Q: In what ways do artist’s biographies inform of distract from the viewers experiences of the work?
I think the artist biography is mostly inseparable when looking at a body of work. If I know something about the artist, that is essentially knowing something about the work or at least the background from which it was created, and that inherently has an impact on how I will read the work. Especially in the current world of oversharing information, and media allowing for behind the scenes access to artists and their private worlds and studios, going forward the lives of artists will always impact their work.
I do not this this is a negative thing, especially in the case of deciding what artists to support. Because of the #metoo movement, I don’t think it will be long before the actions of artists begin to have an impact on how their work is read and interpreted. There have been specific issues related to this in Atlantic Canada, and has lead to a rethinking about how that artist’s work is interpreted.
After watching this lecture and thinking about Ward’s assertion “that all art is a form of proposition and anything is possible” made me think about the Yayoi Kasuma exhibition that is about to open at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. Kasuma, to me, is an artist whose work in inseparable from her biography, and in everything I read about her work when it is show is linked to her legacy, more than the work itself. In the promotional material for the exhibition Yayoi Kasuma: Infinity Mirrors, the work’s history of exhibition is talked about more than the actual content of the work. In this instance, I would love to actually hear from the artist about her work, rather than why I should be excited it is traveling to Canada. It is no doubt exciting work, and a great opportunity to see it in person, but the hype is over shadowing content.
I just looked into the exhibition and visited the AGO main web page I was met with an uninviting, uninspired corporate web page that informed me that I am in the queue, but 52323 people are ahead of me for tickets. I had to click a tiny hyperlink to get to the regular home page, which was also 90% Kasuma. This page also contained a list of rules and regulations for the tickets. Even for someone comfortable with the gallery going experience, this seems a bit extreme to me, and makes me think that it will be a mess of people when I actually get to the exhibition. Nothing about this initial online experience is welcoming, incomplete contrast to PR campaign launched for the exhibition which features Kasuma’s dots on the public transportation and every-poster able surface imaginable in downtown Toronto.
In trying to find any critical writing about the exhibition in Toronto, all of the media/critical coverage is about this ticket scramble – why is the work not the focus? What is the financial gain of the gallery by taking this show, and putting basically all other programming on hold to accommodate this media frenzy? This work has also been shown many times before, but the infrastructural breakdown in this case is eclipsing the critical value of the exhibition.
This was a bit of a ramble, but I think it is important to look at the lives of artists as well as the content of their work. The two can be separated, but I don’t always think that is beneficial to the art world as a whole.