ARTY FARTY BOL**CKS...
Sorry about the inferred swear words.
But this a term that is widely used to describe something quite interesting.
‘AFB’ refers to some of the terminology and descriptive language often experienced in the art world. AFB’s are meaningless pretentious words that sound so impressive to the listener so that he/she feels that they are experiencing something way beyond their usual understanding.
Lets find an example…
Oh no, maybe not. I don’t want to be sued for defamation. But maybe you already know what I am talking about.
Instead, here are some random examples of descriptions of art and artists that are available on the Internet. I will let you decide which ones might be AFB and which ones are not. They have been tweaked to avoid direct identification. After all, this blog is about a style of writing, nothing more.
This first one is about an exhibition.
BM will explore art’s role in social satire, and how political uncertainty has influenced art of recent years. Using media such as collage, caricatures, photography and installation, the exhibition shows how satire can provide both light relief as well as unsettling commentary on the tumultuous, divisive climate of modern-day politics.
BM features some of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists making work about the world we live in, exposing anxieties our modern obsessions create. Artists featured include RB whose photography series of his parents pioneered “squalid realism” as he confronted the art world with the reality of poverty; Artist AM who parodies newspapers by crudely drawing them with childlike tools – bringing new meaning to “fake news”; and sculptor AP, who transforms rejected lumps of coal into a beautiful, desirable object of opulence, confronting class disparity and the commodification of luxury over function.
At a time of collective unease, BM emphasises the importance of art and satire in dissecting power structures, questioning societal norms, and visualising political unrest, providing light relief to life’s uncertainties.
This is about an arty £35 canvas bag for sale on an art website.
We are all damaged in diverse, stubborn and interesting ways: someone humiliated us a long time ago; we witnessed bitter rows between our parents; we had anxieties around self-worth fuelled by comparison with a high-achieving sibling; an early business venture ended in disaster; we have a tendency towards obsessive independence that makes it hard to live with others; we have a rebellious streak which seemed cute at sixteen but now gets in the way of amicably working with others...
This is emotional baggage badly carried. At SL, we believe in trying to learn ways to be more deft about the damage we are burdened with: how to fathom it, how to set it in context and how to warn others of its existence in good time (when we are still calm). This bag celebrates one of the most glamorous projects any of us can undertake: learning how to carry our emotional baggage well.
This is about an art book.
Many of these works ask us to think about the boundaries of art, our perception of it, its cultural specificity and its relationship to other disciplines. Running through the works is another, unconscious, quasi-Gesamtkunstwerk: the baggage of post-war German visual culture.
If the work of these 24 artists points to a new kind of Gesamtkunstwerk it is one in which high and low culture, the avant-garde and the historical, the everyday and everything in between can co-exist in a body of works which add up to much more than the sum of their parts.
In these shifting times the artist’s alter ego might well be the DJ—brushstrokes are replaced by "riffs" while "old school" palettes are discarded for "Teletubby purple" or "bubble gum pink".
This is the age of "the remix" where raw material is downloaded and "Photoshopped". Contemporary artists have irony at their disposal and switch to tie-dye aesthetics or psychedelia as fast as they can quote Malevich. This next wave is thrilling. Painted loops, reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, are revealed to be motorcycle skid marks—bringing new meaning to Abstract Expressionism. Even though traditions are "deconstructed" and paintings can echo "grunge", historical continuity remains.
It was really very easy to find these four descriptions of art products. One well known site, on the first page, and lots more available.
I understand what they are saying. It all makes some sense. But the tone of the descriptions is designed to impress with seriousness and importance. Perhaps some is tongue in cheek. Maybe none of this can be described as AFB. Maybe it is all justified and this is the only way that the artwork, bag, or books can be portrayed.
My point about AFB is that this style of art language can also be completely empty of actual meaning. And perhaps it’s to justify an increase in the asking price?
If you have ‘emotional baggage badly carried’, or experience ‘quasi-Gesamtkunstwerk’, maybe you are too busy ‘confronting class disparity and the commodification of luxury over function’, then I must remind you that ‘historical continuity remains’.
We do live in interesting times.