diamond geezer

 Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Over-anal-ysis

One of my favourite sections of Private Eye is Pseuds Corner, in which various choice titbits of textual over-importance are held up to national ridicule. There's clever writing and there's overblown tosh, and sometimes the border between the two can be very thin. I have a particular dislike of the people who write pompous notes to accompany classical music ("The flute melody is accompanied by gentle, unobtrusive semiquavers, retaining the tranquility of the movement while fleshing out the score with a particularly romantic view of sonority.") I loathe reviews of literature that pontificate in depth about themes which the authors almost certainly never put there in the first place. ("The abandonment of metaphysical foundations establishes the context of Murdoch's particular interest in existentialism, and the essential Nietzschean assertion that modern man is trapped by a process of imagined self-determination.") But I reserve my deepest hatred for the art critic.

(before continuing please click here to take a look at a piece of art, thankyou)

If you pick up a free London Underground map this autumn you'll see that the front cover features a specially-commissioned piece of art by Emma Kay entitled You Are in London. Essentially it's 12 concentric rings, each the colour of a different tube line. I like it, it's simple, clever and effective. However, Transport for London have let an art critic loose on reviewing it, and the result is pure bollocks.

(before continuing please click here to read a pile of crap, thankyou)

It takes particular skill, or bravado, to waffle so effusively about so little. It takes an unlikely leap of faith to suggest that the target motif "playfully combines the Tube line colours with art historical references, graphic design and our collective memory". And it takes a complete jerk to describe a few coloured rings as "compelling", "deceptive" or a "memory audit". When wandering around art galleries I often have to refrain from gasping out loud at the utter drivel that art critics have written about the works on display. Can't they just shut up and let us read what we want into the images that we see? "12 rings, nice." Much better. (I'm glad to see this morning that Annie agrees with me too).

Of course, there's a far better work of art to be found on the Underground map leaflet, and that's the map itself. For those of you who are interested (and I suspect that's most of you) the BBC are screening a 30 minute documentary tomorrow (BBC2, 7:30pm Thursday) about the history of the map and its creator, Harry Beck. His sublime topological distortion transformed society's mindscape to reduce London's amorphous physical environment to an interconnected psychogeographical clarity. It's bloody clever, too.


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