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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Not to Write Your Press Release (Or, What Is a Meta Cerebral Modifier?)

Posted by on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Detail of a Romson Regarde Bustillo print at Shift.
  • Detail of a Romson Regarde Bustillo print at Shift.

If press releases were to be believed, we would all be seeing so much genre-bending, life-altering art that we would never have time to do laundry because we’d be too busy drifting around in a stunned haze of constant revelation and disquieted epiphany.

Occasionally, a press release will manage to reconcile its dual purposes—to simultaneously describe and hype—and tell you when and where to show up, what the work is, and why you should be excited about it.

But this is a very rare occurrence. More often than not, press releases leave the reader confused on all fronts. The bad press release generally falls into one of two categories:

1. Failure to convey factual information about the show. You learn that you’ll be shaken to the core by the artist’s earnestly ironic, aggressively deconstructionist kitten collages, but fail to learn where the gallery is, when the show opens, or how to get in touch with anyone who might be able to answer these questions for you.

2. Failure to convey what the work actually looks like. Artists are often quite terrible at describing their own work, and get completely caught up instead in discussing the inspiration behind their work. This usually comes with a slew of two-dollar words, most of which are used incorrectly.

But everyone enjoys a good trainwreck from time to time, and sometimes a press release is so spectacularly uninformative that it leaves you deeply curious about the reality of the show.

This was the case with the press release for Chasing Devices and Softening Tools, Romson Regarde Bustillo’s current show at Shift Collaborative Studio. The press release included an image of something that vaguely resembled the digging tool of an excavator accompanied by the text “Chasing devices allow us to pursue multiple states while softening tools allow us to exist in multiple states. The investigation and documentation of these and related tools; i.e. meta cerebral modifiers, multi dimensional viewers, and soul spacing is the focus of this exhibit.”

Yup. Try as I might to picture what “meta cerebral modifiers” might look like, the only thing I could come up with was a mental image of a manatee with a colander on its head.

So I decided to go see the show.

I went in with no expectations—I couldn’t have expectations, because I had no idea what I was about to go see—and was met by high-contrast prints of planed, geometric forms floating like partially deconstructed buildings against dark washes of amorphously unfurling skies. The titles of Bustillo’s pieces read like snapshots taken from the prolonged end of a disintegrating relationship, the abstracted landscapes of a terrain of confused and shifting intimacy: more than can be held, “Please don’t hit me,” and escape translator, for instance. There’s something highly personal to Bustillo’s work, and looking at his pieces leaves the viewer with a sense of abashed uncertainty, as though we’ve walked into the middle of something never meant to be made public.

So how did the press release ultimately compare with the show? I still have no idea what a meta cerebral modifier might be, but whatever it is, I think I like it.


Comments (2) RSS

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Aaaand you've just generally described any Charles Mudede entry on Slog.
Posted by DonServo on October 16, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this

Tessa Hulls: What color are you? How many zeros are in your bank account? What type of orifices do you have? If you blanched at anyone asking these questions you might understand why an artist might propose that we need terms beyond the ideas we think up to represent one another.

Anyone who knows how to break down prefixes could have taken a gander at the neologism that Romson Bustillo proposes for his work (or at least a 14-year who took Latin or anyone who has tried to navigate more than one language, like say an immigrant).

A meta cerebral modifier is word play, a new word for an old strategy of avoiding being typed and stereotyped. Know what's not new? Bustillo's practice. Marita Dingus is his mentor. He has been working in Seattle as an artist for over two decades.

The lack of respect you show for his practice, and the lack of curiosity about who he is as a visual artist frustrates me as your reader. The description you gave of the work is poor, only to be followed by the left-handed compliment you give at the end. Really? You might actually "like" the work after panning the show because you did not like the press release?

Your review peddles stereotypes that artists cannot write for themselves. You regurgitate a talk that Jen Graves did at Brown Paper Tickets. The best arts writing never takes a cheap shot. It looks for the unexamined. It suggest to folks that even the confounding can begin to be understood on its own terms. It's written by people who think for themselves instead of trying to get a dime in the "cool kids" jar.
Posted by fanonbrown on October 16, 2012 at 5:44 PM · Report this

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