A hopeless pandemic circling the planet destroying meaning and narrative

Whether you agree or not, it is so refreshing to hear the words of someone speaking their mind.  Helps that he has a tenured university job, I guess.  Inflammation, thy name is Albert Chung. First I stopped in my tracks at this statement:

This crisis of meaning is pervasive throughout the visual arts, but it is very evident in a type of photography of banality that has come to be plaguing the field. Examples of this type of work can be seen in the work of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Nan Goldin, Phillip Lorca DiCorcia, just about all the contemporary German photographers, including Wolfgang Tillsman, Bernd & Hilda Becher, and back to the Americans Robert Adams, Garry Winnogrand, Lee Friedlander, the list stretches like some hopeless pandemic circling the planet destroying meaning and narrative, leaving us with nothing more than bland, boring frames that are now supposed to act as templates with which we must input and extract meaning.

And, I do admit, I felt a certain type of simpatico at this next statement, not from any sour grapes kind of thing, nor at the same type of work.  But you know the sitch: when you see some work getting so much attention and you feel, well this is really about nothing isn’t it?  Clearly this person has no clue what they are talking about or how pictures are made.  This is appealing to some reducto absurdum of neo-liberal guilt from people who have seldom experienced the bonafides of time spent in the trenches with the sprawling masses (or you fill in the blank) so this will assuage their do-gooder sense of self-worth without soiling their fingernails.  Do you feel me?  Well, perhaps this has never happened to any of my dear, intelligent readers. But do read on:

The system of art is in the hands of boring, talentless technocrats and administrators who have never experienced art through the act of trying to make it, but have the power to determine the aesthetic choice of art that is ultimately exposed to the world and to history . . .

Albert Chong via

Of course, one does want to point out that this must be the same system that is showing his work “primarily in museums nationally and internationally.”  But I get you, Albert, I do.  We’ve all been there.  Excuse me, I must take this call from Aperture.

6 thoughts on “A hopeless pandemic circling the planet destroying meaning and narrative

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A hopeless pandemic circling the planet destroying meaning and narrative « Look Underfoot -- Topsy.com

  2. I’m normally first in line to mock the art world and its hyper-conceptual emptiness. But for me the list of examples Chong lists doesn’t really hold true. Maybe Eggleston and Adams are vaguely banal but Friedlander and Winogrand? Shore? If you can’t feel the authentic power and realism in the work of these photographers, maybe you’re in the wrong field.


    • Hi B,

      I think it is all subjective no? I know a lot of people who think Friedlander and Winogrand are completely vacuous. I don’t think they are in the wrong field, they just don’t appreciate the work. What compelled me more about the quote, is yes, I could relate to what he was saying a bit, though not necessarily all of the artists he cites as signifying this hopeless pandemic. And it’s so refreshing to read someone speaking their mind instead of this constant parade of backslapping or the opposite: cruel and meaningless anonymous comments.


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