AT ITS core all art criticism — and all art — is an argument for what art should be. In polite conversation one can invoke taste and propriety. If someone asks your opinion on a friend’s play, you can mitigate your disapproval by saying, “Not my cup of tea, but interesting…”
You can change the subject matter by invoking something similar, but artistically superior: “I didn’t see much of Lost, but did you watch Battlestar Galactica?” (the first two seasons)
But what if you must write something? God, anything, about something you neither hate nor love? You think of Revelations 3.16: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
ASPECTS of this video are undoubtedly interesting, and not-so interesting, but as a totality it is tepid. In a crumbling world it takes no sides, mourns no dead, buries no children, experiences no joy, wins no battles, subverts few tropes. Does it aim to be sublime? No. This is not the Monk and the Sea. Does it aim to open a door to formalism? No, not really. Does it critique anything? Nothing that is clear.
The plaque on the wall says it is about time. I can see that, but it is no Stalker or Where is the Friend’s House? Is this relational aesthetics? No. We are not in the water, would that we were, bouncing in the waves like children on a holiday. Perhaps there will be a shark. A shark would solve everything. It would come from beneath the water and devour a monument of simulated boredom.
Would that it was real boredom! Real boredom — the kind only children can experience. How I miss that boredom. Is this a cultural artifact? It is now, but it wasn’t before. Is it documentation of some elemental natural phenomenon? Sort-of? But that isn’t what it really is. Perhaps it has a cultural history I do not understand. Is it a Zen koan?
If I didn’t write about it would it cease to exist?
PERHAPS it is decorative. It should be on a giant digital power wall, toward one end of retro modernist bar — the kind in the expensive downtowns of global cities, where you can finally find some Pernod, and where the bartender gives you all the respect that was denied you in every aspect of your working-class life so far (if you are dressed properly and you are white).
The sloshing makes sense. It is not there to say anything but to appear to say something. Maybe it is an installation in a high-end Beijing hotel. It makes the world that surrounds the businessmen and women seem heroic, beyond the mundane, as they drink, make phone calls, conjure factories from the earth, make deals, engage prostitutes, order I-phones by the hundreds of thousands…
Maybe the purpose of this virtual water is to drown the memories of petty elites. They studied all the histories of the world. They didn’t understand a word of it. But it nagged at them. Now they can forget everything. Maybe this video is a virtual baptism. Here you can pretend to have your sins washed away.
Calvin Williams is a deceased weird poet and artist from Grand Tower, Illinois.