God, I love lists. Every year publication after publication does it’s “best of” or “Top 10” to be sure everyone knows what important events occurred during the year. Over time I have become enamored with these lists and read them religiously. It isn’t that I think they are accurate or always indicative of what I think was “the best”, or believe that it is even possible to say unequivocally what was indeed great. It’s the ease in which things can be placed in categories to project a kind of authority of taste and discretion that always impresses me. Everyone has a list. If one looks hard enough, they can find virtually any film as a “best.” Who knew Ben Affleck’s and Jennifer Lopez’s notoriously disasterous Gigli was named “best film” in 2003, albeit by Joe Reckning of Cleveland’s movie madness minute.
ArtReview's yearly “Power100” is my favorite though, mostly because it makes such little sense. It is so clearly jaded by who has bought advertising space and who had “hot” years, though some choices don’t explain anything. Damien Hirst was vaulted to the number one spot this year, climbing a monstrous 78 spots from last year (Did he have that powerful of a year!??). The point being: Lists mean nothing when it comes to discerning what was the best or who truly posseses the most power. I have no doubt everyone on the “Power100” has “power” in the art world, however, I am reminded of Al Pacino’s line in The Godfather where he explains that “money is the root of all evil” is simply an ideology to keep poor people from competing for it. Keeping competition down is also what often drives “best of” lists. Whether it’s Artforum’s “best of” or ArtReview’s “Power100” the majority of younger artists yearn to be a part of these elitist lists, though see it as a near impossible climb. What is truly at stake is the desire for the lister to create more power for him/herself. Even Rob in Nick Hornby’s wonderful High Fidelity is keenly aware of how his lists are a projection of himself; a way to create a platform of importance for his fellow record store workers and himself, and not what is necessarily important to anyone else.
Yet, there are those who create lists with some integrity. Peter Travers at Rolling Stone, Randy Hopkins at Boston Phoenix and Jerry Saltz at the Village Voice are a few writers whose opinions and choices seem to have some resonance and are not compromised by ego and behind the scenes money exchanges. They are guided by what is simply their opinion, a nuanced well-informed opinion. So with some reluctance, I give you my humble Best of 2005 list.
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Miranda July’s quirky tale about a loosely knit group of people all striving for connections affected me far deeper than anything else this year. Whether it’s a young kid chatting online about going “back and forth” with his shit, or the lead protagonist becoming obsessed with a shoe salesman, each character evolves with more accessibility and depth than any character I’ve seen in recent film (Mike White as Buck in Chuck and Buck excluded).
Best Boston Exhibition (Group):
Getting Emotional at the ICA Boston
The star-studded cast of Art World favorites was not what made this exhibition fantastic. While criticized for being simply a vehicle for these art starts, Nicholas Baume’s curatorial work was much more nuanced. By utilizing familiar artists he found a way to present their work as adjacent to expected interpretations and part of a thematic that is either taken for granted or simply not discussed as an object of discourse in itself. Emotion can indeed be extracted from simply “being” emotive and “acting” emotional.
Best Boston Exhibition (Individual):
Brian Burkhardt @ Miller Block Gallery
Brian’s meticulous constructions of “plants” have the look of both Natural Science preservation and expensive designer breeds. I love that he made them with offices in mind, as if projecting them into this banal environment gives them a “natural” home.
Best Boston Gallery:
Green Street Gallery
From Joe Wardwell’s paintings to the recent Robin Mandel exhibition, James Hull consistently presents quality work that is both diverse and challenging.
Best Move by the MFA:
Breaking ground on a ridiculous design that will open more space for contemporary work.
Worst Move by the MFA:
Showing what was perhaps the most offensive, racist, ridiculous collection of the seemingly equally offensible William Koch.
All images are courtesy of the artists and ICA Boston, Miller Block Gallery, IFC Films and Final Four.