Observation #2

September 9, 2014


ANT v ART is a collaborative writing/drawing project between London born arts writer Altair Roelants and Vancouver artist Angela Gooliaff.

ANT v ART subverts the language of contemporary art criticism by reappropriating its terms of address through a two-way writing and drawing exchange (v) between critic (ART) and artist (ANT). This is conducted via a correspondence played out in the postal system rather than using the much socially preferred speed of digital communication.

For entire manifesto please click here.

The below text is in response to Observation #1’s drawing.


Observation No#2: The exhibition opening


Have you seen my friend with a moustache and sunglasses?

A Narrated Observation of a Two-Hour Performance


Altair Roelants


ACT I         SCENE 1


An old warehouse converted into a contemporary gallery – white walls and grey floors, no windows only neon lights fitted into the ceiling. Around the walls hang framed pictures. At the rear is a trestle table – covered in a black tablecloth, wine and beer bottles, glasses, bowls of finger food – to the right of which is a single white door. To the left of the stage, one small desk with laptop behind which stands a bookshelf containing a variety of art books and magazines. To the right of the stage is the outside of the gallery. Groups of people mingle in the foreground, central stage and around the edges and rear.

(Entering the stage through the rear door, a young MUSTACHIOED ARTIST, sporting classic dark glasses and the latest universally ‘hip’ moustache – thick, unruly dark brown hair forced into large, curled up tips and balanced, a little too seriously, on a freckly baby face – chats idly to a friend as he places a rolled cigarette behind his ear and self-consciously scans the room)

Beyond the pair a familiar scenario unfolds – animated art world personalities congregate in corners sipping on tepid wine and condensated beer bottles that drip heavily on the gallery’s concrete floor (drip, drip, drip). They raise expectant eyes in between hurried gulps to see who is here and, importantly, who isn’t.

The gallery grows heady with the thick, sticky volume of excited opening night chatter – a tantalizing script of art world politics, gossip, networking and random alcohol fuelled banter. An event that is (quietly) understood to be far more about just this – the talking, the socializing, the performance of it all – rather than looking at the art.

(THE MUSTACHIOED ARTIST and his friend move across the space towards the bar as more people drift into view – the noise rises)

And tonight’s regular cast is a colourful smattering of the artistically engaged – the artists, the curators, the arts writers, the ‘creatives’ (and everything in between), the arts professionals, the gallery and museum staff, the interns and art students, the PhD candidates and lecturers, the critic, the suited buyers and the loyal (or the thirsty) from the gallery mailing list, the passing through collectors, the supportive entourage of family and friends, the fashionable, the fabulous, the mandatory public strays…


The entrance to the gallery is concealed by groups shrouded in smoky clouds and bartering sessions – lighters, papers, filters, tobacco, straights, lighters (again), no thanks – between the dedicated smokers, the social smokers, the drunk.

(The mustachioed artist appears to the right of the stage – retrieving the cigarette from behind his ear he joins a group outside)

Inside, bloggers dart about taking shots with iPhones while tapping widely into illuminated screens – informing an apparently captivated, yet mostly absent, online audience. Or those invitees who are “really sorry” but they just can’t make it out tonight…not after last night, and the night before that.

Meanwhile the artistically anonymous are left to drift in the background, to stare intently at artworks and crumpled room sheets clutched in sticky olive stained hands.

(THE MUSTACHIOED ARTIST rejoins his friend inside the gallery – standing near a critic and curator who are talking intently in front of an artwork. One stumbles into the back of him, spilling his beer down the front of his shirt – turning, they offer brief apologetic smiles).

This chaotic, yet almost synchronized, harmony is broken by the ring of a spoon on cheap glass and the tentative coughs of the gallery director, that sends a reflex of turning heads and stunted conversations in the direction of the opening speeches.

(The stage falls silent…Silence – how do I write that?)

Twenty minutes later with a collective inward sigh of relief (phewwwww) the babble starts up again as people hastily move towards the depleted bar grabbing a drink and a handful of nuts before finding someone within arms reach to enjoy the last few minutes of free booze with.

The lights are finally dimmed and the reluctant crowd heads out into the cold and away from the art opening stage – to the pub, restaurant or the safety of home.

(THE MUSTACHIOED ARTIST exits through the rear door – avoiding the critic and the thread of long complicated words, in long complicated sentences that trails behind them)



Copyright © 2014 Altair Roelants

Please visit Altair Roelants’ website.