Shane Harrington with his arms raised and his Cinemartyr bandmates filming their latest music video undercover at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Having grown up in Limerick City with a passionate interest in art, it was only fitting for me to attend my local art school, the Limerick School of Art and Design, to further my education. In 2010 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art.
While I’ve met some amazing people during my four years at LSAD, and while I’ve had some very important formative experiences while there, one aspect of the art world that’s slowly revealed itself to me over time hasn’t been great. This phenomenon known as “art language” or “art jargon”. You see it in artist statements, curatorial texts, exhibition wall texts and art books of every shape and size. Dense, cumbersome sentences that use academic catchphrases or terms from a thesaurus just to add depth where there might be none.
Much of this comes from the world of academic philosophy. Complex ideas are often dissected with complex language. And often this approach is absolutely necessary and appropriate. Because art and philosophy are inextricably linked. The writings of great thinkers inspire the artist, and the artist in turn inspires the thinker. It’s a continuous feedback loop that often bears remarkable fruit. In this creative phenomenon, however, lies an ominous hazy presence, a kind of barrier to entry; the wall. The Wall of the Academic Elite. Inside an exclusive club, the foundation of which often and unfortunately lies on presence and blurring.
Nowhere was this fashionable club better exposed than in 2018, when three authors – Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose – wrote 20 fake articles that intentionally used patently complex language to argue disingenuous conclusions they submitted to peer-reviewed journals. When her experiment was published, seven of her papers had already been accepted for publication, and another seven were actively being reviewed. While only six had been rejected.
I would argue that there is a barrier in the art world. A wall between the public and the art elite, built from pseudo-intellectual building blocks. I saw it in art school, when all of us students – myself included – were struggling to develop our artistic statements and thus our artistic identity. And I still see it in the art world at large.
Here is a sentence from a statement by an unnamed artist who has been described online as typical of the type of writing I am referring to: “My practice examines hesitation as part of the decision-making process where the object is neither the object nor the object every objectness is still the art object. Rather, it is the indirect object of my intentions.”
Which brings us to my band cinematyr and how the latest music video for our song “Art Forum” wants to keep pushing against that wall. First, we took the title of the song: Art Forum itself is the name for the art world’s popular magazine. And second, we shot the music video (undercover and without permission) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the heart of New York City. We shot each vocal line in front of a different artwork and then edited it all together. We wanted to sneak some punk ethos back into the art world, if only for a day.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Met (with its great public programs and amazing collection) and I obviously love good art, but we thought we should go big and find a big screen, so to speak, to project ours on Message. The Met worked great for this idea. No, it’s not the mead we’re aiming for – of course not; Instead, we stare at those who adapt the art to their own shallow motives. The fakes. “The chancers” as we would say in Limerick. Art is essential to life and should not be kept under lock and key. Those who create unnecessarily elaborate text-based fantasies to enforce their vague ideals, those who make art seem unapproachable to the middle class, please exit the Art Forum.
“Art Forum” is included on Cinemartyr’s new album “OPT OUT” via Light Sleeper Records. For Cinemartyr, click Spotify here and on Instagram, click here.