Monday, October 29, 2007

Calgon, Take Me Away

I suppose art that makes you want to puke is better than art that stirs up no feeling at all. [Insert here your favorite truism about indifference].

That said, Alex McQuilkin’s video installation entitled “Joan of Arc” at Marvelli Gallery had me literally throwing my arms up in despair. The two-channel piece juxtaposes scenes from Carl Dreyer’s seminal 1928 film rendition of the martyr’s story with images of the artist pouting unconvincingly into the camera and shaving her blown-dry locks.

Watching a white, privileged woman – with the power of art success to bolster her – comparing herself to one of history’s most legendary persecuted figures is a reflection of American arrogance, unawareness and downright stupidity.

The press release suggests that McQuilkin (at age 27) yearns to validate adolescent angst, especially in the face of condescending adults (like myself). Her goal, it seems, is to represent her suffering – through imitation, through theater. What she achieves, however, is the opposite. She comes of as a shallow fake.


Vanessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You're read of Alex McQuilkin's Joan of Arc is as a shallow & narrow-minded as you report her work to be. You missed the point completely with your reference to teen angst & do the work a disservice by going for the easy, "privileged white woman" judgement. Not to mention the decades you set the feminist movement back with such words. The work is about so much more than the surface treatment you give it. She speaks to struggle with self, struggle with belief, and the human condition with honesty. If you are so bold as to say that a young american artist cannot touch certain subject matters becuase of your view of their successes, then you limit all art & the possibilities of cross-cultural interpretations. I'm disgusted with your bold ignorance. You should stop writing about art becuase you apparently have no concept of what it is.

Molly Stevens said...

Anonymous. How bold you are to hide your name.

Have you seen the piece? Tell me, where do you see the honesty in her work? Where do you see the struggle?

And since when is criticizing a woman's work synonymous with being anti-feminist? If you are a woman, aren't we smarter than that?

Mike said...

Wow. I'll reserve my judgement of McQuilkin's piece until after I see it for myself, but I have a comment for "anonymous."

I don't see anywhere in Molly's criticism the idea that a young artist shouldn't be able to "touch certain subject matters." Rather Molly seems to have simply judged the piece to be ineffective and misquided. Despite this (and rightly so), she made no call for McQuilkin to stop making art.

On the other hand, you actually call for Molly to "stop writing about art," which I find to be quite hypocritical given the context.

And the idea that Molly single-handedly set feminism back decades with her post is just plain laughable.

Molly Stevens said...

Thanks for chiming in, Mike. I'll be interested to hear what you think if you see the video.