Thursday, September 26, 2013

Talking the talk

When was it that artist talks first became an entertainment category for art museums? There was a time when artists were expected to be um…visual... rather than verbal and if they could articulate their work through talk too that was just fine but not essential. Well that’s all been changed thanks to the tertiary education system. 

Artists who have been through the system are expected to be able to present a convincing articulation of what they are up to on the wall or on the floor and the art museums have taken note. Now the artist talk has become a staple of institutional programming and those who can't or won't join the talkfest are punished as et al. discovered when they presented a zipped lip at Venice.

But yesterday we went to an artist talk (four artists talking in fact) that was a mix of awkward silences, meandering sidelines, complicated inner monologues and generic presentation skills. It was annoying and refreshing and riveting. The photos sum it up best as Nick Austin grabs for words while he struggles to ‘explain’ one of his works. 

When describing another painting (a shark’s fin seen through the window of an envelope) Austin told us:

“I think it’s about worry.
I think it’s about bad news.
I think it’s about worrying about bad news.
Bad news, circling around.”

All this was hard-won with long pauses and fill-in gestures of the hand and body. Thanks Nick... and the rest of you too.

Images: Nick Austin at the City Gallery one of the four artists talking about their works in the exhibition New Revised Edition: Nick Austin, Andrew Barber, Nicola Farquhar, John Ward Knox