How to make a very bad piece of art disappear… plus The Abramovich Syndrome unveiled

The Pompidou Centre in Paris has rearranged its collection to highlight women artists. Looking through the material now on display I was left with the impression that the French Musee National D’Art Moderne has an acquisition problem. Given the material the curators had to work with, they probably did a reasonable job of selecting it; it’s just that looking at pieces ranging from relatively recent photographs by Rut Blees Luxemburg to much older work by Niki de Saint Phalle, the acquisitions seem to have been poorly made in terms of the choice of works by those artists who merit being in this collection. There are notable exceptions to this such as the utterly talentless one trick pony Rachel Whiteread, whose ‘sculptures’ of domestic spaces are far too literal to be of any interest me. But the curators have cunningly managed to make Whiteread’s very large work disappear. They’ve performed this conjuring trick on Whiteread’s ‘negative space’ by placing her primo example of schlock at the entrance to the show, and all the visitors I observed ignored it; those I spoke to about it said they’d thought it was as an architectural feature rather than a work of art. It thus qualified as the most ignored work on display.
The highlights of elles@centrepompidou include Touch Cinema by Valie Export (a film from the sixties showing a woman allowing men to come up from a crowd to grope her tits), various films by Carolee Schneemann and photographs by Hannah Wilke. Overall this ‘permanent display’ creates the impression that it was in performance works that women artists have been able to create the greatest impact over the past 50 years. There are some good artists on display, and a lot of bad ones too, making it very much like any large show, since 99 percent of all art is utter shit.
Dominique Gonzalez-Forester has made better work than the films on display here, and she delivers a rather pathetic slap to the public’s face when she prefaces them by saying this was the best work she was able to make over a two years period because she’d been so engrossed in reading books she hadn’t been able to concentrate on her own work. Patti Smith is represented by a diagram, when a piece of her music would have seemed more fitting: there are also sections given over to female furniture designers, which is a nice idea although the displays aren’t too hot. All in all the Pompidou deserve ten out of ten for their focus on women artists, and about one out of ten for execution; the work is badly installed and very poorly organised, rather than being displayed by theme, it would have worked much better being organised by artist.
To conclude, looking at the work of Marina Abramovich once again provided a stark reminder of just how bad her live art is, since her ungainly movements mean that she is never convincing as a performer, while her narcissism renders her twitchy locomotion much uglier than it would appear in someone less self-absorbed and self-obsessed. Her work is truly awful, and thus for me her name offers a counter-term to The Stendhal Syndrome. The Abramovich Syndrome is thus the feeling of being underwhelmed and bored shitless by seeing a huge amount of art; and that’s just the way I felt after viewing elles@centrepompidou. My feelings on this score were underlined when I went upstairs to look at the mainly dead white males from the French National Collection. As Duchamp observed, works of art die and museums are their graveyards – and my visit to the Pompidou Centre left me with a bad case of The Abramovich Syndrome.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Marina on 2009-09-16 19:30:52 +0000

alors, tu es en France. Parfait!

Comment by Tom Garretson on 2009-09-17 00:07:06 +0000


Comment by Marina Abramovich on 2009-09-17 00:22:20 +0000

now lulu had a boyfriend his name was tommy tucker and every time that they went out he always tried to bang bang lulu lulu bang bang now who we gonna bang bang when lulu’s gone away….

Comment by Michael Roth on 2009-09-17 05:50:19 +0000

I thought Marina Abramovich’s knife trick from Rhythm 10 and Balkan Baroque was great. The best part of this scene was when Vasquez and the other Colonial Marines held Hudson’s hand down for her to perform the trick again using his hand. Although when she cut herself, it only confirmed Ripley’s mistrust of androids, which was understandable considering what happened in the first film. I think this was Marina’s best performance to date.

Comment by Michael K, channelling Steven Wells using only too much red wine, too much caffeine and too much monkey business on 2009-09-17 06:41:19 +0000

Why is it that the people with the most profound stuff to say are also those who are the least capable of being able to express that profundity?
I am talking about us. The mutoids. The abyss starers.
I speak as someone whose greatest craving at this exact moment is not world peace and universal democracy or a rational and global redistribution of wealth, but a can of ice cold ginger ale.

Comment by Zen Master K on 2009-09-17 11:25:51 +0000

enlightenment is the best art, and when you reach enlightenment you dispense with images….

Comment by Puff Mummy on 2009-09-17 12:09:37 +0000


Comment by Julien Benda on 2009-09-17 13:22:11 +0000

I much prefer classical art, and indeed, classical civilisation.

Comment by Subud Master J on 2009-09-17 13:48:20 +0000

No art is the best art, no website is even better, while no mind is truly where it’s at!

Comment by King Boy D on 2009-09-17 15:00:16 +0000

You what? You what? You what, you what, you what?

Comment by Steven Connor on 2009-09-17 18:40:00 +0000

If you reviewed English exhibitions more of your readers would be able to check the exhibition against your opinions. Covering stuff in Paris strikes me as playing it too safe.

Comment by The Riddler on 2009-09-17 20:57:24 +0000

Does the fact that “Mister Trippy” doesn’t like Rachel Whiteread’s art have something to do with an assignation back in 1988?

Comment by The Totally Nekkid MKII Michael K Coming Atcha Live From The Brighton Nudist Beach on 2009-09-17 21:45:16 +0000

Give me a bottle of wine and I will make it disappear….

Comment by Paul McCartney On Acid & Contemplating A Bottle Of Wine He’s Unable To Drink on 2009-09-17 23:24:10 +0000

all art is beautiful but my art is the best because it made me rich.

Comment by rev.two-sheds on 2009-09-18 02:16:07 +0000

i was a part of thing that did art… pianty stuff and things like that… one of our lot told me of an artist he knew [naturally i cannot remember who it was] who made a series of highly beautiful and intricate ticking boxes [ i believe that they may that this may have been like one of those submission for council grant type competition thingies… but please don’t quote me as my memory is not all that clear on this as i am getting on a bit.. again], anyway these art duprix were snuffled up quick and at at some expense up by some superiorly anal gallery / library museum or other precious entity… after quite some time, the boxes stopped ticking and exploded… they were full of excrement, which then showered the area in shit and shrapnel… but don’t worry…all this has a happy ending… as apparently the curators then spent many months trying to piece them all back together again to put them back out on display… [ah bless…] …. and lo, we rest assured, by the power of the curator, shit art shall never dissapear…

Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-09-18 10:36:50 +0000

Oh yes, agreed — I have to admit, I don’t mind the earliest stages of Abramovich — I found them cathartic and interesting. But after that, she veers off into self indulgent cod mysticism, that can’t seem to tell the difference between the ‘real mystics’ , as in Angelus Silesius, Eckhardt,and so on — and the cod table rappers like Blavatsky and Olcott etc, and then the later absurdly silly interest in crystals and incence.
It really seems she can’t tell the difference.

Comment by ;ldsjf;sdjf; on 2009-09-18 11:20:24 +0000

i did like the stuff she did with ulay its very romantic innit i bet they had good arguments

Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-09-18 11:29:35 +0000

Yes, but even the Ulay stuff, whilst initially full of an interesting tension ( the archery ‘test’) and testy aggression ( the naked doorway) and reflective ( days of meditation ) just becomes absurd soap opera — why should most of us have any interest in their love affair’s hassles, to the extent that they went off on some grandiose trip along the great wall of china ( as an ‘art act’ ) and expected us all to be so interested.
Talk about self indulgent.
But yes, unlike mr home, I think she has her moments.

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-09-19 18:56:02 +0000

Only 99 percent of all art is utter shit?

Comment by Hattie on 2009-09-27 23:04:15 +0000

You are full o’shit. I saw the exhibit and thought it was great. But of course certain men will fight equality for women in the art world tooth and nail. What else is new?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-09-28 09:39:52 +0000

Equality in the elitist art world is a poor substitute for equality across this entire planet – I’m entirely for equality, and that means in terms of race and class as well as gender, and I also understand that equality on the planet will entail the abolition of the art world, as well as of classes.

Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-10-03 04:58:13 +0000

Back to the topic of Marina again ! ( Sorry Stewart ) — unlike Mr Home, who seems to loathe all her work, I must admit to liking some of her ideas, which seem to me cathartic, and an exposing of aspects of ‘our’ societies’ neurosis.
But — what does annoy me about her work ( besides the staggering self important narcissism) is that she seems unable to see the difference between ‘real’ and utterly bogus aspects of ( for want of better words ) various ‘mystical’ traditions.
Also, she appropriates ancient practices and seems to pass them off as her own ideas, again and again and again — see here, from the 2.00 mark, where as part of her ‘performance’ , she asks the audience to take part in various physical ‘exercises’ — which , are simply stolen from very early Theravada meditation practices from over 2,000 years ago. ( If you want to check , go to the Pali Suttas, and they are all to be found there, or in their contemporary of later commentaries ).
It’s utterly bogus to pass these off as her own ideas ( which she knowingly does, and has done in other diverse and various ways for years now ) , and it’s also actually — arguably of course — psychologically dangerous to do so, as most serious minded, long term practitioners of these centuries old ancient practices will tell you.
Over to you Stewart ?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-10-03 08:27:26 +0000

I agree with you on the critique side, and we’ll have to agree to disagree on the early work. I just find her unpleasant and uninteresting to watch…..

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