22 April 2005

a delayed response to an earlier comment and a synapse-stimulating link on the nature of Art and non-art.

this posting is in fact a shameless cut'n'paste of a long overdue response to JP's proffering of a Not Art link on an earlier posting. having finally paid the appropriate attentions to said article, i hereby respond in part with a snippit i first discovered in an article by Emily Vey Duke posted on www.goodreads.ca, which i found particulary astute in addressing the issue.

i direct you specifically about 6 paragraphs down in the article, and quote it here as well, for those of you disinclined to the non-sequitur click:

The problem is that students in art schools, especially at the undergraduate level, are taught the Duchampian paradigm 'it's art if you say it is, and saying it's art when it's not artful is itself a radical act.' They're taught to be suspicious of the beautiful and the interesting, and to follow their quirky whims regardless of the relevance they have to anyone else. They're also taught, without ever being explicitly told, that as soon as something is art, it's precious. As a result, art education creates artists who believe that they don't have to try very hard to make something of immeasurable value.

This is no service to the art world. In fact, I think it's why art is suffering such a crisis of irrelevance to the public at large. The work we're producing is just not good enough to catch the eye of the non-art-initiated viewer, let alone to hold her attention for long enough to make her care.

i'm not suggesting that this is THE definition of art. that would be like saying, there is a God, and this is what "he" looks like.
i am asserting, however, that this is an apt description of a problem endemic to much modern art practise.

i would like to temper my response, however, with a tip of the hat to our earlier IRL conversation about this, JP, when we were speaking about Dada, and it's evisceration of all that went before, and how successfully that brought forth a new perspective and a new era in art-making. and art making that i am also a great and loyal admirer of.

i think there is room in the art world (and i mean all arts here: poetry, theatre, music, etc...) for anyone who honestly wants to communicate with others. i think the ideas people wish to keep to themselves (by manifesting them in obscure and unwelcoming ways), should be kept to themselves.


JP said...

"Obscure and unwelcoming" is relative. A vast majority of people might find work by DNA, or bluemouth inc., or me, or you, to be Ob&uW.

steflenk said...

and i Absolutely agree with that.
there is no right or wrong, i'm stating my opinion. but i do think that people exhibiting Anything in a public realm must offer clues. if they are going to be abstract, if they offer a look through a peephole, they must make sure the door is not locked. whether one chooses to go in or not is up the particular individual watching.

Anonymous said...

If art is supposed to make one think and come away with a sensation, be it a positive or negative emotion/ feeling, consider how much thought you've put into hating the idea of putting a bunch of balloons in a room since seeing it happen.
you claim that a bunch of ballons in a room is not art, but now you can't help but describing how much it disturbs you that people can get away with something of this nature.
It seems that whoever did the balloon thing made something of an impact on you, which to me, is art in a nutshell

steflenk said...

i think that's only half right. i am using the balloon example as fodder for stating my own view on what constitutes art. it would be very untrue to say that i walk about town mulling furiously over the presence of balloons in a queen west gallery. i don't think anyone "got away with anything", because i actually know nothing about the exhibit.

and i actually really like balloons.

now i have put quite a bit of thought into disliking how much inscrutable art i see in queen west galleries. this i have. i find that alot of it is only meant for a small circle of people. now, maybe it's meant for everyone and i just don't get any of it and feel left out. that is distinctly possible (in fact i would say that this is probably the crux of my malice, since i consider myself an art-maker, an art-sympathizer, and someone who wants to share my work with other artists, and have them share theirs with me.)
so if that's the case, that i am the only one that doesn't get that stuff, then i will take a bow and quietly skip off into the distance to continue watching theatre and reading books, where i find material that accomodates an audience that includes me.

does it make sense that i'm not really on about balloons?

let's take a different example. bear with me for a second.
i hate ads. i hate 'em. i spend Alot of energy hating 'em, i admit that freely.

now. i think of the old apple computer ads ("think different" mantra, with all those sexy b/w photos of famous people, ghandi i think was one of 'em).

i remember those just as much as i do the balloons. (not clearly, but enough: some vague image in my head of a sexy b/w photo of ghandi with "think different" emblazoned on the billboard above his head.)

i really liked the photos.
i really like balloons.

i still hate ads. i think they are unwittingly screwing up our sense of existence, by idealizing products in dishonest ways.
i still dislike art that is meant to be conceptual but doesn't offer anyone an in on the concept. i think it's rude and a waste of the viewer's time.

now. moving right along...
have those ads influenced me? i don't know. i do own a mac. i can't say it's 'coz of the Ghandi ads, i can't say it's not. i can say that my dear mac has brought me no closer to Ghandi, nor have i been able to accurately discern what relationship actually exists between my dear laptop and mister Ghandi.

i think the association is ridiculous.
ghandi and macs/objects pinned to a wall and art.

of course, as i write this... perhaps i suddenly after all these years finally understand that the balloons must have been a metaphor for something.
do balloons (or other inanimate objects) encompass the same revered qualities that mister Ghandi does? are balloons strong enough to make me buy a computer?

my bad, for not asking the gallery curator. although can you imagine me walking in to a queen west gallery and saying "i'm sorry, i just don't understand what's going on here". i feel quite sure i would not have been well received. i welcome proof to the contrary.
i can safely say i have confronted many people in my life with "i don't understand" and have not met with many who are accommodating to my simple nature, or willing to go the distance to make it clear. perhaps i'm not worth the time. fair enough. this is a subjective opinion. but it does bring me back to abstract art as insulting to much of its audience.

i don't have any answers. i do feel the need to reiterate that i am not saying people should stop making this kind of art, i'm not saying it doesn't have value, i'm proposing that they start to make this value clearer to a wider audience in a language that more people can understand. i'm not talking about the art itself, i'm talking about how it is presented. THIS IS MY FUNDAMENTAL POINT.

it's an interesting conflict. i have close friends (JP) who do performance art. it is obscure, probably to most. i could see people finding it unappealing.
i Love it. this is the truth. but i know him. i already care about the subject, and have some sense (some sense) of its history)
so i've already been given a clue. i can't say i understand everything JP does conceptually, but i can say that i have enough to work with to come away with a satisfactory interpretation for myself as viewer, to walk away feeling like i have been given something valuable.