Sunday, December 20, 2009

Normal Art in Abnormal Reality.

Gloomy a location as Amsterdam’s Berlage Stock Exchange is, it hosts an Art Show that sets out to depict things Niet Normaal (yes, you understand Dutch, it means not normal), thus defining the normal and seeking to excite thoughts about norms in society, genetic design, conformism, beauty, and human behaviour. A selected group of artists has put up a winding labyrinth of projections, sculptures, installations, photographs, machines and the polished or less polished paraphernalia that we have been trained to accept and indeed even expect from a contemporary art exhibition.
Herein lies one first problem: the “not normal” on show fails to excite more than a bemused curiosity because we as a public are broken to a high degree of weirdness by this widespread and almost uniform way of producing “art” which is by now predictable and trite. The attitude of these artists is blatantly complacent and naughty; they are the spoiled children of excessive sponsoring and bad education. Quite normal really, and, well, boring. Their jokes have worn thin.

The boundaries between installation and city, meaning and randomness, are as murky as can be. How to distinguish art from reality, when the former is made up of often-readymade pieces of the second, poorly put together with very ugly results? These works are repulsive if anything at all. You want abnormal, face reality as it is, especially so in Amsterdam within inhaling distance of rows of coffee shops and the quirkiness of the red lights district. Really you have to do better if you want to challenge the displacement and confusion that this place can bring about as it is and make one feel even less normal than that. Even Madame Tussauds beats them hands down, and the rest of the place borders on the hallucinatory if you just keep your eyes open. So taken in the package deal of this part of town, the visit actually blends in seamlessly, and the pieces are an integral if incoherent part of the whole. The only boundary being that they were meant to say something, and are thus less disturbing than the rest. At least every piece comes with a reassuring explicatory tag, while items in the world outside will at best carry a price, keeping their darker void deceptively and dangerously hidden.

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