Friday, May 14, 2004

Base jumping or skydiving, dangerously (w/o a Parachute)


It seems that there has been at least a whole week where I haven't gone off and ranted about White Cubes and I need my fix. This one started when I thunk that besides doing the local art review round up, it would be sorta cool to also do an international art review round up. You know focusing on the Montreal or Quebecois or Canadian artists who are written about in international publications.

Well, guess what? There ain't much.

On the Artforum website, when I search for the word "Montreal" I get these seven results: Third Asia-Pacific Triennial, January 2000; STAFF STRIKE AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA, 07.06.01; Shirin Neshat, September 2001; Edouard Vuillard, January 2003; Gran Fury, April 2003; Anthony Vidler on Gordon Matta-Clark, Summer 2003; Brian Massumi on Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Amodal Suspension, November 2003. If I go slightly further afield and search on "Quebec," I get no results. Trying an even larger area, "Canada," gets 14 results. For comparison "warhol" get more than 100, "Boston" gets 23, and "Viginia" (not known as a hotbed of contemporary art) gets six.

Similar stuff happens at the Art News, Art Newspaper, Art in America, Frieze, Art Press, Juxtapoz, Flash Art, Art Monthly or just about any other international publication you can find. (if you are aware of something written somewhere that I might have missed, please let me know). So then I thought ok, lets scale it down slightly. But unfortunately, the national publications such as Canadian Art, Border Crossings, C Magazine, Mix Magazine or the provincial publications such as Esse, Vie des Arts, Espace or Parachute don't have much if any internet presence. Which is a sorta long winded way of saying that Canadian Artists get no respect Either at home or abroad.

The one publication that supposes to do stuff about making and breaking local artists world wide is supposed to be Parachute. But methinks they might be duplicitious.

Quoting liberally from their press kit:

As stated in PARACHUTE's first editorial, the objective was to "allow artists, critics and art administrators to express themselves freely within our pages, in order to identify the issues pertinent to todays art."

In addition, it was imperative that Québec and Canadian art be given the opportunity to decompartmentalize, to escape from its narrow regionalism, to acquire a broader vision that would help it to integrate internationally.
Then scrolling up slightly,

Subscribers: 1,200
Circulation: 5,000
But then further down the page they state that they have a circulation of 4,000. Hmmm, perhaps business isn't good? And this is my main point of contention. How can anything that is read by 5,000 people even assume to be more than just a drop in the bucket? For them to state "PARACHUTE may well be the best-read and best-appreciated Canadian journal abroad. It has served as an indispensable tool for curators from here and abroad who are preparing exhibitions and seeking information on Canadian art." C'mon gimme a break. If you want to say the same thing with a slightly less positive spin, try this: PARACHUTE is not read by a single person in Canada so we have been forced to give it away in countries where they don't understand either of our languages to people who appreciate really thick spined magazines on their bookshelves because they make them feel impo'tent.

Resorting back to the dictionary:
1in•flu•ence \"in-'flu-en(t)s, esp Southern in-"\ noun [ME, fr. MF, fr. ML influentia, fr. L influent-, influens, prp. of influere to flow in, fr. in- + fluere to flow — more at fluid] (14c)
1 a : an ethereal fluid held to flow from the stars and to affect the actions of humans
b : an emanation of occult power held to derive from stars
2 : an emanation of spiritual or moral force
3 a : the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command
b : corrupt interference with authority for personal gain
4 : the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways : sway
5 : one that exerts influence
under the influence : affected by alcohol : drunk

(C)1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
While I personally find idea of Chantal Pontbriand and definition 3b, to be somewhat intriguing, it is at best laughable, the most appropriate definition is 4. Unfortunately, I don't much see what effect Parachute Magazine has caused. Then again, I am only looking in some very specific places such as public awareness, or more specifically a change in public awareness. And I am certain that if I were to stop a dozen people on the street, right in front of the gallery, an even dozen people would have never have heard of the magazine Parachute (and as I have mentioned before, the magazine's offices are a block away from here).

On the other hand, Ms. Pontbriand might be thinking about some sort of "International" influence. So let's track that down, ok?

On the Artforum website they list 35 museums in the world. And in going through the various web sites it is the same old same old pretty much all the time, either doing a search through their collections on "Canada," "Quebec," and "Montreal" turns up nothing or you get a list of names that looks sorta like this: AA Bronson, Agnes Martin, Bill Viola, Brian Jungen, James Wilson Morrice, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Jeff Wall, JMW Turner, Peter Doig, Philip Guston, Rodney Graham, Sorel Etrog, Stan Douglas, Toni Onley, Yves Gaucher. And while I haven't memorized every issue of Parachute, I'd love to know who they think that they are if they say that they were the ones who convinced the world that Riopelle was a kick-ass artist.

Just taking the latest issue and Googling the artists who they mention

Davide Quadrio = 687
Ken Lum = 4,450
Liu Dahong = 112
Pu Jie = 718
Shi Yong = 4,960
Wang Peijun = 756
Wang Wei = 28,600 (hmmm, are they really writing about Contemporary Artists?)
Xiang Liqing = 849
Xu Tan = 689
Xu Zhen = 1,510
Yang Fudong = 1,730
Yang Zhenzhong = 1,030
Zhang Peili = 956
Zhang Weiwei = 166

And then for purposes of comparison

Philip Bottenberg (the current show here) = 893
Janice Tayler (the previous show here) = 3,240

No, you're not supposed to have heard of any of them. I know that Janice and Philip do kick-ass work, I assume that all the Chinese Artists do so as well.

Ok, I've been trying to push this out for two days now, but it is very slow going, apologies, but I'm going to leave you in the middle, 'cuz I got other work to do. But, if you wanna have fun, Concordia University is having a reception for Chantal Pontbriand on Wednesday the 19th at the Musee des Beaux Arts, it costs $10. I'll be there, it would be fun to see you there too.

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