Innovative, cutting edge.

Sitting on my desk for the last couple of weeks is an invitation from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery,
here in New Plymouth.

It is an invitation from three of the curators there to come to an evening ‘highlighting some of the world’s most recent biennales showcasing the freshest and most innovative contemporary art from around the world.’ ‘What’s hot on the contemporary arts scene?’ it says in big black letters across the top. ‘Find out what is cutting edge on the international art circuit’.

All three curators had been overseas recently, and collectively, they visited six different Biennales.

As it happened the evening clashed with my Japanese class and I was unable to attend but nevertheless it has concerned me because I don’t know whether I can make work that is innovative, or cutting edge, yet clearly that is what they are looking for. Does work have to be innovative or cutting edge to be good I ask myself. I feel the pressure.

The very use of the word contemporary art seems to have lost its original meaning of: existing or occurring at the present time. ‘The word has come to mean modern, up to date, fashionable…’ The word contemporary confers authority and style’. (Peter Timms).

‘Contemporary art remains obsessed with the idea of innovation…Innovation is an adjective so vital to the perpetuation of the art market that it has taken on an almost magical aura’. …Curators use ‘innovation’ and ‘innovative’ to frighten people’ (Peter Timms again)

But there is another way in which the invitation worries me. The three curators are clearly using Biennale as a major source of ideas for exhibitions yet Biennale generally need large showy art, often in installation form. Yet my work lately has become rather tiny, I’m worried that I will not have a chance of being included in shows that favour installations. The influence of Biennale might be a problem for artists who choose to work in a quieter more contemplative way, and on a smaller scale. There even appears to be a Biennale look. With over fifty Biennale in the world now, it may be that they are no longer sampling what is taking place, but shaping it.