Invigilating exhibitions is fundamentally pretty boring. There is a lot of sitting around, often without anyone to talk to. In the days before smart phones, laptops and WiFi made spending the time pissing about on the internet an easy option, you had to make your own entertainment. In 1998, while running Gallerie Poo Poo, the artists’ group BANK did just that.
There is always reading matter in galleries. If nothing else, press releases from other galleries arrive daily and it was to these that BANK artists Simon Bedwell, Milly Thompson and John Russell turned to while away long afternoons in the gallery. They were artists after all, and running a gallery; why wouldn’t they want to stay abreast of what was on and read about art? As is happened though, they didn’t much like what they read.
And so it began: The BANK Fax-Bak Service: Helping You Help Yourselves!
It can be hard to write about art without sounding pretentious and those who write press releases are often given to over-theorising in an attempt to make the work they are writing about sound especially interesting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, such attempts at shoe-horning cleverness into the text often results in bold but meaningless assertions; those who write gallery press releases are usual fluent in art-wank. Getting their metaphorical red pens out (actual pens but usually black), Bedwell, Russell and Thompson amused themselves, and each other, by ‘correcting’ the press releases.
They corrected the grammar, critiqued the logos and typefaces in use, deconstructed the text to highlight the many examples of pretentiousness, meaningless assertions and general misuse of the English language on display, gave marks out of ten and faxed the press releases back to the galleries from which they had come.
And then, when they had a big pile of press releases, they exhibited them.
I saw the exhibition Press Release – it appealed to the copy editor in me and made me laugh – but as far as I remember I hadn’t seen its press release until I came to write this post. I find myself amused and appalled in equal measure by its rogue apostrophes. ‘It’s meaninglessness’! What? Why did no-one correct it?