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The Great Whitney Biennial 2008 Re-Post

In preparation for, or perhaps in lieu of my own discussion of the show everyone loves to bash, here are selections from texts posted elsewhere: by Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker, by Holland Cotter in The New York Times, by Alexandra Peers and Carly Berwick in New York Magazine (we still await the voice of The Saltz), by David Cohen in The New York Sun, even selections from and Artnet.

They are randomly ordered and vehemently out of context. My original idea was to attribute each snippet, but it flows better without, and you can always look up the authors online.

Here then, for better or worse: The Great Whitney Biennial 2008 Re-Post. Feel free to add new items in Comments.

mildly unhappy and restlessly alert
an unglamorous, even prosaic affair
a new, gray mood among younger artists
a fraternal, anarchic gathering
uncharismatic surfaces, complicated back stories
a decline in producer confidence
work that seems to be in a transitional, questioning mode
things half-finished or things falling apart
a boho biennial ... a neo-hippy ethos
conventionally anti-conventional, like most of the world’s biennials
art as conversation rather than as statement, testing this, trying that
willfully half-baked
self-consciously scrappy, ephemeral, loose-at-the-edges art
two decades of academic postmodernizing have trailed off into embarrassed silence
Janson’s History of Conceptual Art meets Home Depot
heedless of traditional beauty
a key stage in the “dark night of the soul,” preceding redemption
formally cohesive but ... a bit grim
the prevailing mood ... is of casual idealism
the attraction of abjection
dissipatedness and ephemerality
tentative and half-done
confused feelings are a problem only if you insist on making them one
questions asked, not answered
embraces failure ... humorously and solipsistically
truth that is and is not true
a philosophy of “lessness”
a stranger who has forgotten his name and importunes you, on the off chance that you know it
a stony refusal to believe that we ever know what we see
a burbling, flimsy abundance of collaborative and participatory activities
wryly self-aware neo-hippie outlook
unabashed about the importance of social networks
leftovers from a really good party
a far cry from the expected debauchery
a tremendous sense of displacement and loss
the embrace of locality is part of the work
the suddenly exact middle of nowhere

other counties heard from

safe enough to ignore
nonconfrontational, blissy, very much about art practice
very thought-out, extremely self-conscious, carefully pieced-together
deeply transitional, studiously pious, blandly brainy, somewhat compromised
arrant egos, frustrated reputations, political intrigue, curatorial missteps and temporary fame
the reuse and transformation of discarded parts and found images
increasing interest in artisanal production
a very narrow slice of highly educated artistic activity
the mundane fancies itself novel
an unexpectedly promising start—with the stakes low, the rules open
little that’s overtly sexual, shocking, angry, colorful, traditionally beautiful or decorative
can’t stand up for falling down
quintessentially American get-up-and-go, evident in the do-it-yourself strain of contemporary art
a crowded, noisy, frantic experience, full of construction and deconstruction, collapsing structures and structures only half-built
very, very controlled ... orderly and methodical
the inchoate longings of a younger generation, unwilling to commit to meaning
assemblage-college aesthetic ... completely beholden to ideas taught in hip academies
sense of belatedness, of coming in the door as the party's petering out
few moments that stop you in your tracks, confuse, delight, set your nerves on end...
the blandest Biennial in memory and, in its own dithering way, the happiest
an effort to keep reality at least an arm's length away
doesn’t alchemically add up to more than the sum of its parts
a stuttering, halfway transcendence
prevalent trends of dystopic video art and sculptural installation
significant dead zones to traverse
the easy gratifications of spectacle have replaced the rigors of engagement
all about healing, and the best therapy appears to be art itself
an unmistakable art-school feel
rickety installations, the requisite array of dark rooms, droning voices, pseudo-zoological environments and more videos than any reasonable person should experience in a lifetime
may disappoint even some of its most loyal fans
seem to think that painting is incapable of addressing the issues of our time
material sensuality is suspect, and avoided
a thoughtful show that, while academic, is neither dogmatic ... nor sprawling ... nor sexist
nothing more than slightly irritating
a welcome change to be lowered into the trapdoors of perception
an unfinished air of expectation
the opening of a portal between a failed utopian past and the possibility that the more real present is already something to love