Charlotte Young’s Artist Statement, Interpreted

by Paddy Johnson on June 23, 2011 · 22 comments Best Link Ever!

Charlotte Young provides a little art speak translation for those who don’t understand the language. It’s funny, though also a little embittered. Worth a watch.


Liz June 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Ugh, for some reason this really stresses me out, which I guess makes it successful. I hate art speak as much as the next guy, but I feel like it’s becoming really commonplace to see artists make fun of how they talk about their work. We, the viewing public, are the ones asking them to define it so who are we to pick apart the words they use, thus causing them to have to address it with pieces like this? This comment is clearly about 4 conceptual steps behind where Charlotte is, but I hate to see artists making caricatures of themselves, even if it is in the name of art. 

Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Yeah, there’s a knowing self loathing about it I’m not fond of either. I wish the artist opted for empowering, but I guess that’s not meme material.

Will Brand June 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I don’t think this is necessarily negative. It’s not a matter of “oh we’re all irretrievably full of shit”, it’s a matter of tools and clear expression. So long as art prefers “narrative” over “story”, or “liminal” over “in-between”, it will require more training, take more time to produce and process, and exclude more of the public. By rejecting that needlessly uncommon vocabulary, we can make art more universal, which doesn’t necessarily mean diluting the field. It’s like baseball: after Jackie Robinson, the talent pool from which teams could choose the very best baseball players expanded significantly, to include Black players; as a result, teams were able to become more selective, and the overall skill level of professional baseball players increased. If we can expand the pool of people who can potentially talk about or understand art, we can be better about finding the very best of them, and have better art. I find that empowering. This is a line of bitching that I wholly support.

Liz June 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Yeah, agreed Will, I think any art which opens up a discourse about a larger issue is successful, but I feel like Charlotte is putting words in the mouth of the public. She’s basically saying ‘your eyes are all totally vulgar and you don’t get me, so I’m going to dumb it down for you, but in a really humble and self-depriciating way so you feel like a jerk for ever saying I was using language that you couldn’t understand’. I still can’t figure out who’s making fun of who, which to me makes it seem passive aggressive. Or maybe I’m just defensive…

BUT as you said, I don’t see it as entirely negative because at the end of the day it’s discussion like this that make art fun and important, so the fact that this piece finally gave me the balls to comment on this blog that I’ve been reading foreviz makes it great.

Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I support the line of bitching as it pertains to art speak, but I think it supports negative artists stereotypes I don’t think are useful. From the very beginning, the idea that artists are just lazy privileged workers who often use the academized language of the art world to hide that reality is proffered. When Charlotte describes herself as a performance artists who makes videos and is a published writer, the caption underneath reads “I am an attention seeker…My Dad bought me a Macbook Pro…I’ve written over 100 blog posts”. Now, I get that this doesn’t have to be an interpretation of the language, but rather her fake persona, and that even as a flat translation there’s some humor here. Still, those parts make me a little uncomfortable because I think there’s some hostility behind those words. 

Likewise, near the end of the piece, she comes back to this same idea, saying, “My work is currently in flux” with the caption reading “I haven’t made work in 8 months”. In truth though, most artists I know suffer great anxiety when they are in a rut and can’t work. I think it would be more empowering to produce a piece that shows what artists actually do to get out of ruts, rather than making fun of them for having to suffer through them. 

Will Brand June 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Sure, anything that perpetuates the idea that artists aren’t doing “real work” is harmful, and the video gets worse when it goes into that.

Jesse P. Martin June 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Having suffered through “Professional Practices”
courses that endorsed “elevator pitches” to art students, I’m glad to
see the artist-statement get kicked in the teeth — because it’s generally a
hideous form of writing, like the pantoum or cover letter. And sometimes a
“bitter” parody aimed at an often cringe-worthy (yet astoundingly
prevalent & institutionally encouraged) aspect of the art-world can prove
more inspiring than an “empowering” address.  

Tag June 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

You know she’s a comedian also, right?

Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I didn’t. But that makes sense. 

korper June 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Hate artist statements.  Love this video.  Thanks for posting.

Marina Galperina June 24, 2011 at 1:23 am

I just knew you would love this. Wonder if it’s an homage to these classic hip hop videos…
The Roots
De La Soul
…or if the fake-out subtitle technique is older than this.

POLYMETAMORPH June 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Woody Allen, Annie Hall balcony scene:

Ddalesandro June 24, 2011 at 6:03 am

Funny video, fake it til you make it…

Kathleen Kiser June 24, 2011 at 6:36 am

All Artists are Crap Artists.  I bow at the waist.  Thank you very much.  Good Night All.  Ta.  Tootels.  Bye-bye.  oOhOoo, I’ve said too much.  Well, good bye then.  Just one thing.  I didn’t like the punctuation.  The font was shabby, don’t you think?  I rather think sally had it right with her answer to art fart or fag or what ever, rude dog.  Her little quote marks really dress up a sentence let alone a paragraph, what?   

Lynne June 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Love it!

Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Well, yeah, and of course that’s the stuff in the video I like the most. “I attempt to create fictional narratives” with a caption underneath saying, “I make up stories and call it art” gets a little closer to the problem. Still, describing your achievements as bigger than they actually are is fairly established way of getting ahead so I don’t think the Walker vs Rhodes problem is going to disappear. Marketing (annoyingly), works on schlock just as it does strong work. 

dannyolda June 25, 2011 at 5:22 am

Speaking of “real work”: in the words of the blue collar folks around these parts what’s wrong with “talking turkey”.  When doctor’s break out the medical jargon, I’m not overwhelmed with thoughts of “no good, hegemonic, pedantic, son of a…”.  Or when my mechanic launches into car babble we both know I’m not understanding, I don’t worry too much about the patriarchal, exploitaive so on and so forth.  Why can’t the art world have jargon and be ok with it? I understand artists uneasiness with a hegemonic anything.  But I think there may be bigger problems regarding heiarchy and exploitation in the art world than the way artists speak. 

sally June 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm

“Fictional” is not a big word, and neither is “narratives” and they are both a bit different in connotation from “stories.” “I attempt to make fictional narratives” isn’t very informative, is a bit redundant, and needs to be much more specific to convey anything about what the art is like, but it is a perfectly comprehensible sentence. If you want to communicate effectively about art without disrespecting your audience, you get off to a bad start when you assume the so-called general public can’t grasp basic vocabulary.

sally June 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm

sorry – that was a bit harsh. I just think it’s useful, as an art writer, to remember that other people might be curious and interested in the same kinds of questions that I’m interested in.
Vocabulary isn’t really the issue (that’s why they invented
dictionaries). It’s whether or not you are hiding a lack of anything to
say behind vague sentence structure.

Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Point taken. I still find that funnier though than some of the other captions because it’s at less of punch in the face to artists. 

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