contained in the essay itself, and to sit here endlessly expanding those same sentences, is performing the job of the reader/the critic.

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  39. Kavish says:

    * 7. – one of the few (possibly the only, with the exception of the “what’s on” column in the M&G) journalistic treatments Hoist has had.

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  40. seeweed says:

    Great review – lousy exhibition,but kudos to Blank for putting on…it has stimulated some interesting comment,and none of it sunk to the level of personal mud-slinging.I think it’s wonderful that a small city like Cape Town can put on a show like this..something that one would only expect see in out of the way,alternative galleries in New York,London,Paris etc…and then stimulate intelligent(ok,not all of it was)dialogue.
    Oh,Cape Town..I’m going to miss you!

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  41. die hero says:

    OH LORD , polemical,naive and ugly….

    i did not read the article ,least of all the relpies, , from the visuals I’m just left wondering why beauty however banal banal banal has been deallt with in such a clumsy manner , it still is beauty we are dealing with here right…?

    why polemic and uglyness? clumsyness is a something the very young and the aged perpatrate, it is surely something forgivable, lest the youth can learn.

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  42. arnaud says:

    Good article and plenty food for thought.

    The link illustrates your argument about the gallery ‘making’ the Art :

    “An installation with videos and artworks, this is a durational performance culminating in an actual birth, a first for the art world as far as we can tell. The entire gallery is a cozy environment created by the artist and her husband, the painter Jason Robert Bell…….”


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  43. xx says:

    Tell me, folks, is this art?


    (you’re going to have to sign in to watch it. It’s 18+)

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  44. Sean says:

    I read your piece three times, Kavish, just to get a sense of the language, the logic, the references, and also better understand my own reaction. I liked your piece, no doubt about that, but I also had this lingering sense of Kaufman, that irritating character in Adaptation, mumbling: “It’s that sprawling New Yorker shit.” Less padding, please, more speed at getting to the point. On which, I wonder why, whenever the status of contemporary art gets autopsied, when it is a singular artist’s work supposedly under review, that we have to ritually read about Duchamp. “From afar,” the urinal displayer wrote to a pal, “these things, these Movements are enhanced with a charm which they don’t have in close proximity.” Ditto Manzoni. Two things. That the art world is a place of “circuitous private conversation amongst a marginal group of individuals” is beyond doubt; that it sometimes, not always, makes this possible with very few riders is often overlooked. Largesse? Maybe. Being a literary guy yourself, I’m sure you’ll find it interesting that Tom McCarthy, the 2010 Booker shortlisted writer, had his debut novel published by a marginal art publisher (Metronome in Paris), following outright rejection by mainstream publishers. One example doesn’t constitute a trend, but the point I want to make is this: marginal semi-autonomous spaces like blank allow creativity an opportunity, just opportunity. (I think I’m merely reiterating Jonah here.) Second point: keep on keeping on, your words made me do a bit of thinking.

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  45. Andy says:

    what Ed Young calls “gallery kak”

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  46. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    Ah fuck , man, there’s no attempt at narrative here. If you’ve got something to say, then say it and take the consequences. A bed suspended from the ceiling can mean anything that the viewer wishes to dredge up from the turbid depths of his imagination in order to bring it to life. But it’s a painful effort and it’s boring. No man, just get rid of this shit and give me the room entirely empty. Right. Now, from the ceiling I’ll hang a butcher’s meat hook. And over here I hang a noose, about two and a half metres from the floor. And beneath it I place a pair of shoes. On the wall over here I hang a crucifix. That’s it. Tell me if this isn’t far more aesthetically stimulating. What do you think? Hey? And I’ve only had two glasses of wine.

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  47. Candace says:

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am going through troubles with your RSS.
    I don’t understand why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else having the same RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!
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