Comments on Doris’s Crack

One of the things that keeps me interested in updating Art News Blog is the comments that people leave. In a recent post on Doris’s Crack at the Tate Modern, I said that artists can sometimes ramble on a little too much. And that is fine if you feel like reading an essay, but it shouldn’t be necessary to understand the work.

Anyway, some people left some interesting comments on the post. (not everyone reads the comments, so I’m re posting them below)

tate modern crack in the floor

Anonymous said “Not only do artists at this level of “seriousness” simply preach to the choir (I think the majority of people at art exhibitions already share the point of view of the artist), but I have become increasingly intolerant of artists, usually half my age, trying to function as a moral agent for me and usually with such grand, sweeping themes as “war is bad”, “AIDS is tragic”, etc.,just name the cause and the obvious response. It would seem that I champion art of lesser substance, but I argue that since no artist has control over anyone’s response, and since there are literally millions of quotidian things and events the meanings of which could provide any artist with plenty to address, why not look for substance that is a little harder to find. The efforts of most artists trying to raise awareness seem to me mostly pathetic and ineffectual. Though I risk rendering all of the above into idiotic ranting, I might add that I am a sucker for beauty that is hard to find and see.”

Coxsoft Art said “Grandiose statements don’t hide pathetic attempts at art. They merely irritate. A true work of art hits you, and you don’t need any patronising codswallop to back it up, although I would be interested to know of any scientific explanation as to why a work of art hits me the way it does.”

Marscha said “For me, these “explanations” of art have the opposite effect: they destroy all pleasure of looking at a piece of art uninhibitedly. The whole process of letting art make its way through your mind and leave an impression of any kind is frustrated, and they let you end up wondering about the “essay” more than about the piece itself.”

HellyUK said “I know what people mean about causes being associated with artwork and to some extent I agree. However I think this artwork illustrates division, in a very literal sense (as well reminding me of earthquakes and natural disasters)rather well.

Artists are encouraged to have explanations with their artwork. It’s a catch twenty two situation really: if you don’t write one people think you can’t define your own artwork, if you do it can seem as if all artwork is about a set number of ‘themes’.”

Jafabrit said “I don’t think I would have needed an essay to see that the crack represents a divide of some kind. However it looks like a divide, a crack, created by nature rather than a cultural/social attitude created by humans. So I am not sure it works for me in the context the artist wanted, even after reading the explanation.”

Lev said “An interesting thing, this crack. I don’t have a problem with people falling into it – in fact I am quite pleased that public artworks that are a touch hazardous are still allowed to exist.

But I agree with all the comments about the total crap talked about the meaning of the work. Aesthetically, it is in fact quite pleasing – I for one don’t need anything more. I certainly don’t need pseudo philosophical/socio-political explanations – in fact such things just make me think much less of the artist, and even less of the curator.

But one has to ask why artists and curators think such nonsensical verbage is required? Is it because so much of the art we see is empty – we look at it, and most of us respond at best with a kind of bemused shrug. We think there’s nothing much there in what we see and then we read the attached verbage in an attempt to understand why the assembled ugliness has been deemed worthy of a place in a gallery. The verbage just invites us to feel stupid for not seeing the embedded meanings, which are almost always invented after the fact. The artist almost certainly made this work because they liked the look of cracks and thought that making a really big one, indoors, would be pretty interesting to look at. That should be the end of the story, though the vacuousness inherent in that goes against a whole industry of curators, critics and institutions.

I think if a work of art is empty looking, by which I mean one that provokes neither real feeling nor real thought nor real appreciation, we should just leave it that way, without words. It might be bad art, but at least it’s honest. Let emptiness be it’s own ghastly message. There’s plenty of that about.”

My Conclusion: It’s often the comments where the intelligent things are being said! Unless it’s a spammer selling Viagra or offering you a good deal on a loan! (I delete them eventually though)

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Definitely some thought provoking comments. I always thought that the point of art was to communicate ideas in a way that is more profound, and often more effective, than words.

    To hand these explanations to the viewer denies them the opportunity for revelation.

  2. Interesting comments. I hadn’t left one because I actually saw the crack the day you posted, so was still pondering it. :) I actually really liked it, but I have a habit/personal policy of always looking at the art before reading anything about it. But I still do like to have that option. Sometimes I read the text and shrug, sometimes it’s quite wonderful to find my reaction somehow did relate to the artist’s intention. Either way my experience is immediate, not influenced by the writing until afterwards. I actually couldn’t find anything to read about the crack in the turbine hall? Where was it?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it’s very interesting- nice shot. Makes me curious as to how far it extends, and if someone could step and fall into it but that’s just my OCD or something, anyway, I like it and think its a creative shot.
    Mike Paget

  4. This is just my opinion, but I think art should symbolize more than paint or marble. Most art IS a representation of something more than itself. The artist doesn’t want you just to see paint, but he or she wants you to see what it represents: whether it is a simple subject matter, a pond, or complex, the division in society.

    If I just saw a crack in the ground, that is all I would see. If someone told me why it was there, then I would see it differently: for better or for worse. Whether you believe the artist delivered the idea effectively (or if the idea itself should even be delivered through art) is your opinion.

    Even some of the greatest artists, Kandinsky, Matisse, Warhol, have had to explain their artwork because people just don’t get it.

    So I don’t look down on Doris or his crack. Maybe his verbiage was a little self-absorbed, but that doesn’t take away from my interest in the crack or the underlying idea of it.

  5. I think Doris’s Crack is beautiful. It is as if the world has taken on something so large, so painful, so monumental (whether a social or political issue, or a tragedy) that it has broken due to the tension and stress and mourning that it feels. Now its voice is calling silently up from the ground in empathy and distress. It moves me. Excellent shot.

  6. Well I never said I didn’t like it :)

  7. It is kind of interesting that at the moment I have a painting on my blog and various posters have offered their interpretation of it.

    Michael said :”The artist doesn’t want you just to see paint, but he or she wants you to see what it represents”

    I thought about that. I know what it represents to me. I want people to explore my work, but I don’t feel the need to impose my interpretation of it. Each viewer brings their own interpretation to a work and each view is relevant even if it isn’t the same as what motivated the work in the first place.

    just my humble opinion though :)

  8. I think it’s quite an interesting work also. And I’m not against artists explaining their work as it can add to the whole experience.

    Tina, there’s a video interview or some text (from the Turbine Hall) about the work from the TATE website.

    Michael and Jafabrit, some artists want you to really notice the paint. A lot of my favorite paintings are more about paint than the subject.

    I like it both ways though. Art with a message (and no visible brush strokes) also interests me.

    If there was only one type of art or one way of looking at art, I probably wouldnt like art as it would be boring.

  9. I agree, sometimes I just want people to notice the textures, the colours, other times I want them to notice the content. It really depends. In the end though I don’t create art for others, I create it for me and have met my need to say something visually. I am not as interested in making others see what it represents. Even if others hear the backstory of one of my paintings and they have a completely different take on it, I feel what it represents to them is just as valid.

    it’s early, I haven’t had enough cups of tea, I am rambling. I am getting off the net. toodles for now.

  10. I just read an interesting chapter in this book
    La Chute dans le Bien
    from Etienne Barilier. The author is writing about the moralist tendency in today’s contemporary art. If you can read French, its a good little essay. (I also have a PDF version if you don’t want to buy the book and you want to be the accomplice of a copyright abuse)

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