“Why do we allow the language of the arts to be bogged down in the impenetrable cant of social science? Why must every document be laden with words and phrases such as ‘pathways’, ‘entry points’, ‘direction of travel’ and dozens

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such like. If the language is vague, /* xin-1 */ obscure, woolly and impenetrable,

​ then the ideas lurking behind it will be equally vague and woolly” – John Tusa, The Times


Regular readers of The Jackdaw will know that the Artbollocks column often refers to a special species of the genre known as ‘The Borlandbollocks Option’, in which the writer explains the meaning of a work /* 9-970x90 */ of art as falling between opposites: life and death, dark and light, hard and soft, hot and cold, distance

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and nearness, optimism and pessimism, United and City, etc…
The name originated from a piece of exemplary twaddle written by Gibbereesh Kapoor about fellow Lisson artist, Christine Borland. No less a luminary than the excellent satirist and parodist, Craig Brown, has also identified the same condition. Writing in the Daily Telegraph regarding the ‘dead’ sparrow trapped in the double glazing at Serotaland, he wrote: “I have noticed over the years that when experts on conceptual art haven’t got the foggiest idea about what on earth their latest exhibit is meant
to mean, they reach for that handy phrase, ‘It can be read on many different levels’. For example, Sarah Kent, the author of the official Saatchi catalogue, wrote of one artist’s works: ‘They are seductive, silent and insistently shut; emblems of the comings and goings, our entrances and exits… On one level they are utterly banal, on another profound’. You simply can’t go wrong by saying that this-or-that can be read on many different levels…” Well spotted Craig. We can safely award Mr Brown the Jackdaw d’Or for his efforts.

The Jackdaw Jul-Aug 2004


Like all Jeremy Fop’s charges at White Pube, Marc Quinn long ago completed the Arts Council’s ‘Talking Total Bollocks’ course, a qualification which most State Art gallery proprietors demand of their artists. Quinn has now finished with distinction the follow-up

forwarded the following piece of artbollocks. He wonders if this is the earliest example of the genre, and we have to agree that it is certainly the earliest we’ve ever

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published. Of course it is not as early as Reynolds’s Discourses, which for the most part is unreadable twaddle, and (dare we suggest it) Turner’s lectures on perspective, which the little genius must have drafted in stormy weather on the Margate Packet after eight pints of sack. Anyway, this is quoted by Robert Hughes in his book on Barcelona. It is a review of a Maeterlinck play by Ramon Casellas: “… such is the formula of this nebulous and shining art, chaotic and radiant, prosaic and sublime, sensuous and mystical, refined and barbaric, modern and medieval…” If nothing else it is the earliest known
occurrence of Borlandbollocks.

The Jackdaw May google_ad_height = 90; 2008


The first and last, right and left, alpha and omega and top and

though it stares back across the whole of Doig’s career, and appears to be both an end and a beginning.”

The Jackdaw May 2008


The Union Gallery in SE1 is a new one on us but their staff have obviously come through the Arts Council’s Fast-Track

Bollocks NVQ with flying colours. “Abandoning the structural artifice inherent in narrative, Mike Marshall’s practice brings to the fore that which would normally
inhabit perceptual peripheries, or be omitted entirely. Here, through sustained sensory engagement with half-registered moments in unspecific locations, the process of reception is distended, the viewer moving into a deeper, less complacent, more physical relationship with what is seen and heard. Full reign [sic] is given to the implication that under certain perceptual circumstances what often appears to be


‘dead-air’, a non-event, or prolonged pause in the
drama of reality, can become almost too intense: moments in which we are incontrovertibly invested in a reality anterior to language.”

The Jackdaw March

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Following an extended period in the Bollocks wilderness, Milton Keynes Gallery return to the fold. Stephen Willats’s boring pseudo-sociology masquerading as art gets another outing at public expense. Here is the latest official interpretation of what this superannuated idiot does: “At //--> the heart of Willats’ practice is the encouragement of the active participation in a work of art by collaborators and viewers, in order google_ad_width = 970; to stimulate an engagement in their

own creative process.” Alongside Willats’s diagrams is Panacea Goes Cycling, an exhibition by a threesome: “The Panacea group will survey Milton Keynes
for artistic solutions to cultivate their mobile maquette of an idealised health paradise, which mutates and evolves with each exposure to a new environment. Once fully grown, these ideas will inhabit the public spaces in and around the town.” Bring back the concrete cows.

The Jackdaw Jul-Aug 2007


Thanks go to the half-dozen readers who sent in this gem from the newly opened Arnolphony, the Arts

Council’s Bristol franchise. It relates to their opening exhibition and they took special


care over the words in order to get people in: “Returning to a place once familiar, now changed, or imagining how a place will look before you get there often results in looking at things in the present, but remembering or imagining the past.” Now
that, my dears, is the Arts Council at its best: complete and utter bollocks.

The Jackdaw

February 2006


And now for what is possibly our first contribution sent all the way from Boston – Mass not Lincs. Here, a fool called google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; Regales Megalakos describes the results produced by her (?) strenuous curating in Relative Diversions: “Suzanna Coffey is known mainly for her portraiture, However though her face is undeniably hers, the spectator would do well to see more than just that, since she paints beyond her identity origin and beliefs. In

essence she does not paint her self-portrait, but only uses her self as a model. In their ‘painterliness’ her works reveal their power of contrast between the background and foreground, accentuated by the expression of the face, which responds to its painted context… Suzann Walters’s works have the hallucinatory effect of dreams, in which the time/space continuum is annihilated. Though emitting a Disney-like feel, the protagonist figures in her art are original outcomes of her
imagination. The mysterious and impressively exotic environment, owed to the rich colour and the ample light on the gloss surface, reflects an eerie feeling of anthropomorphic ambiguity.”

The Jackdaw April 2006


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Interpreting something “in a number of lights” is a little like Borlandbollocks. It gives options, boxes to tick, parameters of antipodean width to span. Everybody has something to praise, nobody is disappointed. Numbers of lights is the process by google_ad_width = 970; which whatever you are

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exhibiting, however banal, not only can be made to mean but be said to mean whatever you like. The lights are, after all, as numerous as you feel disposed to make them. Here, then is the Centre of Attention in light-numbering mode: “This multi-dimensional show can be seen in a number of lights; as an art prize, a group show, an installation, a spectator participation performance, a celebration of democracy and idealism and a critique of democracy and idealism.” And
let’s face it that’s quite a lot of lights.

The Jackdaw February 2005


Mandy McIntosh has been given a residency by the Scottish Arts Council. In its own words: “I am an artist who makes eclectic works of documentation which utilise aesthetics and medium as host for meaning within sometimes site specific and

socially engaged procedures.” It that guff isn’t bad enough she moves into overdrive: “Generally speaking I work from a reactionary taste impulse … in Tasmania, I made google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; a series of crocheted gorilla balaclavas … in New York I am researching vultures, meteors and The United Nations.” It’s only your money.

The Jackdaw February 2005


We should like to submit the conception, execution and especially the catalogue of the current Serotaland exhibition ‘Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970′ as the purest manifestation of artbollocks. It’s a well-known fact that a colon in the title is a harbinger of boredom and and artbollocks in equal measure, and we’re not disappointed here. In this case the bollocks is courtesy of exhibition curator Donna De Salvo. De Salvo talks bollocks for England. And how. We’ll leave you to consult the catalogue yourself – just open it at

any page. In what must be the most tedious exhibition ever conceived, De Salvo finds “challenges’ everywhere. In what is her third challenge in as many rooms, she refers to an installation of Marcel Broodthaers google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; as “challenging traditional ideas about museums’. Broodthaers’ “challenge” was obviously a miserable failure as it ended up in a museum despite itself.

The Jackdaw Jul-Aug 2005


Since its new director flounced in from the Tate, the Whitechapel

has been

classical beauty.” Challenging? Bollocks! And here’s The Observer’s account of the same Quinn ‘carvings’: “What is questioned is not so much the standard of human beauty as the idealised values and conventions of art.” Questioned? Bollocks! And here’s another courtesy of the Tate itself: “Quinn’s detailed and pristine sculptures carved from Carrara marble refer to the classical tradition of sculpture yet subvert this by questioning the notion of the


heroic and the beautiful.” Subvert? Question? Bollocks!

The Jackdaw April 2002


Since we identified Borlandbollocks as a sub-species of guff a couple of years ago, it has developed into a growth area the size of a cult. Now it’s been dubbed with //--> a name, one spots the phenomenon everywhere. This is Peter Davies, a young painter apparently, describing precisely what it is about Jackson Pollock’s One (Number 31) that tickles his fancy: “I like the way it’s full of contradictions [This sounds very promising! Ed] It’s angry and aggressive, yet beautiful and sensitive. It’s heavy but light. It’s expressive yet controlled, complex yet simple, crude yet articulate. For src="//"> such a severe and tough method, the result is surprisingly delicate and google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; elegant.” Five point nines across the board there, for what must henceforth rank as a textbook demonstration.

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Welcome back to dear old Tracey, whose every utterance is twaddle. Here she is, in full spate rhapsodising bollockly in the Independent on Sunday: “I couldn’t fucking believe it when I got here [Saatchi Gallery] the other day and saw what these guys from Momart had done. I mean they’d fucking gone and installed the work without me even being there. That’s just not on. This is my bed. If someone else installs it, it’s just a dirty bed. If I do it, it’s art… You know, I was in the same room as Mrs Thatcher the other day and I didn’t want to spit on her any more. I looked at her and I thought: you poor, wizened, fucking old shrew. And I thought about my own power and sovereignty and how much I wanted to get the hut back (from San Francisco) and I thought: now I can do it; now I can sell my work to Charles Saatchi.”

The Jackdaw November 2001