The Error of My Ways
Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, $19.95 pb, 233 pp
Edward Colless is the ‘don’ of the art world – in fact, he is Juan, Quixote, and Giovanni all woven together. The Error of My Ways is his ‘mille e tre’ of theoretical affairs – essays and articles that have infected an otherwise sterile art scene with a flame of desire.
The catalogue essay is a sadly neglected craft. Every week, art galleries commission hundreds of short essays to accompany images in their exhibition catalogues. The quality of these essays range from testimonies by an artist’s mate, theoretical exegesis, and creative musing. Regardless of quality, their destiny appears as ephemeral as the shows they illuminate. That such a mass of writing should be consigned to oblivion is disheartening for those in the trade, which is reason to welcome the decision by Brisbane’s IMA to publish a collection of essays by the best catalogue essay writer in the country. The enigmatic style of Colless emerged in the early 1980s, along with art theory publications such as On the Beach and Paul Taylor’s Art and Text. While many of his colleagues have since moved to fresh pastures in Cultural Studies, Colless migrated to Hobart. Judging from the sample of forty-six essays included in The Error of My Ways, Hobart has insulated this writer from the cults of contemporaneity that flourish on the mainland.