Bob and Roberta Smith: This Artist is Deeply Dangerous
This article is from 2009.
The latest work by Bob and Roberta Smith subverts the relationship between artist and critic, as David Pollock finds out
For this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival exhibition Bob and Roberta Smith – the multiple pseudonym of Goldsmiths graduate Patrick Brill – extends the artist’s usual practise of painting provocative slogans across slabs of woods and hanging them, this time slicing up the text of an entire review and transferring it to a series of hanging paintings. The words belong to Steve Bierley, tennis correspondent at the Guardian, who reviewed Louise Bourgeois’ 2008 show at the Pompidou Centre in Paris for a job-swap feature in the paper.
‘His article, I think, is a really great piece of arts writing,’ reflects Brill. ‘It’s straightforward, and it has the pentameter pace of sports writing in that things build up to crescendos. It reflects really nicely on the relationship between sport and art, and how they work in a different way. Louise Bourgeois was 97 at this point, and the piece reflected on how her ideas had accumulated throughout her life. I also liked the way something seemed to occur to him when he saw the exhibition that maybe hadn’t occurred before, about a different way of living. That was quite exciting.’
The piece also comprises a dialogue between artist and critic. ‘It’s a great piece of writing about the activity of another human being,’ says Brill. ‘I think arts writers often get lost in the rhetoric of art criticism and art theory, but I do wonder how people outside the art world – and sometimes I feel like one myself – view the development of this specialist language. My interest in art is about broadening the parameters of what it can be and who can make it, and I think that art writing is often about enforcing these parameters.’
Or, to paraphrase a beautiful quote from Brill, which accompanies the show, ‘there should be no artists, just people making art … there should be no art critics, just people writing about art.’ The extended manifesto, filtered through the pen of one sports writer, can be encountered here.
Bob and Roberta Smith: This Artist is Deeply Dangerous, The Grey Gallery, 07910 359 086, until 5 Sep, free.