15 June, 2007

Art For Art's Sake

I don't suppose I'll ever understand Art. I mean, I get the representational painting stuff – especially all that soft porn that artists have always churned out for rich guys who like to con themselves it's somehow cultivated to ogle fat, naked broads, or cute little ballet dancers. And it's the same with sculpture – naked boys and women mostly – depending on the patron's taste. It's when it all gets abstract, when it's all about ideas, or moods, that it goes beyond my ken.

I remember when I first noticed that Art was getting weird. It was an exhibit in the UK's Tate Gallery – called something like '49 Bricks' – which was, quite literally, 49 bricks. There was also, some time later, a life-sized submarine made out of old car tyres. Later on still, 'artists' became more shocking and often quite disgusting. The work of Damien Hirst springs to mind – you know, the guy who sticks whole or parts of animals in formaldehyde and then puts them on show. Or they're just odd, like the recent sculpture 'My Sweet Lord', a life-size statue of Jesus done in chocolate by Cosimo Cavallaro. I can see how this would offend people (especially the artist's view that visitors to his exhibition might like to lick the naked statue) but I can't see what makes it Art.

There are people who cover cliffs in white plastic, others who sprinkle used condoms and other detritus on their own unmade bed and exhibit it around the world, and then there's artist Mark McGowan who just last week ate a corgi as a piece of 'performance art'.

Is it just me, or does this parade of freakishness simply signify that artists are desperate and unimaginative these days? Or could it be that The Art World has gradually come to be dominated by emotionally disturbed exhibitionists and, since the people who get to define what Art is are the people who produce it, Art has come to mean something altogether different from what it used to? Art seems so far removed now from what ordinary people can understand or enjoy, it seems very much to have gone the way that 'serious music' did in the 20th Century, which ended up in chaos and disarray. Serious music is pretty much dead now. It left its audience behind many years ago and sailed off, unlamented and largely ignored, into the sunset. Art is pretty obviously going the same way, with 'serious' artists talking among themselves and to themselves as the world turns away and leaves them to it.

Meaning the real artists of our age must be doing something else now – making films and TV shows, perhaps, designing software and electrical appliances, or taking photographs, building cars, designing new viruses. To find them, we probably just need to look to see where the audiences have gone.


Katherine said...

Funny you should say this. I was thinking only yesterday, on my walk home from uni, "I wonder whether I shall ever understand modern art?"

I considered setting it as a life goal, but refrained, on the basis that it may just be impossible.

(If you want to be really confused and furious, take a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art, which apparently cost $100million.)

Timothy Carter said...

I don't get much of this 'art' either. A guy ate a corgi, you say? Somehow I don't think you mean a toy car.

But speaking of corgi, the publishing house Corgi used to publish the books of Robert Rankin, who is very funny and one of my writing heroes. In his book Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls, he makes good fun of this 'art' trend - he has a character named Pigarse who points to household objects and says, "My father shoved it up his bottom for art." Then there is the exchange later in the book that goes, "Does anybody have a pen?" "Here, use this. My father used it for art."

Why can't we go back to the days when a guy gets paid a million bucks to paint three giant stripes ona wall?

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