I-spy round. Score a point for each exhibition you saw in 2015 that featured one of the following:
a) Dancers. Dancers whose perfect, Spandex-sheathed bodies are enough to make you weep. Wait, is that thing they’re lolling on supposed to be a sculpture? Never mind, keep on looking at the dancers. Wow, that one has to be double-jointed. Dancers. Sigh.
b) Ceramics made by fashionable young artists under the age of 30. Score an extra point if a well-meaning broadsheet critic reviewed the show with reference to Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010).
c) Box-fresh (or ideally 3D-printed) consumer durables, smeared with something sticky, spore-like and supposedly redolent of shed data – aerosol cheese, perhaps, or those squishy little balls of tapioca you get in bubble tea.
d) Large-scale abstract canvases that, but for a single, incredibly thin contemporary gimmick, would have met with the wholehearted approval of your high-school art teacher who was always banging on about ‘mark-making’.
e) Essayistic videos, combining any or all of the following: footage of workers assembling smartphones; a fragmented account of an eccentric 1960s-era scientific research project into time travel/human cloning/immortality; clips of cephalopods ripped from BBC Natural History Unit broadcasts; shots of the artist’s best mate vaping as the sun rises over a Bronze Age hill fort; dancers (again).
f) A group of protestors, righteously enraged by the host institution’s alleged union-busting, or its sponsor’s environmental record, or the paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Most art-world professionals spent the Venice preview week sipping Aperol spritz, making gags about ‘who’s representing ISIS this year’ and taking selfies beside oligarchs’ yachts. Prove yourself above the common herd by identifying which of the following were the titles of exhibitions staged in one of 56th Biennale’s national pavilions and which are albums by the Gallic laser-harpist and ambient music pioneer, Jean-Michel Jarre:
a) ‘Misplaced Ruins’
b) ‘Deserted Palace’
g) ‘Present Nearness’
h) ‘Magnetic Fields’
In 2015, all the cool kids were talking about:
a) Accelerationism (scream if you want to go faster).
b) #chthulucene (scream!)
c) Wu-Tang Clan’s US$5 million album-as-unique-artwork, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin (C.R.E.A.M.).
d) Banksy’s coruscating, perfectly judged satire on poor-quality seaside amusement parks, Dismaland (I scream for ice cream).
2015’s hottest ticket was:
a) Hunky former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis giving a keynote speech at the sixth Moscow Biennale.
b) Hunky Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) star Keanu Reeves lecturing on Paul Gauguin at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler.
c) A studio visit with emerging sculptor Miley Cyrus.
d) An invitation to be ‘digital artist in residence’ on an impoverished kunsthalle’s Twitter feed. (Note: roaming charges will not be reimbursed.)
Infantile anagram round! Rearrange the following phrases to spell the names of leading contemporary artists:
a) Tory mangles irony
b) I shrank a poo
c) Really semen
d) Joke shop tush
In 2016, your preferred social media platform will be:
a) Instagram, of course. Screw words, the art world’s all about images. Heart! Sparkly Heart! Kissy Face! Clappy Hands!
b) Facebook – at least until your mum sends a friend request to that terrifyingly snooty gallerist you know in Neukölln.
c) The beta version of an Oculus Rift-enabled virtual reality environment, maybe High Fidelity or Project Sansar.
d) The letters page of a venerable British art magazine, published in eye-catching black and white since the days of the Callaghan administration. Retro, yes, but where else could you engage with quite so many lecturers from provincial universities on the subject of practice-based PhDs?
Final round. In many Western nations, public funding for the arts is in precipitous decline. The best way for institutions to address this is:
a) Effective lobbying of government.
b) ‘Partnerships’ with repressive, petrodollar-rich regimes.
c) Um, setting up a Kickstarter or something?
d) Praying for a gentler, kinder world. Answers on a postcard, please.
First published in Issue 176