But Is It Art?

If you’re swinging by Vienna anytime soon, it’s not too late to catch “Shandyism – Authorship as Genre” at the Secession building. Wander through the displays and you might stumble across a familiar graphic novel. Several months ago, I was asked for permission to include Longshot Comics in this rather esoteric show. How does my infamous dot comic fit into the theme of what’s going on in a museum thousands of miles away? I’ll let the curators explain.

“The exhibition Shandyismus, Autorschaft als Genre attempts to focus on Shandyism as a phenomenon/position, taking into account the historical dimensions and a new contemporary strategy to be rediscovered here. Aspects of a thematic exhibition will thus be related to a contemporary group show. Here, a number of works will be shown in which the methodological idiom of Shandyism is expressed primarily as a construction of authorship and readership. These exhibits will be accompanied by several thematic blocks focusing on narration and diagrams of a more historical nature to be presented in glass show cases, addressing the media and the interface with art, literature, film, comics, philosophy and record covers. At the same time, a number of artists will be invited to “intervene Shandyesquely”, i.e. to conduct themselves in a particular manner towards the exhibition. Even the design of the exhibition is based on Shandyesque elements, referring to earlier exhibitions in the Secession, such as Joseph Kosuth’s 1989 Wittgenstein exhibition and more recent exhibitions, e.g., Michael Krebber, Christopher Williams and Constanze Ruhm’s Fate of Alien Modes.

Got all that? There will be a pop quiz later.

One reviewer singled out my contribution for special mention. Translated from German, it read:

“More than the curatorial compositions there are some single contributions that have the capacity to charm the viewer. Works from artists like Marcel Duchamp, David Jourdan or Ad Reinhardt, one could mention Shane Simmons here. His comic book “The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers” comprises 89 years in the history of the British Empire and, accordingly, has a huge number of protagonists. All of them, the accompanying text on the comic books claims, have been portrayed in full detail and then drastically scaled down – an obvious lie – at the same time praising the craftiness of each of the indistinguishable black character dots.”

It was, of course, inevitable that my artwork end up in a highly-regarded European museum. It was just a matter of me flying over to one and scribbling something in the public toilets. But now that I’ve been beaten to the punch, I guess I can be satisfied with a few months lying under glass as part of an official display. It should hold me until I can fulfill my dream of etching an illustrated dirty limerick onto a stall wall of the Louvre.

The Shandyism show runs until April 15.

One thought on “But Is It Art?

  1. Ah, this is not unexpected. When it comes to positing a post-modern paradigm of authorship (or should we say of meta-synthesis?) it is obvious that “The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers” is precisely in the lineage of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” or Chuck Jones’ “Duck Amok” wherein questions like “who draws the drawing?” or “who pisses the piss?” are raised. Those who are schooled in the more estoteric aesthetics of Derrida and Foucault would recognise the kindred nature of Mr Simmons’ work in breaking down the barrier between reader and author.

    Or: Have a bunch of pretentious Teutons read way too much into a gag about reducing fine drawings to small black smudges?

    Either way, way to go Shane to be on the same bill as Chuck Jones!

    As an aside: the other day my unconscious brain dredged Matt Feazell into a dream I was having. Somehow his minicomics were being used as a state propaganda tool. I hadn’t thought about his stuff in over a decade.

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