Solipsistic, moronic, artless, benign, idea-less, simplistic, atavistic, exploitive, empty, bland, uniform, spiritless, wordy, childish, conceited, self-important, exaggerated, overstretched, underdone, unempathetic, dry, drab, vacuous, thin, depressing, jokey, insubstantial, cheap.
Just some of the generic words that floated through my head as I walked around Sophie Calle’s
null and void exhibition at the IMMA
. It was like stumbling into the scrapbook of some potently third-rate conceptual artist. Never have I seen so little idea and originality stretched so thin, so wide across so many rooms. I’d never appreciated that modern or contemporary art could be so wilfully banal, could give so little to its audience. For instance, she’d arranged a series of photos taken from video security footage of ATMs. People concentrating on their PIN and balance. In another room, she’d lent her bed to strangers for hours at a time, photographing each. With little bland captions, and a book full of even milder stories for those patient enough to care. She paid a PI to follow her around and prove she existed, photos of her on the street, the bad angles and absolute boredom of a life where never anything happens. She stole some negatives from a burnt-out flat whose occupant disappeared (some of these were very interesting, but the point was that they weren’t hers). She recorded a break-up of sorts in Japan. She plastered everything with acres of uninteresting text. She glorified the objects of her equally bland childhood. Getting that idiotic glee of the cretin yet?… God, what a hell of emptiness the pit of modern art has become. In retrospect, a bog here or a piss there might actually have made it more palatable, but I lacked the visceral urge at the time. Such a pity — considering the actual venue is great — an historical old hospital with cobbled courtyard and atmospheric crypt café. We hurried away to see some of the regular exhibits, but these were likewise simplistic, overstretched, thin etc. Doesn’t happen very often that you can distinctly feel your initial excitement plummeting to the bottom of despair within minutes. My optimism was like a skydiver without chute. Well, actually, Kathy Prendergast
had some subtle and organic pencil city/plan drawings. These I paid some quarter. But what a waste of two and a half hours.