Thursday, 21 April 2011


Looking back at my last post and thinking about John Cage, although I really like 4'33", I think the best thing from him (that I'm aware of) is his quote: "I have nothing to say, and I'm saying it".

My friend T really dislikes artists who call their work 'Untitled', and I've just read on another friend's blog that she too, feels the same.

I totally disagree!! It took me ages to decide what to call the images I had in our recent exhibition; I tried to think of something deep, meaningful and 'arty', but I just really wanted not to call them anything. I know that for some artists "Untitled' is just a cop out, laziness on their part, but I felt that my images said everything I wanted to say: there's nothing here, there is nothing to see, there is only emptiness. I didn't want to give them an 'arty' strapline; they are what they are, nothing, nameless, 'untitled'!

Untitled I

Untitled II

Untitled III


Theresa said...

It still annoys me :) If for nothing else then it's for the impossibility of trying to look up someone's work when it's called Untitled. It happened to me just the other day when I found some work I liked in a magazine I couldn't take out of the library. Wanting the image to put in my sketchbook, I had the choice of a really bad photocopy from the library or finding it on the internet to blog about it. Needless to say, looking up artist + untitled was fruitless.

It doesn't have to be deep, meaningful or "arty" - it can be really simple. (Silence? Nothing? Even just the coordinates or the day they were taken, or the time. Like John Cage's 4'33".

Contrary to what one would expect, I think "Untitled" is actually very loaded because it's used so often. It offers a mixed message that's more noisy than your images deserve. I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree - as you say "get over it", and I will since it's not my work. I still don't think Untitled does them justice, but that's just my opinion.

Lesley Punton said...

I think I sit somewhere in between you both. I agree with T that the right title wouldn't kill the work, but it has to be right. I'd try not to get too caught up with the idea that titles have to be "arty" (I'd try not to use that word anyway) though I understand you have a bit of a worry about it sounding ...pretentious. But T is right, "Silence? Nothing? Even just the coordinates or the day they were taken, or the time". Probably not quite the right title you want, but still not obtrusive, and heading in the right direction..

Personally, I find the best titles I use are those that come easiest. When it gets difficult, I sometimes just try to think of something simple, descriptive even, rather than desperately trying to be "deep".

I have used untitled in the past, but usually because I can't think of anything, and not because the work itself says all it can. A lack perhaps. Doesn't really bother me when there is no title, but yes, it sure makes google searches hard!

One thing the search for a title does do, is force you to examine what you want the work to actually do (or not do, as the wrong title can take us down routes you'd rather we didn't travel along). For this reason, considering it deeply is useful. Even if you end up with "Untitled".

M-J Archibald said...

I understand your argument, and I agree with you (for the most part), but our mutual friend was less articulate! I like the idea of the co-ordinates - but someone close to me had already done that not too long ago ;) And I really like the JC's time as a title, but it just took me soo long to agonise over it, that I decided that they have no name, therefore are 'untitled'.

At the tutorial where this all came up, 'Nothing' was one of the suggestions that came up, but I thought that that sounded a bit pretentious!! Maybe it's me that's got to get over that!! :)

M-J Archibald said...

Lesley, your comment arrived just as I posted my reply to Theresa!

I think a lot of it has to do with me still having a bit of a hang up about being pretentious (hence, it's me that's got to get over it!) but I really didn't want to call the images anything. I was also very aware of how other people might feel about them being called 'Untitled' but it was a very conscious decision.

I think that's why I really like John Cage's quote "I have nothing to say, and I'm saying it" - that's kind of how I felt.

I also can never come up with titles! T is very good at it, but mine always just sound silly (I'm coming back to my own hang ups here!) and as for looking up images, I hadn't really thought about that, I always seem to stumble across what I was looking for!! (Which may also be why T finds much more inspiration than I do!)

Lesley Punton said...

try looking at the titles other artists use that you do like. See if there's anything connecting them in their approach. Why doesn't such and such's seem pretentious etc. Might give you an inroad. (and if you think it's not pretentious until you apply similar to your own practice, then yeah, it might just be something you need to move beyond).

Being Scottish is hard sometimes!

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