wonder if there is too much sampling and rephrasing in contemporary art — and not enough transfiguration.'I couldn't resist this quote from a lecture delivered in 2005 by artist and poet Gregory O'Brien at Te Papa. Called Where the Alphabet Ends, it was part of an exhibition at the museum: Small Town, Big World, and it focused on the work of writer Janet Frame who'd died the year before. Here is the whole passage from this stimulating and provocative speech:
There are a lot of damaged goods in Frame’s book [Living in the Maniatoto]. And language, like goods, can be harmed in transit—as Janet made clear on the back of a marvellously grim envelope which arrived in my letterbox some years back. (The envelope has been glued down then reopened then stuck back together with white tape; an urgent inscription in Frame’s hand is on the right: A BANDAGED LETTER!) Not too many artists these days are all that concerned with the restoration or cleaning up of battered realities. Often they set out to rephrase this brokenness, emptiness or vacuousness---which is well and good, as far as it goes. However, in proposing Janet Frame as an exemplar of the (post)modern artist, I am making the point that art and artists can go beyond that point. I wonder if there is too much sampling and rephrasing in contemporary art—and not enough transfiguration (but maybe that’s because I have spent too much of my adult life in the company of Erik Satie, Marc Chagall and Rainer Maria Rilke).'
Note: 'Janet Clutha' was one of the names used by Janet Frame.