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When I first saw the photograph I thought we were going to be launched into another long diatribe about plastic bags. Thankfully, it's just an artist taking umbrage at his coverage in the Stranger.

I have a pile of boxes in my garage, if I stick it in a gallery along with some social commentary can I call it art?

However, it is too bad that he was hassled by Seattle customs agents.

Posted by PopTart | April 4, 2008 11:10 AM


If the audience fails to grasp an artist's meaning, it's a failure of the artist, not the audience. And then writing a long apology only serves to highlight the failure. "What I MEANT to do was..."

Also, I'm deducting points for spelling art with a capital A outside of a freshman seminar on semiotics.

Posted by mattymatt | April 4, 2008 11:20 AM

I agree with mattymatt @2. Does every visitor to his exhibition get an email to explain their failings as an audience for his art?

Posted by spencer | April 4, 2008 11:31 AM

It's interesting that he spends the first part of this epic diatribe talking about how you're missing his specific intention behind his individual works, but then begins to back up his work with post-structuralist rhetoric about the individual experience of the viewer:

"The viewer, with his own history, neuroses, phobias, fantasies, is part of the score..."

Jen, I don't know what to think about art criticism but I find concord in your observation about the emptiness of the installation being reflective of the artist's own absence. I don't think it's fair for him to criticize you on that observation, saying things like:

"Art and artists have to travel to take part to the worldwide intellectual activity."

...while simultaneously acknowledging that it's impossible to fully understand his work without being familiar with local culture, i.e. the transgendered group in "La Piste d’Atterrissage" that he so didactically spells out for you.

Thanks for posting this e-mail in full.

Posted by C-skillet Oly | April 4, 2008 12:12 PM

"The dialogue is a part of the work, he writes."

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Artist, you are RUINING it for artist. If you cannot create pieces that stand up on their own, it is not always the viewers fault. Duchamp was one of the biggest dick-heads in arts recent history, and even HE didn't take that attitude... publicly.

At least he didn't scribble a witty caption on the bottom of it.

Posted by Dougsf | April 4, 2008 1:29 PM

I'm sympathetic to Mr.Attia's response, but not because I think Ms.Graves was insensitive to the work's more subtle and reflective qualities. There's a lot going on here, so I'll choose an area of specific interest. The fact that Mr. Attia responded to a review of his work underlines an
interesting problem for artists trying to convey meaning, especially concerning issues around absence/presence. There are significant choices to be made for sure, and it's not always clear that those artists who simplify or self-consciously direct don't reduce the interpretive space of the audience to a formal exercise or to polemic dodge-ball. It's also not always a bad thing. Bill Fontana's Objective Sound at Western Bridge here in Seattle last year seems to me to be a wonderful example of formal reduction with a dynamic range that left room for meaning to creep in, or be placed on top, or for none at all. SuttonBeresCuller also, in my opinion, address this issue in some of their work by allowing the audience to participate and therefore don't necessarily have to worry about sending the message--meaning is doing, and the thinkin' bout maybe comes later, outside the boundaries of the work. But it also appears that any artist working the conceptual terrain must be aware of the blatant limitations when attempting to communicate specific intent, (especially political) whether it's form, content/function or process--within a domain that often sees itself as the social space par excellence for plurality of interpretation and expression. Mr. Attia is obviously familiar with the French philosophical and critical-theory landscape of the last 60 years; clarifying one's position w/r/t ye olde "death of the author" conundrum is a good anti-anxiety for any artist reading abbreviated (and they most always are) reviews of his/her philosophically-laden work. Personally, I think every conceptual artist should have her own PR philosopher-scientist-storyteller.

Posted by wyndel hunt | April 4, 2008 2:06 PM

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