Information exchange is interesting, (or at least it can be). Dan Fox over at Frieze Magazine proves this point in his self described “infrequent and ongoing series” about “small historical details that turn out to have huge ramifications for art”. As it turns out a fair amount of these details have been in the field of content dissemination, for example the changes digital files and formats have had on publishing. The post is worth the read, though my favorite heading so far, appears in his second post under the heading The Changing Fashions of Exhibition Titles. Here Fox divides exhibition titles into three categories, which I’ve provided below.
- the long, unwieldy 'poetic' sentence-as-title, which is currently very much in vogue and which I think was initially popularized by 'My Head is On Fire But My Heart is Full of Love' at Charlottenberg Museum in 2002. Examples include: 'When Leaves Fall They Return to The Root, When I Die I'll Have No Mouth' (Philip Hausmeier, Museum 52, London 2008), 'If You Destroy the Image You'll Destroy the Thing Itself' (Bergen Kunsthall, 2008) and 'Peace and Agriculture in a Pre-Romantic Ideal Landscape, Without Sublime Terrors' (Haunch of Venison, Berlin, 2008 — this title taken from a 1565 painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder).
- the oxymoron/homophone. Less popular these days than it was in the 1990s, but typical instances include 'Blind Sight' (Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, and Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2004), 'Silent Noise' (Jaume Plensa, Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1999) and 'Sight/Site' (ICA Philadelphia, 2001).
- and the frat boy, such as 'Drunk vs. Stoned' (Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York, 2005) or 'God Spoiled a Perfect Asshole When He Put Teeth in Yer Mouth' (Dash Snow, Peres Projects, Los Angeles, 2007)
Here’s a few more suggestions for these categories, though they aren’t quite as good.
- The self referential pun. A fading trend in which artists reference their practice in the title of their show. The 1998 exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography by large format photographer Thaddeus Holownia went by the title Extended Vision. Holownia was my undergraduate photography professor. That class mostly served the purpose of teaching me that I was never going to be a photographer.
- The literal description. These titles are barely worth mentioning except that they are used all the time and therefore relevant by default. Can’t think of a title? No problem! Call your show, New Works, Landscapes, Dark Portraits. Whatever medium or subject matter is explored can also be an exhibition title. Apexart’s Perverted By Theater (opening next Wednesday) provides an example that exceeds the expectations of this model (perhaps because it doesn’t fit squarely in the category.) In this case the exhibition title references Michael Fried’s aversion to the theatrical in art, while describing the work included in the show. All of it is based on theater.