September 28th, 2008

operesque

The Yokohama Triennale and art's new quietness

Not so much coverage of the Yokohama Triennale this week in The Moment as coverage of the coverage.



When I mentioned on Tuesday that I was writing this, a Yokohama resident called Kusagauma responded by saying:

"Dear Momus, couldn't you please refrain from writing about art shows that you haven't actually seen yourself? In particular a rather controversial show like this one." He turns out to be called Jan Fornell and to have written an extensive and interesting critique of the Triennale on his own blog (in Japanese only). Basically he found the Triennale dull and elitist, lacking in populist focal points like the huge grasshopper stuck, in 2001, on the side of the Continental Hotel.

Jan and I have been debating this point fiercely. My position is that art is allowed to be introverted and difficult and obscure and even boring, with moments of poetry or obscenity or awkwardness or pretension or whatever. What it shouldn't do -- in a desperate attempt to attract bigger audiences or more local resonance -- is reproduce the flash and clamour of commercial media.

It's interesting that Jan lays some of the blame at the foot of the 2007 Documenta -- another show I gave a rave review without having experienced at first hand. I love everything I've seen and read about the obliqueness and quirkiness of that Documenta, and if Yokohama is copying it (just as the last Berlin Biennial seemed to be) it seems that it really does represent a "new quietness" in art.

But basically, any show that includes Cerith Wyn Evans and Throbbing Gristle, Miranda July, Luke Fowler and Tsunoda Toshiya, Cameron Jamie, Terence Koh, Jonathan Meese, Jim O'Rourke, Nick Relph and Oliver Payne, Tino Sehgal, dancers Kitamari and Saburo Teshigawara, and Pop, the "flesh-searing" music project of Zbigniew Karkowski and Peter Rehberg (who runs Mego in Vienna) gets a thumbs up from me. The Luke Fowler and Tsunoda Toshiya pairing alone makes this a red-letter biennial in my book.