What the Art World Thinks of Weed

10/23/2012 5:16 PM |


The art world is full of sluttiness, partying, and all manner of benign no-good behavior. But talking about these things in press releases and catalog essays? That’s a no-go. Weed, in particular, gets bandied about as something ascetic or academic, but there’s no fun in that. We gathered a few press releases and essays dealing with drug culture just to showcase how silly the art world sounds when talking about weed.

Image: Glen Baldridge, “Poem”, 2010.

Most recently, there’s Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery’s press release about Glen Baldridge, which skirts around the topic of pot paraphernalia. The description about Baldridge’s work starts off fine, with a basic description of an image; a tie-dyed t-shirt on handmade paper hanging below the skylight of the gallery. In no short order, however, the writer starts to get poetic about the work:

The piece appears to have smashed through the skylight like a fallen youth who flew too close to the stars;
Close inspection reveals it to be a slip-cast porcelain waterpipe, a hardened symbol of an icon of an American counterculture.

Translation: this is an art bong, and it’s historically important.

Other press releases, like this one for Joachim Koester at Kunsthal Charlottenberg try to make weed into some sort of metaphor for a mind-bending experience:

A large number of the works in the exhibition reflect the artist’s interest in how the body might become such a vessel — whether through ritual, drugs, magic or other means — and might thereby help us to gain hidden knowledge or to understand alternative social possibilities.

When Whitney Kimball and I saw that Joachim Koester show in Copenhagen it looked like a pretty clinical assessment of weed. Koester showed straightforward photographs of pot plants, and we didn’t see any transformative powers, “hidden knowledge”, or “alternative social possibilities”. Sometimes it’s fine to call a rose a rose, or, you know, weed, weed.

Even when exhibitions deal explicitly with drugs, sometimes it gets forgotten in lieu of other, larger concepts. In “Rave On,” an essay Francesca Gavin wrote earlier this year about rave culture in the work of five artists, drugs were mildly alluded to as the “illegal aspect of raves” and the “desire for euphoria”. That’s fine, except that it gets rid of the nuts-and-bolts of what drugs do, and makes them sound as if people are putting more thought into this than they typically do.

We know the art world doesn’t hate weed or drugs, but would it hurt us to be a bit more straightforward about it? Journalist Carolina Miranda does a great job at giving straight talk about all types of things like hot dogs, weed, and art. Whatever she writes, she does it in a way that’s clear and to the point. Whether we’re writing about drugs or art, it’s a style of writing that’s a great model for us all.