From galleries to biennials, art schools to art centres, twee, sometimes garish, artisanal and sensually decorative forms are flourishing, not without some neo-rural accents. Unusable pottery in piles, fake fountains sometimes cruddy, sometimes rococo, knitted or ceramic corals, untreated or lacquered wood... the (neo)vernacular is in the air. Contemporary vernacular is met with a certain enthusiasm and allows us to grasp more than one characteristic of the art of the time, while covering a plural reality. Coming from linguistics, the term is used to distinguish vernacular languages from vehicular languages (the former are used within local communities, when the latter are used to communicate between communities).The adjective highlights the uniqueness of a practice compared to standard uses. Passing from linguistics to sociolinguistics, “vernacular” makes it possible to oppose regional accents to a supposedly neutral, standard but also hegemonic speech, often that of the capital.The term is particularly used in fields like architecture and photography, less marked by the institutional (“nomos” Pierre Bourdieu would say) than the visual arts. Vernacular architecture is architecture “without an architect”, to use the title of Bernard Rudofsky’s historic exhibition at MoMA in New York in 1964. It is local and is opposed to institutionalized architecture, that of power, palaces and temples. Vernacular photography is, according to Clément Chéroux, utilitarian, marked by domesticity and wi- thout artistic intention: it is the other of art (1). It is the recent rise of photography to the rank of legitimate art that has had the backlash for renewed academic and institutional interest in vernacular photography. But if architecture and photography can be vernacular, can contemporary art? One can hardly imagine it, as one can the other two previous practices, “without artists”.The vernacular, with its procession of non-standard, non-hegemonic and non-professionalization, could however be the new elsewhere in art, after primitivism, childhood, madness and, more recently, adolescent stupidity (2). d’Art Contemporain de Brest in 2014, and Sophie Kaplan, who is organizing until 2021 an ambitious cycle entitled “Vernacular and contemporary creation” at the Criée de Rennes. She offers works of immediate access such as the illustrations of Korean proverbs by Seulgi Lee, which, though they resemble from a distance the paintings of Ellsworth Kelly, are in reality covers. The title in English of the Brest exhibition, a formula originally describing Mike Kelley, reminds one that the interest of the French artistic community is the notion of vernacular is the result of a cultural transfer. The meaning of the term has changed, borrowing from the English to say something other than regionalism alone. Presenting practices like Jeremy Deller’s, Vernacular Alchemists explored the transmutation of vernacular practices, rather than their raw (and punk) appropriation by Californian artists in the 1980s. A POPULAR TERM The prominence of the term “vernacular” in the worlds of art is a first remarkable phenomenon. It is fashionable in art and design schools, as well pronounced before diploma panels as in the programmes of research units, where the importance of “local crafts and vernacular knowledge” is now defended. Reviews use and abuse it. Academics devote colloquia to it, in line with the work of François Brunet (3). Curators wonder about the different meanings and implications of this labile term, like Antoine Marchand with at the Passerelle Centre DETOUR VIA CALIFORNIA Originally a tool of counter-hegemony and counter-culture, the vernacular in the visual arts served to thwart pop standardization as well as the modernist aesthetic doxa (the purity and mystique of genius) or the avantgarde (permanent revolution, just as serious). It is from California, where cultural hierarchies are less entrenched than in New York, that a generation emerged on the international scene in the early 1990s by making the American suburban vernacular an artistic practice: Raymond Pettibon designed albums covers Ver- nacular Alchemists Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel. « Mammalian Fantasies ». Détail de l’installation. Musée d’art contemporain, Biennale de Lyon 2019. (Court. les artistes; CLEARING, New York / Bruxelles ; Loevenbruck, Paris ; Jan Kaps, Cologne ; Ph. Blaise Adilon)
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