Matthew Collings: Not A Fogey

Uncategorized Nov 01, 2004 No Comments

The magic of the internet! State of The Arts editor Caroline Meagher emailed this response from Matthew Collings to our recent comments that he was turning into an old fogery. Imagine our surprise when Collings responded to our article…

Although we hadn’t intended to impune Collings’s taste by claiming he was a fan of Lucien Freud, he gets stuck in straight anyway…

“I think Lucien Freud is a terrible artist. The paint’s really horrible, the nudity is stupid, the whole vibe is a repulsive mixture of snob/sensationalism/twee whimsy. I think I might have mentioned this in Blimey.I t’s not old master reverence that is important, but old master seriousness.

I never thought anything else. It’s not a change of mind that has come with middle-age.In the 70s when I went to art school and first came across the art world as a professional and social system, I more or less only knew people who were exactly like people in the art world now — that is, I couldn’tunderstand how they got away with their ridiculous fatuous idiotic unpleasant insulting posing. I think this may have started in the Picasso era.

So it’s not that I remember a time when everything was more authentic, and I’m now forever whining on about it. I don’t have any interest inthe remote past on those terms either. I am very interested in why things are good and bad. I think the reasons are often rather underwhelming. Louise Bourgeois isn’t good because of the “uncanny” but because of her talent at putting a bit of second hand texture next to another bit of second hand texture. This is a genuine talent but no one wants to hear about it because it sounds boring. So we have to hear all that governess seductiondrone instead, from people who don’t know what anything is and aren’t interestedin the difference between one thing and another.

The sarcasm etc you mention in my writing and films comes from this sense of the narrowness of art — seeing that art is narrow and letting allother perceptions flow from that. I know I’m always performing in a context where the fantasies of what art is, and expectations of it, are out of controland absurd. Regarding videos as a genre, I do actually find them/it quite boring. Except when they’re (etc) good — which is usually because a kind of ‘abject’ button is hit just right. The artist concedes, ‘Yes I am a fuckup — however I have accrued a certain amount of useless knowledge about art…’ — and somehow some magic happens.

I think Dan Graham for example is a top artist of course. But I don’t agree that his mirror performance film is the same as Velazquez‘s Las Meninas>. In fact its strength is in its complete willingness to give up. The fact that DG talks a lot of incoherent self-important burbling drivel between sometimes being quite funny about the professional aspirations and posturing of his rivals, doesn’t make him a great thinker or this work a great milestone of thought. He is part of the first wave of video-conceptual art but also the second — present — wave.

The present wave has become in my view pretty ghastly, really pompous. I think it’s important for the sake of good values in general (communitarianism, friendliness, ecology, good design, good colour) to resist that unpleasant hustling sanctimonious bullshit, although naturally several videos from the lastfew years are not bad. Video is better when it’s cut-back. It was just luck as far as goodness is concerned that minimalism was the issue in the late 60s instead of the identity (etc) issues of now, which for some reason naturally lead in a pomp direction.

Thank you for all your — I hope — genuine enthusiasm for my earlier stuff. Best wishes – Matt

The Art Life

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