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Diagram illustrating “Emergency Room Hanoi/Vietnam” at the Vietnam Academy of Fine Arts, which runs October 28 to November 20, 2009.

Ah, the e-flux email list, ever full of surprises. One day it might elicit a cri de couer of indignation (“really?”), and the next day just a dramatic eye-roll. Sure it’s a very useful tool, but it’s also chock-full of self-important curatorial jargon, exaggerated claims, and overblown PR-ese. One has to try hard these days to catch the attention of the art world, especially when they’re receiving thrice-daily email blasts (and when you’re paying $1,200 to buy yourself into the privileged coterie of e-flux approved participants, you’d better get more than a glance).

Which brings us to Hyperallergic’s new semi-regular feature: Worst. Press. Release. Ever.

Sent out on November 1 and forwarded to me by a friend in Austin, Texas, who added his own unbiased editorial notation to the top: “Seriously. Shoot them all,” this e-flux blast, titled “Emergency Room Hanoi at Vietnam University of Fine Arts” is one of the most mind-boggling examples of misguided curatorial pomp I’ve ever seen. To wit:

Artists are thermometers that can measure and perceive dysfunctions in our society. Artists are experts of all perceptions. What they know or feel must reach the public opinion immediately:
Now
– before it is too late.

These pronouncements raise interesting questions: Are artists more sensitive than say, swimmers or sociologists? Are they really experts of all perceptions? Do they know what I’m thinking right now? Are the rest of us just stumbling along blindly to the dysfunctions of our society? And is this why I’m JUST SO HAPPY every day?

The social utility of art remains a murky realm, and that’s fine (we’ve seen what happens when it serves ideology). While plenty of arguments have been made for art’s ability to enhance, complicate, transgress, upend, beautify, or mystify life, it’s not usually called upon in moments of emergency — unless you agree with Paul Villinski’s “Emergency Response Studio” (2008) I guess. Yet, the press release continues:

Through Emergency Room, artists can react to reality every day. In Emergency Room the public can have access to the artist’s premonitions, suspicions, visions and collected evidences before it is too late. In Emergency Room artists evolve and develop new unexpected methods and forms.

Artists, burning to express themselves about the emergencies of today, join each other daily to display their work in the circular Emergency Room. Punctuality and deadlines are fundamental when yesterday’s artworks daily at 12.15 pm is removed from the Emergency Room to give space to the artworks of today. This ritual of changing the exhibition is called: ‘The Passage’. The artworks from yesterday and previous days are then exhibited in the ‘Delay Museum’ beside the Emergency Room.

Artists, are you burning to express yourselves about the emergencies of today, but only until 12:15 tomorrow? If so, you are in luck, because guess who’s coming?

The Queen, Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark will attend the Passage on November 3rd and engage in the following discussion with the artists.

Hyperallergic is accepting submissions for Worst.Press.Release.Ever. Please email them to worst.press.release.ever@hyperallergic.com.

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Lyra Kilston

Lyra Kilston is a writer and editor in Los Angeles interested in architecture, urban design, art, and art-world satires. She tweets at @lyra_k, and has written for Art in America, Artforum.com,...

22 replies on “Worst. Press. Release. Ever. Hanoi 9-1-1”

  1. You’re accepting submissions for this topic? I was expecting yourself being the target of a gazillion of those everyday 😉 … I’m still waiting for the press release that says: “We think this artist rocks, so get down here for the opening. And if you hate the show, at least you had a free beer.” – Which wouldn’t tell me anything about the art but at least it would be honest. And I’d probably go …

  2. You don’t have to accept additional submissions of “worst press releases” — you have the worst right there!! That’s it, no competition.

  3. In defense of Thierry, I will say that this is an excellent platform for the artists involved. He is French and lives in Denmark, so perhaps this was lost in translation. I worked with Thierry at the Venice Biennale 07 and at the PS1 show, and never did he exercise one ounce of portentousness. He deeply cares for what he is involved with.
    Here is someone we should be applauding for applying the arts to day-to-day life and creating room in mass media for the artist’s voice. The Emergency Room concept is one that takes on what mass media focuses on, and how artists should have the power to weigh in. It is an attempt to change the dialogue and encourage artist to become involved, react, and not to remain passive. I hope that the people who are ripping this press release are also taking the time to truly investigate what is being said, and the accomplishments of Emergency Room.

  4. I nominate PDFs as Worst Press Release ever. Just the fact they’re not pasted into the body of an email makes them WPR category, and also on websites as well.
    I can’t believe I have to click pdf to see a press release on a website, but they do it… they do it!

    PS– Brent, thanks for classing it up above. 🙂

  5. Thanks, but FWIW I’m not the first journo to complain about spammy, poorly considered press releases. I’m guessing that Gutenberg got some doozies and that he complained about it too.

  6. I remember seeing that come over the transom and thinking : An emergency room for art? My response was yes, surgery is needed. Artists are mostly agitators and abnormal barometers of the extremes of wealth/poverty, and the occasional winners of cultural admiration. A place at/on the operating table! But yes, quick, hurry e-flux will get us all there. MR / PARIS, FRANCE

  7. Wow. The royal we. Then “blogosphere.” And then “transom.”

    Kind of ironic to be complaining about others’ writing in light of all this, no?

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