Friday, June 16, 2006

Putting it on a pedestal

I enjoy hammering the Grauniad, although hammering perhaps isn't the term - prodding with a Pythonesque sense of the Grauniad's absurdity (perhaps using a shrubbery), maybe... Hammering suggests hysterical indignation.

But I feel I can engage with this article on Comment is Free about the unfortunate who submitted a screaming head on a plinth to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition... and found that they'd exhibited his plinth and not the head.

I agree that:

an artist's interpretation of his or her own work has only limited validity; it's outsiders who decide how it goes down...

And have never been of the school that believes:

good art necessarily requires heavy effort

Since the logical extreme of this proposition is that a painting that took 10 years is necessarily better than one that took 10 hours. Is a detailed, photoperfect oil painting of a frog with necessary time expenditure a better painting than 'The Scream' by Munch? No? Exactly. The Scream has huge, coarse brushstrokes and could have been completed in a matter of hours (I don't know if it was), but the power of the image isn't dependent on the detail. It's dependent on the idea.

And that's the problem with some modern art. It's definitely art but it's c**p art. It's all fundamentally deeply boring, banal, tedious and repetitive. It doesn't communicate in its chosen medium; it communicates in the A4 explanatory plaque next to the artwork. Does The Scream require a 3000 word exposition of what the art is trying to say? No? Surprise, surprise. And when you know what three basketballs in perspex or a non-working twice life-size fan heater are trying to tell you, it's usually something that wasn't worth saying anyway. Or maybe it was worth saying... once. 90% of modern artwork is trying to tell you that discrimination happens (no s**t, sherlock), people are 'alienated' [insert cod sub-GCSE-standard sociology buzz word of choice] or draws to your attention globalisation... or racism or Israel/Palestine or McDonalds [insert SWP no-to-war demo hobby horse of choice]. There are other political issues out there and why does art have to be deliberately political in the first place? It's deeply pretentious, utterly unoriginal and not very clever. And it tries to be profound and anti-establishment in all the conventional, time-honoured ways. Like trying to shock people. It takes work, effort and creativity to find something that people find shocking that they don't know they find shocking (yet). It requires an intelligent look at contemporary society. Or you could just figure paedophilia and Nazism is shocking... like any idiots... and be nominated for the Turner Prize.

Want to know more - Forceful and Moderate (well, ok, me... I think modern art brings LibertyCat out in a rash) likes this book which gives an uncritical look at modern art and explains what modern arts think they are doing. A definite highlight is where Matthew Collings explains how black painted canvases in 1913 were about the supremacy of pure feeling over objectivism, whereas by the 1960s black-painted canvases were about... erm, something else altogether. Or you could try this very expensive, heavy and academic book which I haven't read but might cause your head to explode. This is (apparently - again, not read) much more critical and contains a lot about the YBAs (Young British Artists, e.g. Hirst and his dead cows).

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