So there have plenty of shows in the past year that I've gone to, that I've thought were lame, dull, overcooked, or uninteresting. I've avoided talking about all of them. There have been shows I've gone to that I've found somewhat flawed in a thought-provoking way (the anniversary show at the Dowse, the current show at the Adam Art Gallery) that I have tried to delve into. It's a challenge, trying to explain why you're puzzled or not satisfied by something. When you say a book is not well-written, people know what you are generally aiming at. When you try to explain why you're calling an exhibition badly curated (that is, when you're saying something other that 'the art isn't very good', although god knows there's been a few examples in recent months where that simply is the case), it's far harder to find some common ground to start from.
So I was interested to see Robert Pinsky's three rules of reviewing in Salon this week:
1. The review must tell what the book is about.
2. The review must tell what the book's author says about that thing the book is about.
3. The review must tell what the reviewer thinks about what the book's author says about that thing the book is about.
I wonder if this can be successfully adapted to exhibitions?
1. The review must tell what the exhibition is about
2. The review must tell what the exhibition's organiser says about the thing the exhibition is about
3. The review must tell what the reviewer thinks about what the exhibition's organiser says about the thing the exhibition is about
The complicating factor is, of course, that with an exhibition, there's often another layer. What the curator is saying might be very different from what the artist is saying. Sometimes the tension between these two things is interesting - sometimes it's effortful, sometimes it's just daft. Maybe this is point four, and maybe this is where I need to put more thought in.