I mean, there must be an enormous number of stupid sentences that have been written over the years since the human race invented writing. Needless to say, because of the sheer stupidity most of them would’ve been lost in time, torn up by the aggrieved reader and used to stuff the mouth of the writer.
However, I’m not going to go and search the libraries of time to try to figure out what was the stupidest sentence ever written because I already know what it is. This is it:
“Art Writing is in the situation of a fulcrum.”
This incredible statement is found in the publication called the Frieze blog, an online outcrop of the well-known Frieze magazine. It is not the only ridiculous sentence in this particular blog post, the rest can be perused for your delectation here:
But this is definitely the stupidest one. For example, what exactly is art writing? Is it text art? Is it writing about art? Is it art history? Is it art criticism? Is it art theory? Is it all of those combined? These so-called “11 statements around art writing” would not be useful to any of the above definitions.
“Art Writing is in the situation of a fulcrum.” What then, is a fulcrum? In the real world, a fulcrum is a kind of support or stub to which you attach a lever, which then pivots around the fulcrum. You can use the word in an art context: The artist Richard Serra named his giant sculpture outside Liverpool Street station ‘fulcrum’. It’s a large piece of metal welded together and stuck down in the middle of the City of London, like some kind of space junk. But as the title fulcrum implies, it is the geographical – if not the actual – pivot around which the lever of the City, with all its machinations of finance and intrigue, turns. And that is absolutely correct: Serra wasn’t joking. It is actually the place where all of this stuff happens.
So, a fulcrum can be a real thing, or it can be a metaphor. But nobody in their wildest dreams would see this indefinable and indigestible category ‘art writing’ as having anything central and fulcrum-like to do with art.
It’s just such an arrogant thing to say, that art pivots around art writers. I write about art; I write criticism from time to time, I write creative texts like prose poems and so on, and I’m writing a book about art. I don’t even begin to believe in my wildest, most arrogant dreams that my writing, which I don’t call ‘art writing’ at all, is a pivot around which anybody’s art practice could or would turn. If I thought it would, that would change or wholly destroy the things that I have to say about art.
But this covenant of art writers wants to claim “writing as art practice.” This is completely mystifying. Of course, writing is one of the arts; the Greeks knew that, and it’s never actually been in doubt. Of course not all writing, just as not all scrawling, is not necessarily art. But what is Dylan Thomas, if not art? The fact that we don’t use the conventional term ‘artist’ to describe a writer, does not mean that writers do not practice the arts. I would’ve thought that people employed by a big, important university like Goldsmiths College would know that.
Actually, I didn’t really mean to say anything so serious about this ridiculous statement. I picked it just because it seemed to me to be just one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read in my entire life. Of course, this is the kind of thing that no self-respecting publisher of the traditional type, who needs to sell copies in order to keep the wolf from the door, would ever have allowed to go into print. That’s why probably they wouldn’t have had as many stupid statements like this in the past because nobody really was prepared to publish them. I don’t know if these 11 statements are published anywhere except this online blog, but I for one will not be queuing up for a paper copy.
For more on this, see Alistair Gentry’s article, which brought the amazingly stupid sentence to my attention.