Saturday, February 21, 2009

From today's World Wide Words. I found this fascinating, particularly the part where the exhibit is described as "drowned in its curator's own critical theory jargon" and how "The Times complained that even reading the catalogue was "ball-crushingly dispiriting"" Hehehehe.

This has appeared, like a dusty fly speck dotted across the review pages of the more upmarket British newspapers this month, because "Altermodern" is the name given to Tate Britain's Triennial 2009 exhibition. The term was coined by the exhibition's curator, the French cultural theorist Nicolas Bourriaud.

Explanations of it are varied and more than a little difficult to get one's mind around if one hasn't already had a firm grounding in Barthes, Derrida and their successors. The exhibition catalogue says it refers to "the in-progress redefinition of modernity in the era of globalisation, stressing the experience of wandering in
time, space and medium." More simply, the curator argues that, just as modernism was succeeded by post-modernism, the latter's era is ending and a new one is being born, which will be expressed in the language of a global culture and will be an alternative style to both its predecessors. Hence "Altermodern" nd "Altermodernism".

The trouble with the idea is that the critics dislike the result. The Observer called the Triennial dull and came close to saying it was a waste of space; the Financial Times said it was "confused, aimless and hideous" and that it was drowned in its curator's own critical theory jargon; The Times complained that even reading the catalogue was "ball-crushingly dispiriting". The Telegraph's critic noted that "too many artists were allowed to bang on and on without taking us anywhere in particular or giving us anything of interest to look at."

The general feeling is that, rather than being the next big thing in the art world, Altermodernism isn't going anywhere and isn't a term likely to be included in dictionaries any time soon.

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