Missing the point of the Array Collective

·1-min read

Declan McGonagle challenges Jonathan Jones’s view of the Turner prize-winning art collective

It was disappointing to read Jonathan Jones’s patronising pat on the head for the Array Collective after their Turner prize win (‘If only it actually served pints’: our critic on the pub that took the Turner prize, 1 December). Not the first time unconscious colonialism has been evident in metropolitan responses to things Northern Irish.

In effect, he was saying “good for you, but this is not good for art” – as if art is an antidote to life, when the real question is about what art can do in life. The Array Collective and their peers address this question. Their efforts to create a participatory art process should be judged against their intentions, and not simply as a reiteration of the signature art process so valued by the market and by some critics.

If a urinal can be exhibited as a provocation to a normalised aesthetic in the early 20th century, and Marcel Duchamp’s strategy can become celebrated and influential, then Array can also challenge normalised expectations in a museum setting in the early 21st century.

Jones doesn’t seem to get this inheritance, nor that the shared practice of Array is a social as well as an aesthetic proposition. He fails to recognise the turn that is taking place in the art process generally, towards a societal momentum and another aesthetic altogether. This constitutes a refusal to engage with the metrics that a longer reading of art history and of participatory art practice requires, and would sustain aesthetics as a sort of walled garden in which art’s exchange value is privileged over its use value.
Declan McGonagle
Redcastle, County Donegal, Ireland

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