Previous: constantino brumidi (5)

Next: the sound of alternative journalism (45)

natural art criticism

Post #590 • July 27, 2005, 4:30 PM • 62 Comments

Asianophile geeks like myself might remember a scene from The Karate Kid in which Miyagi explains that sometimes, a tree, with no intervention by humans, naturally grows into bonsai; such natural bonsai trees are to be protected and treasured. I observe that sometimes, people with no expertise in art create a kind of super-art-criticism that surpasses normal art criticism with its irrefutability. This natural art criticism is also to be treasured.

From the Guardian: Artist pulls the plug on running tap; Installation meant to highlight waste faces being shut off as lack of rainfall threatens wildlife.

A water company has given notice to a work of art which has already shed enough water to sprinkle half the lawns in Surrey. ... "Well that's it, isn't it?" Mark McGowan said miserably after a formal notice from Thames Water that if he does not turn the tap off, it will cut off the water to the entire gallery. "One way or another, I reckon it will be gone by Thursday. ...

He turned on the cold water tap, running into a sink in the kitchen space of the small artist-run House gallery in Camberwell, south-east London, on June 28.

He intended to leave it running for a year - to highlight, he insists, the way people waste water.

Thames Water, already facing fierce criticism over the worst leakage from broken pipes of any water company in the country, was not amused. ...

The irony was that in the course of producing the work, McGowan has become messianic about water wastage: yesterday he spluttered with outrage about people washing their teeth or cleaning vegetables under a running tap. At the weekend he denounced a family member for running the washing machine daily for only a handful of clothes.

Yesterday a spokesman for Thames Water confirmed that it had started legal proceedings. "We tried everything possible to reach a compromise - we would have been happy to work with him on collecting and recycling the water. But there was a very strong groundswell of opinion among our customers that we should do something about this."

"My theory is it's the people who get most angry who go away and waste the most water," whined the artist, whose work had already poured 800,000 liters of water down the drain. UPADATE: Let me emphasize here that had the work run its one-year course, it would have dumped 9.6 million liters of water.

Also in the Guardian: Thirsty art lover suspected of drinking sculpture.

The sculpture, a plastic bottle of water full of melted ice from the Antarctic, was intended to be a telling comment on the dangers of global warming. But one light-fingered, and presumably thirsty, visitor to the exhibition may have missed the point.

Rather than musing on the hazards that will be created if the icecaps melt, the visitor is believed to have drunk the piece.

Police have been called in to investigate the mystery of the missing water bottle, which vanished from the Way With Words literary festival at Dartington Hall in south Devon.

They are not sure if the thief knew the water was part of a sculpture and drank it as a joke or if he mistook it for an ordinary bottle of water. Officers also admit it is possible that another member of staff thought the piece was just a discarded bottle and threw it away.

You see what I mean by irrefutable.

Via Artsjournal.

Comment

1.

George

July 27, 2005, 5:03 PM

guidelines for sucess

2.

Matty

July 27, 2005, 5:52 PM

I was hoping the recent water-art items in the press would make it onto this blog.
Regarding "natural criticism", and related to last page's discussion of select works in the AB Biennial, here's an anecdote:

I was at a private gala reception for the AB Biennial, and noted with a sense of poetic justice that all the mucky-mucks there, enjoying their wine and shmoozery, showed absolutely no hesitation in resting their emptied glasses, used napkins, etc, on the Clintberg "Love Empire" stage-like installation. It, to them, seemed an obvious trash receptacle... Now, I recognized that this was not merely a show of contempt, and had as much to do with people's general laziness and the handy table-height of the piece, which made it an easy spot to drop dirty glassware off at... but then I saw the Diviney piece (the one with the flame-detailed trashcans stacked on a palette-like base), and the base of this work was covered in empties as well. I mean, people had to stoop over and place their glasses on the maybe 6" high base (they might have just as easily put their glasses right on the floor, but they didn't).

3.

Jack

July 27, 2005, 7:13 PM

Franklin, this is much too pitiful to go after. In other words, all criticism of this sort of thing is superfluous; this stuff is beneath comment.

4.

oldpro

July 27, 2005, 7:42 PM

I know, Jack. Stupid artists doing something stupid to make a stupid protest against something stupid is just stupid. The word "artist" now means "a person who does something stupid and wants to be admired for it." I am really tired of hearing about it.

Well, not really. It is nice to see brutal reality break in and take over.

The cartoons George linked to are good and hit the target pretty much, but on my screen they are hard to read. I may download them & sharpen them up and use them for my writing class.

5.

Franklin

July 27, 2005, 7:53 PM

...this stuff is beneath comment.

That's what's so beautiful about Thames Water and the mysterious Thirsty Art Lover - there is no comment. And yet, there's nothing but comment. Brutal reality breaks in and takes over, as Oldpro put it - that's the comment. Ponder the loveliness.

Torok is also a beautiful realist painter, by the way, even as he does these delightful cartoons sending up the art world.

6.

Elizabeth

July 27, 2005, 8:02 PM

Matty; now thats funny !!

7.

Elizabeth

July 27, 2005, 8:30 PM

I've had those same cartoons up on my fridge for the past half year...it makes me laugh each time........not much in the art world to laugh about and so much to cry over!

8.

alesh

July 27, 2005, 10:16 PM

Ah, rubbish. Drawing attention to a social wrong by preforming an extreme example of that wrong seems like a promising tactic. As art, of course, this stinks. It's pretty one-dimensional. The least he could have done was to have had a brilliant comeback ready for the the water company when they demanded he shut it off. He didn't, and so he fails.

From a water-conservation perspective, the following is telling: "Thames Water, already facing fierce criticism over the worst leakage from broken pipes of any water company in the country"

What?!?!? Fix your fucking pipes, you assholes. THEN go after customers you think are using more then their fair share. Good GRIEF!

By the way, I'm sure you don[t mean to suggest that only Asianophiles remember the Karate Kid. That stupid movie is a kitch classic among anyone in our general age category.

Also, how is Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent for the Guardian, some sort of Naive persona about arts criticism? Am I missing the point of the whole post here??

9.

Franklin

July 27, 2005, 10:28 PM

Drawing attention to a social wrong by preforming an extreme example of that wrong seems like a promising tactic.

People only think this on Planet Art. In the real world, people draw attention to social wrongs by criticising them. I find myself at a loss to think of an instance in which a non-artist used the above tactic. Do you know of any?

10.

Joe

July 27, 2005, 10:41 PM

I am thinking that a better execution of this idea would have been to turn on an exterior water faucet, hook up an ordinary garden hose, and continually wash cars for an indefinite period of time.

Same point made, but with a city of clean cars. Although the idea of having extreme prune hands might have scared him away from such an execution.

11.

George

July 27, 2005, 10:42 PM

As Franklin noted, you can see some of Jim Torok's smallish self portraits here and here The drawings are really quite nice and funny to boot. In my opinion, pierogi 2000 is the cutting edge gallery in NYC at the moment.

12.

craigfrancis

July 27, 2005, 10:51 PM

holy shit, yeah Franklin. i believe in Toronto a few years ago there was this student at the Ontario College of Art and Design (or a recent graduate) who made a video in which he skinned a live cat to protest animal cruelty. The shit hit the fan when he showed it, of course, but i'm not sure what specific legal consequences he faced.

13.

oldpro

July 27, 2005, 11:03 PM

Tom Otterness, of lucrative public project fame, shot a dog and videotaped its death throes a generation ago. it was called "Shot Dog Piece"

There is no room in my art world for people like this.

14.

Elizabeth

July 27, 2005, 11:06 PM

these people ARE NOT ARTISTS..THEY ARE EVIL AND SHOULD NOT TRY TO COVER THEIR SADISTIC PERSONALITIES CLAIMING ITS ART!!
I HOPE THEY WERE ARRESTED AND PUNISHED SEVERELY.

15.

alesh (now with retrospective corrections)

July 27, 2005, 11:22 PM

franklin~ maybe you're right. in retrospect, the example i was relying on was the (highly mythical) one of the father who finds his young child smoking a cigarette, who makes the child smoke an entire pack in one afternoon. As a former smoker, i can easily see where this would turn one off smokes for a lifetime. But extremely anacdotal, so please correct me if i'm wrong.

The shot dog thing is way out there. But even this guy should have just accepted the offer of the water company (which was extended if i read the piece right) to SIMULATE the effect of wasting the water by running the faucet, then recovering the drain water and recycling it.

From a pure conceptual art stance, whatever clout you give up by "faking" something is regained by working with the very entity you are adressing. But who knows. Meaning, in these situations, is very important. But clearly if you are contributing to a wrong in a way that is statistically significant, then you yourself are unequivocally wrong.

16.

Jack

July 27, 2005, 11:31 PM

Gee, I can see it now: skinning a human being alive to protest man's inhumanity to man--done very artistically, of course. Honestly, people, if you're joking, it's not funny, and if you're not joking, well...

17.

George

July 27, 2005, 11:43 PM

Spoiled kids. Works which apparently attempt to address issues of social wrong should be also examined from a perspective which scrutinizes the artists intent.

Over the years a number of artists have made works addressing current social issues, one generic example would be anti-Vietnam War works from the 70's. Some other artists (Hans Haacke) created works which made examples of corporations.

No doubt artists may have passionate opinions about certain social issues and wish to address them in their works in order to effect change. Unfortunately the facts suggest that such expression is ineffective in producing change. . If one really wants to change society, live a clean life, don't smoke dope and then run for (some form of) political office.

Duh. Well, what would the other reasons for executing an inflammatory and controversial strategy? To garner public attention? Where is this line between just making an extreme social statement and just a publicity stunt? We have, artists jumping off buildings, turning on faucets, shooting themselves, skinning the cat, flushing the toilet and sodomizing the pres.

Who takes editorial responsibility here? I agree, we must protect free speech, the artists do have a right to express their opinions however hateful they may be. However, free speech is one thing and curatorial responsibility is something else. Artists are like spoiled kids. Egotistical, they want things their way. It is the role of the curator to consider how works enter the culture. Just because something was made by an artist doesn't automatically mean it is good art, or even art at all. Someone has to decide. Someone has to be perceptive enough to recognize, when they are being manipulated by the spoiled kid, and draw the line. No TV for a week.

18.

Matty

July 27, 2005, 11:46 PM

Uh oh... are the curators going to be the gatekeepers then? Seems like trading spoiled kids for spoiled rich kids.

19.

Elizabeth

July 27, 2005, 11:51 PM

trying to get 'Attention' in these ways is just sad....its like a firework ..loud bang and then pffffffft nothing.........

20.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

I remember the story craigfrancis is refering to... I read about it in the paper... from my recollection (which may certainly be faulty) the OCAD student filmed himself slaughtering, cooking, and eating not only a cat, but a chicken as well. I believe the point was to juxtapose societal acceptance of some animals as food, with societal taboo of using other, cuter, furrier animals for the same purpose. I'm don't think that the cat was still alive when he skinned it, but cf may know better than I.
Either way, as art, it's worthless.

21.

George

July 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

Matty,
Curatorial gatekeepers? You are kidding yourself if you do not recognize this is what they already are. A curator has the responsibility to organize an effective exhibition by making choices. By choosing some artists over others, selecting some works over others. It happens all the time. Can it be politically, financially, intellectually, or socially motivated, you bet, it happens all the time. Regardless, the curators, those who assemble the exhibition must take curatorial responsibility for their choices.

The flip side of this creates a place to push against for reaction.

22.

Elizabeth

July 28, 2005, 12:06 AM

I had mentally blocked successfully this OCA cat story...till tonight.....

23.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 12:10 AM

George,,
Thanks for the lesson on what a curator is. No, I'm not kidding myself, but thanks for your concern.
What I meant with my post was, are you saying that the (fucking obvious) situation of curators (ie. spoiled rich kids) being the gatekeepers is somehow better or different than leaving it in the hands of artists (ie. spoiled kids)?

(not that we have a choice.)

Someone has to decide. Someone has to be perceptive enough to recognize, when they are being manipulated by the spoiled kid, and draw the line.

You're right... but don't expect the curators to do the sorting out for you... this is where we, the art-public come in.

24.

George

July 28, 2005, 12:20 AM

We kill animals for food. Assuming Matty's recollections about the cat and the chicken are true, it is less offensive that I thought on first reading. While it does make a valid point about our choices for a food species that is about as far as it goes. A more up to date version of this would be the penchant for disgusting consumption's on the current batch of "reality TV" shows. PBS ran a piece awhile back about a woman (autistic as I recall) who "understood" the cattle in the chute to the slaughter house. Her work led to a redesign of the chutes so the cattle would not be so terrified before they died. In the end they do die, we do eat them but it was a little more humane than it was before. People can make a difference but they need to apply their passions in a proper manner

25.

George

July 28, 2005, 12:29 AM

Matty, I knew what you meant, as you know what I meant. If the curators are "spoiled rich kids" which get suckered in by the "spoiled brat artists" then you are right, the public can give them the boot. This is not what I would advocate. What I am suggesting is that the young curators take responsibility for their actions by thinking for themselves and exhibiting a degree of connoiseurship.

26.

Elizabeth

July 28, 2005, 12:31 AM

George; thats the entire premise of 'Kosher' that the animal must be killed instantly and without pain and thats been going on for almost 6 thousand years. This whole topic has nothing to do with art...let alone good art. As I said...if done its a lame attempt at momentary notoriety and shock value and yes TV has sadly discovered that ...reality TV'.
I'd like to add that Im vegetarian a very long time, so I have a clean conscience.

27.

George

July 28, 2005, 12:44 AM

I never said I thought it was art, but it could be. The PBS program I referred to was a documentary on how this woman changed the way animals were lead to slaughter, certainly it wasn't Kosher. It was a good change but the animals die just the same because we eat meat for protein.

As for "reality TV" it's the current cultural meme representing and expressing our post 911 fears.

28.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 12:46 AM

I'm with you there George. I don't know where all the wunderkind connoiseur/curators are going to spring up from though.

29.

Elizabeth

July 28, 2005, 12:53 AM

How about this; curators should be working artists?? We cant do worse...maybe even better.

30.

George

July 28, 2005, 12:55 AM

Just like artists, curators learn by experience. They don't spring up fully formed.

31.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 12:56 AM

And George, you're right, the 'moral' judgement of the act of killing and eating an animal depends on the circumstances of its butchery and consumption. That, to my mind, includes whether it was done for an 'honest' need of meat, or done for a rade in school, publicity, noteriety, fame, or even just the kind of stupidity required to hold to the notion (despite all evidence to the contrary) that your artwork, or any artwork, is going to Change The World.
Reality TV is more of the same.

Elizabeth, I'm sure you can think of a ton of artists who would be horrible curators... don't you think they'd also probably be the ones who want the job the most?

32.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 12:57 AM

I don't mean your artwork George, I mean the cat guy...

33.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 1:00 AM

The guy's warter-works were said to be about water consumption. The media agreed to spin it as being about water consumption, albeit ironically. And Thames Water, well, of course they want it to be about water consumption and were lucky to get let off with an offhand comment on faulty pipes.

As alesh said, "meaning, in these situations, is very important." The primary meaning (the over-riding "what is it most about?") of the piece was not at all to do with the water. As it played out, the actual issue became one of the individual (such as he is) vs. society (such as it is). That's a big bite, are you sure, guy, that you can chew all that? And digest it?

"From a pure conceptual art stance," the guy should have had the brains to know not only his concept, but most of the (at least the obvious) repercussions of the idea as well. "From a pure conceptual art stance," the guy had no freaking clue what might actually be communicated. "From a pure conceptual art stance," no one, not even super-guy can control the communication of an idea to an audience - there is no plumbing in the world that effectively transfers one's intended meaning to another person intact.

All that meaning wasted by one guy who's tap was left on too long.

34.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 1:02 AM

George,
with all the positive reinforcement curators are getting for the showing mainstream-international-magazine-art, I think they might be in danger of learning the wrong lessons.

35.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 1:04 AM

Edible art, drinkable art. Up your alley hey Matty.

36.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 1:04 AM

"Natural Art Criticism" could be one corrective to the lesson plan... although, I must admit, I've found junk stuck in some of my outdoor works... everyone's a critic.

37.

Elizabeth

July 28, 2005, 1:05 AM

Matty; ok yes..I'll rephrase, working good artists haha (see Franklin Im only doing 2 haha's..and its Matty's fault anyways as he always makes me laugh!)

38.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 1:06 AM

Ahoy Ahab,
Well, Matisse wanted his art to be a comfortable armchair for the tired business man:

"Would you like a refreshing, cold beverage, sir?"

39.

George

July 28, 2005, 1:08 AM

Artists as curators? The pierogi 2000 gallery I mentioned earlier is a...
"an artist run gallery in williamsburg, brooklyn, an area now vital to the larger art community because of its concentration of exciting artists, as well as its innovative gallery scene. pierogi has monthly solo shows featuring the work of emerging and mid-career artists in an eclectic range of media and style."

All in all it's an interesting place.

40.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 1:08 AM

Only if it makes my eyes roll back into my head with an euphoria of indescribable sensory experience. Thanks, I'll just have a Trad.

41.

George

July 28, 2005, 1:11 AM

The problem comes when "the eyes roll back into my head" and then they won't roll back. did that once in Sparta WI, never againt

42.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 1:15 AM

If you want indescribable euphoria, you might want to have a few.

George, thanks for posting that pierogi 2000 link... I'm gona go back to look a little more...

43.

oldpro

July 28, 2005, 1:19 AM

We are the gatekeepers. No one else. If we support garbage we will get garbage.

A while ago, when we were discussing the silly kid who was jumping off roofs (with a safety harness) to "explore" the 9/11 tragedy, it was reported by one paper that 28% of those surveyed thought what he was doing was "real cool". We have a culture that supports the "far out" on principle. That's what indirectly supports all the silly dreck that passes as art, and that's what, in turn, incites us to talk about it.

I'm with Jack on things like the water "art". It is just stupid, and undeserving of comment, except to take some measure of satisfaction that the damn thing was turned off.

44.

Elizabeth

July 28, 2005, 1:24 AM

The water guy couldnt recycle the water cause then it wouldnt have pissed off the water people and it wouldnt have made the papers..etc etc...

45.

George

July 28, 2005, 1:46 AM

We are the gatekeepers. No one else. If we support garbage we will get garbage. I don't think so. Your remark assumes there is no place for curatorial criticism outside the artist. That's nonsense. If you meant "we" as artists, curators, critics then yes. My earlier comments were a call for a heightened degree of curatorial decision making. In this respect I believe it is worth discussing, not to take some measure of satisfaction but to bring to the forefront what the artist community expects as a curatorial standard.

Perceptive is hip and Connoisseurship is cool

In this respect, I agree with the tone of OP comment but I would go farther and suggest that one demand high curatorial standards. In a number of respects this will support stylistic variations that some here view suspiciously. This is fine as long as the general standard is maintained. A reasonable ability to make aesthetic decisions.

46.

that guy

July 28, 2005, 2:41 AM

The art world is degrading into a third rate circus. A human zoo if you will. Violence.... is it the answer?

47.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 2:41 AM

The following remarks carry over somewhat from the previous post's discussion about visual artists as darkages monks of a kind. But I think the topic of curatorship is apropo.

The easiest path for the beseiged artist is to just find a hole to hide in. That person no longer takes part in contemporary art creation or experience. Franklin's blog has been called a hole in which it's contributors are hiding. But juxtaposed with the artistic vacuum I seem to be living and working in, this blog is wonderfully contemporary and relevant and useful. Anyone posting here is working to understand their particular role in art, shaping their understanding of self as active gatekeeper, not passive hermit.

I agree that I am my own gatekeeper, responsible to myself for myself. I think George is arguing that we are also responsible to one another, maybe even for one another. But I sense that oldpro means that by taking care of self, the rest will benefit.

This I agree with. I compromise my own experiential equity by dealing in these weak conceptual arts. Whatever is good, think on these things. Both concious and subconcious levels of interaction are at work in this statement and by not taking the good for granted - by acknowledging it, judging it, as such - I am the active gatekeeper. There is some integrity at stake.

Ah, but integrity is anathema right up there with quality for the pomo or the neopomo.

48.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 2:48 AM

thatguy, maybe we could select a champion to go out and fight for us. A david or a goliath?

Or maybe what we need is a diversion, so we can get on with good art. The champion could be our scapegoat - either david or goliath will do fine.

49.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 2:50 AM

No, there's no integrity in that. Unless we do it really well.

50.

Jack

July 28, 2005, 8:50 AM

Yes, Oldpro, we'd better be the gatekeepers, because the official ones, the ones who are supposed to know best, or better, are not even remotely infallible and certainly not to be taken at face value, ever. My message to absolutely anyone in the art world is simple: You prove yourself to me; you earn my trust and respect, or you don't get it--period.

Besides, anyone truly serious about art (by my definition) must function as his own art critic, make up his own mind regardless of any curator, and look and judge for himself. Anyone who can't or won't do those things is in the wrong game and would be better off elsewhere.

51.

oldpro

July 28, 2005, 9:51 AM

George, I meant the "we" to mean anyone interested in art, in the sense that Jack uses it above. There is an ethos permeating educated, liberal society - the people who take an interest in the arts - which puts an excess stress on acceptance and tolerance and sympathy for anything that poses as new and far-out. It is one of those pendulum swings; if you have this attitude you can count yourself as liberated from all the old, stuffy habits of heirarchical thinking which discriminated against fresh new art in the past. It also, in a larger sense, sets one against the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy of pro-war, anti-liberal religious zealots, the Enemy in the Red State Heartland. it is a comfortable, righteous and more than a little smug.

The problem is that, like all such attitudes, it is mindless, and assures that one assumes all kinds of automatic reactions to things. It has been the "subtext" of many discussions on this blog, within our own "circle of friends" as well as with those ferocious masochists who storm in and yell and scream and then get beat up and leave. That's why this blog, despite many accusations to the contrary, has such potential value, not because it speaks for "modernism" or against "postmodernism" - much as we indulge in that sort of thing - but because there is a real effort here, initiated and supported by Franklin, to inject real basic clear thinking into the ailing body of contemporary art. We are not perfect, and the cure is painful and causes lots of cursing ands gnashing of teeth, but, aside from sudden new talent clearing the atmosphere, it is the only way out of the miasmic swamp wherre we currently live.

52.

George

July 28, 2005, 10:55 AM

OP, re we ok

For the most part, human activity is incremental, a stepwise process. Radical departures are infrequent and revolutionary, so in our expected paradigm we can expect a stepwise process. A stepwise process can be nudged by a little outside force. By voicing our opinion we can nudge the general consensus.

We feel like voices in the wilderness, mainly because there is a "silent majority" out there that does not speak up.[ questions 135] Yes, the problem with the "silent majority" is they are silent. Is it possible, that since the advent of blogging, the silent majority has a voice? I other areas there is evidence this is the case so I would expect that over time it will be the same here.

Apparently, the fear of being seen as retarded (teen's sense) makes it difficult for many "to speak up" against the gunslinger posers among the new and far-out. Without necessarily coming to agreement, we can voice our opinions in a public venue. If these dialogues make sense, they will be heard. If they are heard, they posses the power to nudge the general consensus.

In response to ahab, I would say we are first responsible to ourselves, we pursue a personal vision of the truth (truth BTW is problematic in pomo critical thought) I also think we have a responsibility to speak out against injustice. This is more difficult to individually encapsulate, some of us will never be crusaders but I believe it is important to find a way to voice our opinion. Of course, the first line of attack is in the work itself and I expect this is what some would say is all that is required. On the other hand, I believe that this venue, this blog, possesses the capacity for expressing another point of view. In the end, it is this nudging back and forth, acceptance and discreditation that will affect the consensus.

53.

oldpro

July 28, 2005, 1:32 PM

George, I disagree that social changes are incremental, unless you mean incremental like earthquakes are incremental, that the pressures that cause quick drastic change are considered to be incrementally accumulating.

Yes, the internet and blogging are a great channel for that silent majority, I think they are a great beast waking up and due to come slouching toward Sodom. (overstatement is fun sometimes). That is why I am such a strong advocate of blog anopnymity; people are timid and afraid; they need cover to get started.

54.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 2:27 PM

The 'silent majority' is another form of natural art criticism...

The 'majority' in question includes not just artists and art-people that are fed up with the 'contemporary inernational art scene' (read: artblog faction), but also the vast multitudes of people who would be considered 'uninterested' in art, people who wouldn't even think of going to a gallery of their own volition (especially if it's Must See TV night).

The silence of the art crowd is something like this:

The so-called 'critics' panel discussion' for the AB Biennial was made up of the two curators of the show (unbiased, non?), the editor of the 'leading' Canadian art mag (leading by default, to be sure), and the head of a regional university art dept., moderated by the local art reporter (who is of course introduced as a 'friend of the gallery'). After an unsurprising little love-fest of a talk, which touched more on Bill Gate's yacht (and helicopter! Wow!) at the Venice Biennial (and other more 'important' art world events that could be dropped into the discussion) than the actual works on show, they opened the floor to questions... problem is, many in the audience had already left. The remaining audience was made up of artists who I'm sure were thinking of similar questions to the one I had in mind: "How the hell did any of you get to be in the positions you are, nevermind on this panel, when you are all so clearly full of shit?" But making public enemies with these 'institutional elites' seemed like a bad career move, so I chose to turn my back and leave as well.

The silence of the 'uninterested' types, the true overwhelming majority, consists simply in their lack of interest in the visual arts, lack of attendance at galleries and museums, and the general learned discounting of visual art practice. If I hadn't gone to art school (and studied under actual 'artists' worth the name), I'd be one of these folks too. These are people who's education in art consists of what they get from the news, which is mainly focused on works that are offensive to polite sensibility, works that relate to famous folks, and most importantly, works that seem really expensive (especially if TAX DOLLARS are involved... people with otherwise no interest in or knowledge about art still rage about the puchase of Newmann's "Voice of Fire" in terms of "The government spent WHAT? For three fucking stripes? Grrrr!")
And although it is the work of the 'institutional elites' that is mostly to blame for this majority tuning out, this is exactly the group that the 'elites' so lustily try to seduce, which results in the shift from showing high culture, to showing pop culture.

As Greenberg wrote so many years ago, when you try to bring high culture down to meet lowbrow taste, you may end up pleasing the lowbrows, but it's not high culture anymore. That, of course, presents no problem for the 'elites', who were never that keen on high culture to begin with, and who aspire to being stars in the 'entertainment industry' that is contemporary art.

55.

george

July 28, 2005, 3:34 PM

Op. Most social changes occur in smallish steps and at some point you realize you no longer are at "A" but at "B". The events of 911 could be seen as producing more abrupt changes than we would have normally expected but overall things happen slowly over time.

MAtty, by the silent majority I am only referring to the interested parties, the artists , viewing public and the support system. Those who don't care, or only care marginally are not really part of the equation. I don't think they are "tuning out", they just don't care.

Your assumption that speaking up seemed like a bad career move may or may not be correct depending on how you presented your point of view.

i

56.

oldpro

July 28, 2005, 4:11 PM

We'll discuss it on a bad news day sometime, George.

Matty's story is a case in point. here is someone who certainly does not have a problem expressing a strong opinion, but he made a (probably wise) decision not to heckle the jerks who got themselves up on stage.

It would be easy to say ,Matty, you chickenshit, why didn't you speak out? But that would be directing the criticism in the wrong direction. It is not Matty who is to blame, it is the whole system of hierachical human organization. He is not going to change it by becoming a nonsilent minority who gets kicked in the butt for speaking out.

The only way to combat it is by doing what we are doing, coming together on a blog, or by organizing a strong community of interest which can take a stand from strength. E pluribus unum. Unfortunately artists are not great at organizing and the parasitical people are. The shit is always in the majority until comes the revolution. Glorious art gets made and actually appreciated for a while. Then the downward spiral resumes.

It is a long, hard process.

57.

ahab

July 28, 2005, 4:24 PM

See, oldpro, that's what I meant when I mentioned your example of stick-to-it-ive-ness a while back. Encouraging.

58.

George

July 28, 2005, 5:01 PM

I don't fault mattys decision, it's probably what I would have done.
On the other hand, a tactfull nudge might not hurt every now and then


t

59.

oldpro

July 28, 2005, 5:27 PM

This is war, George. Tactful nudging don't hack it.

60.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 8:51 PM

MAtty, by the silent majority I am only referring to the interested parties, the artists , viewing public and the support system. Those who don't care, or only care marginally are not really part of the equation. I don't think they are "tuning out", they just don't care.

Yes George, I agree that they 'don't care'... but why don't they care?

I think art has something of value to offer them. I don't think they're against receiving it. They're just the innocent, ignorant victims living in a NeoDarkAges, culturally speaking.

Many of my closest friends have nothing to do with the arts, in any way. They'd never plan a trip somewhere like New York to look at art, or even go to the local art gallery for fun. But when they have to attend an opening of mine, they are genuinely interested (often not just with my work, but other pieces on display as well). I'm sure many of us here know people like this; people that WOULD be interested in art if the existing culture, as promoted through media, hadn't already turned them off from seeking out the experience.

I appreciate the reserved judgement on my chickenshittedness. In my continued defense, I had actually just stepped out for a coffee when the questions began, but couldn't convince myself it was worth going back in for a confrontation (on THEIR turf, no less). I might have done so if there had been even ONE member of the panel who dissented in any way from the official agreed-upon view that everything was just simply fabulously 'international', "better than Venice", etc. Trust me, it was not a 'let's have an open discussion' vibe that was being put out there. Plus, no matter how tactfully I was to put my comments (and I'm sure we can all guess at what a master of tact I am), whatever I said would have undoubtedly been seen as an insult by the two curators (as there was much in their motivations and decision-making that I would have criticized).

61.

Matty

July 28, 2005, 8:52 PM

So instead, I wrote my criticisms down, and emailed them straight to the Director of the gallery instead.

62.

oldpro

July 28, 2005, 9:17 PM

Choosing your battles is not chickenshit. Losing your battles can be, because it takes you out of the game.

As you said, it was theri turf. Get them on yours.

Offers

Other Projects

Legal

Design and content ©2003-2014 Franklin Einspruch except where otherwise noted