David Thompson
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May 24, 2014

Comments

Sam

I hereby apologize for any 'violently senseless' comments I made which hurt Devo's feelings and ruined his/her life forever. It was my undeveloped soul that made me do it.

Henry

Well I've always been something of a sensitive soul myself :) Apart from being a selfish b*st*rd, obviously.

Quite flowery, for an email. I like the bit about "How do you speak to the angry voices with pitchforks and torches".

The mind boggles. Do the voices have pitchforks? Or is the questioner asking how he/she is supposed to speak using them? I'm moved to suggest some other method of expression

David

I hereby apologize for any ‘violently senseless’ comments I made which hurt Devo’s feelings and ruined his/her life forever.

I think you should report to the correction booth to think about what you’ve done. I’ll bring extra nails to hammer in.

It’s odd how these things so often follow a pattern. The weeping above reminds me of this rather sniffy exchange with the artist Stef Elrick, who took great exception to being ribbed, even briefly, and whose own subsequent comments revealed more than she intended. By daring to question the aesthetic and intellectual heft of her work, we were apparently indulging in unconscionable wickedness. You see, Ms Elrick’s radical “exploration” was making us “uneasy” and we were “frightened of losing [our] co-ordinates.” No other explanation was permitted in her mind. Such was her modesty.

And Ms Elrick’s indignation called to mind any number of similar manoeuvres, whereby scepticism or dissatisfaction with an artist’s work is dismissed as being the fault of an “unnerved” and “uneducated” public. Because if the lowly heathen punter isn’t impressed, or objects to the taxpayer funding of transparent flummery, this can only be due to their being uptight, unsophisticated or terribly bourgeois. Because, obviously, artists and curators are never fraudulent, incompetent or comically unaware. That simply cannot happen.

Again, the self-flattery, the teetering conceit, is quite hard to miss.

aplofar

You know, it's somewhat reassuring to see, compressed so neatly into a few hundred words, a perfect sample of the question-begging rhetoric and towering paternalism that drove me from literary studies and the art world. If it weren't for eloquencies like the above, I might start to suspect that I'd merely let a few bad experiences get to me; that I'd given in to laziness or spite. But no, the experience all comes rushing back: how everyone who doesn't appreciate Real Art has an intractable case of the ol' false consciousness. How you should always question yourself, as long as the answer is known and vetted in advance by the appropriate intellectual authorities. How anything done under our banner of right-thinking and serious politics is justifiable, but all criticism of such, no matter how mild, is actually violent suppression.

I don't feel pity, or sympathy really, for the people who'd spent their careers and sometimes considerable intellectual talents enforcing these elitist notions inside the limited, specialist spheres of the art and academic worlds. That's their choice of how to spend their lives, and it's on them. Mostly, though, I feel bad on behalf of everybody I know who began with a passion for learning, for expressive invention, and were told by these gatekeepers: you're not wanted or needed in Art. And how so many took that to heart, and gave up.

Joan

When they're making me pay for this crap I feel entitled to make 'violently senseless' comments about it.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

"ignorant and violently senseless comments made out of selfishness and an inability to think beyond an immediate and primitive reaction..."

David, this makes you sound awesome.

==========
INT. DAVID THOMPSON BLOG - DAY.

Devo: "I made this art. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. Yes, it's a macaroni picture of my cat's vagina."

David tears off his SHIRT, his massive rippling green MUSCLES straining and flexing as he HULKS OUT. He stands eight feet tall, grimacing and panting in purple SHORTS.

David: "DAVID... SMASH!"
==========

How do you speak to the angry voices with pitchforks and torches?

"A riot is an ugly thing. Und, I think that it's just about time that we had vun!!"

http://youtu.be/XazOmi4yIbU

You are the witch hunters

We did do the nose. And the hat. But she is a witch!

Good art causes us to ask questions

Like "why did the artist decide to create an image of her cat's genitalia in the medium of pasta, and in what terrifying mirror universe is this good? Is it the one where Spock has a goatee?"

In art, as in life, you must ask yourself the most important question: why? And ask it honestly. Give yourself some time. And for most of you, a lot of time.

SPOILER ALERT: because public sector grants.

This all reminds me of a stuck up entitled rich girl I knew some years ago.

She was doing sculpting at art college and latched on to Steve because she liked a bit of working class rough.

Apparently her Daddy owned a successful shipping business in Thessaloniki and I didn't have two ha'pennies to rub together so I charmed her into buying me expensive drinks.

She flat-out told me that she wanted to "slum it" with "plebs" like me. So I decided to mess with her a bit and had her accompany me to the local Asda.

I told her to imagine she was skint, and she just chuckled and said "you're funny Steve" in that sexy Greek accent. And I said "yeah? Well pay for my beer and fags, woman."

Anyway, the sex was great and she didn't mind me living in a manky bedsit above a shop. In fact she thought poor was cool. I lost touch with her when I got tired of unemployment and signed up for what I was sure would be a life of windsurfing, abseiling, and relaxing on beaches with bikinied beauties in the Army.

I don't know if she's still trying to be a sculptor but last I heard she'd taken up with some poncy student band back in the 90's. I think by then she'd realised that she could never truly live like common people.

Atempdog

But our pitchforks and torches are just our way of causing the artist to ask "Have I taken the concept of shitting on the public too far?" The answer is always, "No, of course I haven't; your can never take that concept too far", but at least the question gets asked.

David

David, this makes you sound awesome.

No, I’m actually dead inside. I’ve been told this by my betters.


Incidentally, comments may be wobbly for a while, due to yet another big DDoS attack on Typepad.

Anna

the reason you hate this art is because you refuse to ask yourself any meaningful questions...

Self-awareness, it's not for everyone.

theophrastus

"...not everything in life is shallowly "beautiful" like a flower, the most beautiful things in life have meaning and are complex and challenge us sometimes with unpleasant experiences."

What's Devo got against flowers? Why is a complex natural organism like a flower 'shallowly "beautiful"' (note the scare quotes)? A passing acquaintance with plant biology shows that flower to be extraordinarily complex and so remarkably challenging; but Devo's aesthetic cannot appreciate that, because, I suspect, the beauty of a flower is something that is accessible to anyone who makes some effort, whereas Devo's 'art' requires his or her elite mediation.

Jonathan

Hmmm. So anyone with the temerity to doubt the efficacy of funneling millions of pounds of taxpayers confiscated cash to the state approved Arts Establishment is a 'Witch Hunter'? Oh well, you'd better start calling me Matthew Hopkins then.

WTP

The real tragedy here is a personal one. When I was a lad my father advised, "always tell the girls you're from Saskatchewan. No one knows where that is". I now fear that thanks to our Devo and the...artists from the original post, my jig is up.

Anna

The artist, Keeley Haftner, describes her work as “emerging through notions of tradition, satire, gender, archive, labour, and transience.”

Now she's an "artist whose practice is developing in the context of investigating value-based hierarchies."

https://twitter.com/KeeleyHaftner

Nikw211

Good art causes us to ask questions of ourselves …

Yes, I dare say it does.

Now what does that say about Haftner's Found compressions one and two?

Nikw211

It saddens all that I believe is truly good so deeply to see such ignorant and violently senseless comments made out of selfishness and an inability to think beyond an immediate and primitive reaction …

Let me just stop you there … if the reaction Haftner got was neither the one she expected or you (Devo) feels she deserves, then how do you feel the public should have in fact reacted?

A round of polite applause perhaps?

A momentary glance just long enough to take a photo on their phones as they go about their business, never to think about it ever again?

Or perhaps a post onto the work's accompanying blog along the lines of 'Wow, eh? I've never thought about what happens to trash after I've thrown it away – and now I do! In fact, I even now the names of all the dudes and dudesses that pick and compress my trash. Thank you, thank you Miss Haftner for remind me that rubbish doesn't just disappear like magic!'?

I mean seriously, what? How precisely do you think people should have reacted – bearing in mind of course that unlike in a gallery where people can choose to go or not to go, basically all of the audience for this particular work were unwilling participants (and sponsors)?

And if the aim was to provoke thought how can you complain when the provocation is successful?

Jacob

It saddens all that I believe is truly good so deeply to see such ignorant and violently senseless comments

As someone who likes (good) art it saddens me that vain untalented people keep getting away with this crap and don't ever seem to feel embarrassed.

B Moe

But how do you address a flood of ignorance, a torrent of hatred and insecurity? How do you speak to the angry voices with pitchforks and torches?

We mostly laugh and mock you, which is why you are so upset.

David

Self-awareness, it’s not for everyone.

Some people have little to gain from it. And a lot to lose.

Bearing in mind how many artists are described as “transgressive” and “challenging,” and actually tell us this themselves, I’d like to suggest a scenario that might have been quite daring, more so than the tat we’ve been laughing at over the years. When Ms Haftner was in the media spotlight, albeit in the form of near-unanimous derision, she could have done something genuinely surprising, even controversial. Instead of doubling down with obstinate self-flattery, she could have said,

“Actually, you’re right, you know. This block of compressed garbage isn’t very good and doesn’t deserve taxpayer funding - money other people had to earn. I’m not even sure why it deserves to be called art. In fact, now that I think about it, much of my work is even worse. Have you seen my video with the apple? God, what was I thinking? Why was I led to believe that this was worth anyone else’s time and money? Was I really that self-absorbed, that presumptuous? And why are so many of my peers wasting their time with equally laughable drek? Maybe there’s something horribly, comically wrong with the art education I paid for, and the institutional culture in which such mortifying toss is excused, even applauded.”

An artist saying that on camera during the evening news, that would have been transgressive, or somewhere pretty close.

D

Come on David, you know "transgression" is only supposed to be used on the ignorant plebs, not on the wise arts establishment. Otherwise you might have some kind of nightmare scenario, where some of the ideas and values the common folk hold might appear to have some reason behind them, or some of the artsy types might be shown to be full of it. Then your poor artist might have to think for themselves! With only 6 years of college education and various government grants to help them! How could they manage?

Stuck-Record

Poor dear.

I also came across a rather good quote which explains succinctly the perennially thorny issue of "Why do intellectuals hate the free-market so much?

Answer: "Because in the free market they'd get paid what they are worth."

pst314

"Self-awareness, it’s not for everyone."

And isn't it interesting that the least self-aware people are the ones going on about how "self-aware" and "conscious" they are? There are times when I wonder if fashionable leftism (well, all leftism) is merely an excuse for being psychologically deformed. And then at other times I don't wonder. I suppose one should feel sorry for people like Devo, but it's hard to feel sorry for those who are so aggressively stupid. It's a lot easier to feel sorry for the retarded guy bagging groceries at the supermarket; he's gamely doing the best he can, but I know how limited his chances in life are. It's harder to feel sorry for someone who wastes their intellect on garbage and tries to shame or bully everyone into applauding them.

pst314

The captcha code I had to enter for the last comment was the simplest I've ever seen, a mere two digits plainly shown. Has David dialed down the difficulty to encourage Devo to try commenting again? /I'm such a stinker, said Bugs Bunny

TDK

I thought Artist 101 taught that the authentic was valuable and the phoney not. She accuses you (or your commentators) of an "inability to think beyond an immediate and primitive reaction". However the visceral reaction cannot be the phoney one unless one subscribes to the idea that only elites can be authentic.

It's a curious accusation for someone who no doubt imagines themselves to be anti-establishment

present & correct

Spinoza did say it best...
"But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare"

One perceives little difficulty or rarity in po-mo dross.

Ten

If we distill that leading statement a little more we get:

It saddens all that I believe is truly good so deeply

Grammar aside, in the writer's further context 'all that I believe is truly good' eventually alludes to a familiar, unassailable but subjective and irrational belief.

In this case that y'all are moral defectives.

In its external, popular context, such believers may also subscribe to the rather monolithic religion of progressivism. Proggs are nothing if not puritanical posturers, and to be so they must have a creed.

And of course, they must feel it 'so deeply'. They are passionate. Converts.

To what they're converted usually concerns the Progg not enough, I think, because distilling it then would reveal the rational conflict at the core. And that irony is the central trait of progressivism: It's all motes and beams.

But felt motes and beams 'so deeply'. And, as shabby religions often do, this one prefers to inflict moral casualties among the unwashed.

Oh, and about religion - this sloppy, pharisaical kind - consider three paragraphs from the wiki

Religion is a collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology.

The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system; however, in the words of Émile Durkheim, religion differs from private belief in that it is “something eminently social”. A global 2012 poll reports that 59% of the world’s population is religious, 23% are not religious, and 13% are atheists.

Now, a nearly identical text substituting progressivism for each instance of religion:

Progressivism is a collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and a worldview that relate humanity to an ersatz spirituality and, frequently, to approved, collective moral values. Progressivism has narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred revised histories that are intended to give meaning to life and to explain the origin of life or the universe. It tends to derive morality, ethics, political laws and a preferred lifestyle from its ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to its own efforts and definitions, there is one predominant school of Progressivism in the world. It has infiltrated both of the two major political classes in the West.

Progressivism has organized behaviors, an academic ‘clergy’, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, sacred values, and political scriptures. The practice of Progressivism may also include social rituals, political sermons, commemoration or veneration of Jesus figures, social sacrifice, race or gender studies and accreditation, central education, retirement and medical programs, festivals, parades and demonstrations, initiations, matrimonial services, environmental meditation or prayer, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Progressivism may also contain mythology.

The word Progressivism is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system; however, in the view of many, Progressivism differs from private belief in that it is eminently socialistic, which is to say collective and statist. Polls report that roughly 20% of the nation’s population self-identifies as Progressive, 40% as moderate, and 40% as conservative.

Uncanny, isn’t it? It appears that just as religion is collective, Progressivism is religious.

There are plenty of ironies to the Progressive movement’s long slow march through institutions in order to assert that its own postmodern intellectual Nihilism is a legitimate article of faith. After all how reliable is a platform that absolutely insists that there are no absolutes, and that enforces that obvious blunder in an increasingly unavoidable, monolithic intellectual structure?

Chris N

I hereby join the army of zombie commenters with pitchforks, none of us thinking for ourselves, only out for le bon mot and a camaraderie to be found amongst heathens.

Heathens who mindlessly pile upon the sincere and earnest youth. Youth with courage afresh to use public monies to disrupt modern life. Yes, I too am a heathen who feasts upon the dreams of courageous performance artists bringing forth new creations into this world as yarn from a twat.

Perhaps one day, you shall find me alone, kneeling and sobbing within one of these twat-yarn extravaganzas, brought into a very public confrontation with my own privilege and stale cultural assumptions.

Indeed, I have been watering a barren soul with last season's showerhead, calcified with the minerals of old moral codes.

Make it new!

D

I think an issue many modern artists don't understand from the non-artist crowd is their expectation that the artist do something they couldn't do, e.g. draw something prettier with better detail than they would be able to draw. It seems modern artists find this a silly and stifling idea.

On our behalf, though, I write code. I expect that I can do this far better than your average person who doesn't do it for a living. On the other hand, I expect a writer to write better than I do, and I know my dad's farming skills are far superior to mine. He can do a hundred things that I wouldn't know how to start, from driving a tractor accurately across a field to buying and selling products at market-appropriate times.

It's really depressing to see someone get paid for "art" that I could do myself. You can argue that the thinking that goes into calling this particular thing "art" is what the artist really has to offer, but that seems pretty silly. I could call a refrigerator "code," but even if others accepted my assertion for some reason, it isn't code and it isn't going to do anything useful.

I got to see a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit once, and it was fascinating the way he studied and put detail into his art. It appeared to me that he approached art the way a craftsman would approach building a really excellent table or chair, measuring things, determining exactly what would be needed, and finally building the final product at a high level of quality. There were various drawings and measurements of horses for his famous uncompleted horse sculpture. You could see his efforts to effectively capture the movement of the horse, the angle its leg would be at in mid-run. I've written notes sort of like that mapping out how I would write a complex program.

I can see the expertise and knowledge at work in his notes, in a way I could never do for a modern art piece. For one of those, it would be a note written on a cocktail napkin that said "eat apple with oil on it - deep? nature vs oil interests?"

WTP

I got to see a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit once, and it was fascinating the way he studied and put detail into his art. It appeared to me that he approached art the way a craftsman would approach building a really excellent table or chair, measuring things, determining exactly what would be needed, and finally building the final product at a high level of quality. There were various drawings and measurements of horses for his famous uncompleted horse sculpture. You could see his efforts to effectively capture the movement of the horse, the angle its leg would be at in mid-run.

And 50 years ago another Italian put his sh*t into a couple hundred tuna cans. I saw it at the Gugenheim in NYC a dozen or so years ago. That's just the way life is. There's nothing to be done about it. That's what my shrink says anyways.

James

"Yes, well that's just the sort of blinkered, philistine, pig-ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage." - Architect Sketch

David

the reason you hate this art is because you refuse to ask yourself any meaningful questions...

Sorry, that still makes me laugh.

Despite the intellectual pretensions and the obligatory guff about challenging this and interrogating that, the artists we’ve mocked over the years seem to want something quite different from their audiences. They expect, and often get, an extraordinary credulity, a practiced witlessness. They expect to be given the benefit of any doubt regarding their abilities and motives, even in the face of transparently fatuous claims. In fact, their careers seem based on people not asking certain, rather obvious questions. And when those questions do get asked – say, by the suckers being fleeced – then our artistic betters can get quite peevish and indignant.

In a sphere of any real consequence – medicine, engineering - this kind of relationship would be unwise, even disastrous. In terms of art, it tends to lead to tedium, disappointment and a kind of aesthetic squalor.

Dr Cromarty

Laughter and mockery are our only weapons against the thin-skinned, rent-seeking, pretentious pickpockets. It's clearly very effective. Let's keep laughing at them.

Nikw211

Sorry, that still makes me laugh.

And me too and it should.

The thing that strikes me about this type of contemporary artist is that nobody – including quite often the artists themselves – has any actual clue what they are there for or why anyone would need them to do what they do.

The kind of contemporary artist that I have in mind (of which I think I can safely say Ms Haftner is one) are those that have managed to professionalise amateurishness.

Performance art is the prime example of this – the average performance art is typically too unstructured to be considered a play; it sometimes (often?) involves risks to physical health but despite this no stunt coordinators or medical professionals are consulted before it goes ahead – as any actual theatre would do; there is often poor lighting, poor acoustics; the space is inappropriate to their needs, etc. etc.

And what's true of performance art is also true for other media, with this type of artist writing poetry poets would find deplorable, making films of a quality film-makers would find unacceptable, video documentaries that even local TV networks would turn down and so on; and quite often they can't even paint or draw with any noticeable degree of skill. Rarely do they demonstrate the visual flair or compositional genius of comic book artists such as Brian Bolland, Kevin O'Neill or Frank Quitely for example.

And this type of contemporary artist also writes reams of text to go with their work that looks like it might be philosophy and smells a bit like it might be sociology – but it isn’t and the people writing this garbage don't have an MA or a Phd in those subjects, have never been published in an academic journals in those areas and don't lecture students – but despite this they write utter drivel such as this, below, with a completely unjustifiable sense of authority and confidence:

    The human stories … are displaced by the animated histories of the butt stocks, overturning our central position in the work’s narration. Bryans decenters the human players … Bryans' previous works [have] refigured the body to the point of near collapse …

So nothing they do is professional. Even when they are paid as 'artists in residence' in schools and prisons they are still neither teachers nor therapists nor prison wardens - all of those roles are already filled by others.

The only thing they are professional in is being an amateur.

In the 60's and 70's when a great deal of this stuff started to come out of the art schools, the artists back then had at least generally mastered the formal skills of the artist they then went on to reject – whether that rejection was a good idea or not is another matter but at least there was actually something recognizable to which they were the new alternative.

But this generation of this type of artist isn't rejecting anything – they've cut out the part where they have to master anything first and gone straight to the end result – the drek.

So where does that leave this type of contemporary artist? What are they for?

Nikw211

Let's keep laughing at them.

Annoyingly I can't recall where I read this or who wrote it, but some years ago I came across an article that was basically saying that this type of work was deliberately intended to be a way of undermining the Proletariat's respect for the Bourgeoisie. Seriously.

The plan is supposedly simple – elites tend to buy and/or sponsor public art so by producing total and utter drek and having it accepted by Arts Councils and National Academies and the like is supposedly a way of exposing the upper echelons of society as morally and intellectually disabled clowns. And this, it is argued, is supposed to be the first signal to the oppressed Proletariat to rise up, take over society and burn unrepentant Capitalists in their homes.

Yeah, right. But I do like the idea that this generation of that type of contemporary artist thinks that the drek they produce is of some artistic value whereas if this theory is correct, they are in fact unwittingly carrying out some revolutionary strategy which wholly depends on them creating nothing but total drek.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Nikw211 - saw in the news the other day there was a fire at the Glasgow School of Art.

It made me sad, because it's an iconic building, designed by the legendary Charles Rennie Mackintosh to look like a sort of art deco fortress.

Despite being an angry, pitchfork-fondling pleb I take some interest in the arts, even if for me the greatest painting of all time is still Dogs Playing Poker.

I'm sorry the staff and students there had to see their school damaged by fire, but it got me thinking about the sort of art created by that institution over the past few decades.

According to the GSA, their famous alumni include the following:

Martin Boyce - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/turner-prize/8936791/Turner-Prize-winner-Martin-Boyces-sculptures-in-pictures.html?image=0

Claire Barclay - http://www.culture24.org.uk/places-to-go/museums-at-night/art372029

Christine Borland - http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/borland-phantom-twins-t07559

Roderick Buchanan - http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/roderick-buchanan-2738

Douglas Gordon - http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2010/may/17/douglas-gordon-artist

Peter Howson - http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/peter-howson

They're not all dedicated to making the world an uglier place while spouting pretentious postmodern word-slurry to sell it. Some of them are quite good:

http://lesleybanks.com/picture_gallery/FigurativeGallery.htm

Their most famous alumni of all are people whose celebrity is unrelated to their art degrees - Peter Capaldi, Robbie Coltrane, and members of the band Travis.

Overall, the output of their artists from the late 20th century has been consistently offensive to the eyes. So what's the point of having a Glasgow School of Art, or any school of art, when we could achieve similar results by arming some homeless men with crafting supplies, a dictionary, and a bottle of Thunderbird?

And therefore, might the fire itself be a sort of spontaneous art criticism, a literal bonfire of the PoMo vanities?

D

The thing that strikes me about this type of contemporary artist is that nobody – including quite often the artists themselves – has any actual clue what they are there for or why anyone would need them to do what they do.

Right, something that strikes me about this sort of thing is the idea that you need someone to tell you whether it's even art at all. You don't need an expert to tell you my program is a program; it is digestible by a compiler, therefore it is code. Whether it's good or bad code is typically determined by whether it achieves its goal or not.

Many of these modern artist types offer essentially nothing but pretense. They call something art, therefore it must be accepted as art. This works alright in the fashion world (this is fashionable because someone important says it is) because fashion is known to be ephemeral and essentially meaningless. Art ought to be immediately recognizable as art.

You wouldn't need an expert to tell you a novel is art, nor a song (typically). A chair is recognizably a chair, if made correctly. So to some extent all they're offering to do is call things art, rather than make something recognizable as such. And that's a service that anyone could do. I can call this month's bills art, or my computer mouse, or a bottle of aspirin. There's no skill or meaning in it. Half the time they don't even know what they want it to represent, they just want it to get some kind of reaction and then they'll say that's what it was about.

I don't write code to get some kind of reaction, I have an intended goal in mind and I either succeed or fail in reaching it. Leonardo had a goal, to capture a horse's motion in an artistic way, and he could succeed or fail in this goal. The modern artist seems to have no meaningful goal and claims success regardless of what happens.

Can performance art fail? Have any of those artists ever observed performance art that they thought was bad, or failed in its goals? It would be interesting to hear.

rabbit

I admire someone who puts a knife slash into a bare canvas and sells it for tens of thousands of dollars. It takes chutzpah far beyond my own. I also admire the visitor to the Tate Modern who emits a loud and smelly fart in front of the piece by way of criticism.

The ones I laugh at are those who moon and fawn over the piece, thinking this proves a superior level of enlightenment over the rest of us knuckle draggers. Not only do they not get the joke, but they become an integral part of the joke.

David

claims success regardless of what happens

It’s a common manoeuvre, practically a default. See, for instance, Ms Casey Jenkins, who tells us, repeatedly, just how “brave” and “downright seditious” she is, and whose stated intent varied wildly from day to day, and whose claim of artistic success is based on the fact almost everyone who saw her work found it risible. You see, by doing something that she imagines other people – sorry, “society” - will not find attractive, this is somehow a great achievement. Our not being impressed is, she argues, what makes it so impressive.

Apparently, whatever the public’s reaction, it can, and will, be construed as an affirmation. If people ignore you, it’s because they’re scared or disturbed by your daring and radicalism. If people mock your pretension and lack of discernible talent, they’re scared or disturbed by your daring and radicalism. However people respond, and even if they don’t, this is all because of how scary your work is and by extension how daring and radical you are. It is, if nothing else, a bold approach.

And likewise we have art students who tell us they have no idea what a piece of performance art is about, what it’s supposed purpose is, or what the artist may have intended, but they somehow know it’s “a work of ephemeral beauty” and is “complex, sophisticated… has layers of meaning.” It’s just that those alleged “layers of meaning” can’t be pinned down or explicated by the person saying it’s awesome. Apparently we have to take that on trust. To question the default assumption – of immense intellectual depth – is to risk gasps of indignation. And hilariously self-flattering emails.

Diane

Based on David's blog it's my understanding that art schools are a bit like care homes.

AlexCull

There was an episode in the runup to the Cultural Olympiad of 2012. Artist Olafur Eliasson wanted £1 million from the Olympic Lottery Distributor for a website called "Take A Deep Breath". Participants would be invited to take a deep breath and then post a message (or "breath bubble") saying who they did it for and why. The website could also have featured an amazing video of people inhaling and exhaling.

Eliasson is quoted as saying: "The Olympics reflect the state of the world – the obsession with elite, the obsession with winners, rather than participatory ideas. I was asked by the Olympics to make a work of art that celebrates the Olympics. There’s not a lot to celebrate in the Olympics and I thought I would make a work of art that exposes some of the weaknesses of the Olympics."

Well worth a million quid, I'm sure you'd agree? Video of people breathing and comments about whatever was in their head at the time. But no, alas the OLD turned the project down. According to board meeting minutes, it "struggled to justify the £1 million sought in relation to the outputs - it seemed very expensive".

Philistines!

Jeff Wood

Off-topic - though not for the Blog - Tim W has found the latest exciting development in socio-political analysis:

http://www.timworstall.com/2014/05/26/and-now-for-the-neopatriarchy/

Nikw211

Steve 2 (:Steveageddon),

I think everyone, even the putative 'knuckle-draggers', can agree that the loss of that library is a genuine shame. It's a shame in itself of course, but I'm already thinking ahead to the future possibility of some ghastly conceptual s***e that they'll use to pave over the charred ruins.

So what's the point of having a Glasgow School of Art, or any school of art, when we could achieve similar results by arming some homeless men with crafting supplies, a dictionary, and a bottle of Thunderbird?

Heh … The funny thing about so-called conceptual art is that it turns there is a surprisingly finite range of concepts available to the budding artist – there's a more than even chance that somebody like, say, Gillian Wearing has already got homeless men stumbling around drinking and fighting and knocking paint onto a canvas on video somewhere.

I don't think there's anything in the conceptual camp that hasn't already been done, often multiple times, over the last four or five decades. Unlike painting though, it does actually make a difference as to whether someone else has done the same pointless drek before.

Some people also say that the work of someone like Lesley Banks has also all been done before and it's true that you can see echoes of Hockney, Magritte, Frampton and others in the paintings on her website, but those people would be wrong because those particular paintings are unique even if the genre and style aren't. You can't really say the same about two bales of compressed trash or human shit packed into tin cans etc. (the objects may be real and unique, but they are not the work – the concept is).

Anyway, it's rather telling that on the list of aims given for the BA (Hons) in Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, you have to wait until the third bullet point before there's any mention of formal and practical skills, the first two points being:

    Enable students to develop their intellectual, creative and imaginative abilities and attributes
    Develop students critical understanding of the philosophical, historical, social and economic contexts of art and culture

There's also a heavy emphasis throughout on what they call Critical Inquiry. When Oscar Wilde said this:

    The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
    All art is quite useless.

I'm pretty sure he could never imagined just how intensely useless much of art was going to become in the years that came after.

D,

Can performance art fail?

Ha ha ha ha – that is seriously brilliant question! Genius! I must make a point of asking that whenever next I have an opportunity to meet a performance artist.

Alex Cull,

Eliasson is quoted as saying: "The Olympics reflect the state of the world – the obsession with elite, the obsession with winners, rather than participatory ideas …"

Oh what a flaming twat.

I mean really, that is an absolutely award-winning level of twattery from Eliasson there.

David

[ Links fixed. ]

Nikw211

[Thanks, David!]

theophrastus

"Based on David's blog it's my understanding that art schools are a bit like care homes."

Except that the residents of care homes deserve our compassion while the graduates of art schools deserve our derision?

matt

Basically a job well done then. Three cheers for David and the hearty band of commenters here

dicentra

Is it the one where Spock has a goatee?

I'm immensely flattered that you'd reuse that phrase of mine, even if you came upon it quite independently. Self-flattery being the coin of the realm anymore.

I don't feel pity, or sympathy really, for the people who'd spent their careers and sometimes considerable intellectual talents enforcing these elitist notions

Narcissists warrant a modicum of pity but only for an instant, because it's sad to see people make themselves into such insufferable gits. Then the insuffereability kicks in and the urge to jam a runcible spoon into your own eye takes over. If you're lucky, the narcissist's eyes are within reach, too.

Steve2: Steveageddon — I don't have animation software, but I hope someone who does renders your script in glorious cartoon format.

What's Devo got against flowers? Why is a complex natural organism like a flower 'shallowly "beautiful"' (note the scare quotes)? A passing acquaintance with plant biology shows that flower to be extraordinarily complex and so remarkably challenging

As a flower fancier and cultivator, I challenge that moron to fashion a single Columbine. NO, not out of papier-mache but out of organic matter such that it hibernates during the winter and blooms each spring. It also has to spontaneously produce the feathery foliage every year. When he's done, he can fashion a string of hearts, like my namesake.

dicentra

how do you feel the public should have in fact reacted?

The middle-class (and middle-brow) public is expected to clutch its pearls and head for the fainting couch, which provides the artiste with the opportunity to preen and scold.

It's really depressing to see someone get paid for "art" that I could do myself.

The art is no longer in the execution or craftsmanship but in the concept. Rothko's color-block paintings could be executed by anyone; instead, he's exploring color qua color — not using color to create an image of something recognizable.

He also may have been exploring the question of "how simplistic can I make these canvasses and still get raves from empty-headed snobs," but I'll leave that as an exercise for the viewer.

Also, the advent of photography displaced the need for artists to reproduce a scene with exactness, so there's that.

dicentra

Speaking of the death of realism in art…

David Gillies

Shorter Devo: I am a proud, transgressive Art Warrior™, proudly transgressing against the bourgeoisie, and I will proudly and transgressively cry like a little bitch if anyone criticises me. It's like the loony feminists who want women to become front-line combat troops but have a fit of the vapours if they spy a literary reference to anything beastly.

Fiend's Brave Victim

I'd just like to point out that there is much superb art on display at both Tates in London, well deserving of any fawning. While I'm with you all the way on the posturing (and subsequent extortion) of much of contemporary art, most historical modern art displayed in the major galleries of the world---no matter how 'conceptual'---has made it into the cannon for good reason.

Fiend's Brave Victim

Umm, canon ^ (why I'm not an art critic)

Nikw211

Fiend's Brave Victim

most historical modern art displayed in the major galleries of the world---no matter how 'conceptual'---has made it into the canon for good reason.

Can we expect any kind of evidence for this assertion, or are you just planning on putting it out there as a reminder for myself and others here to humble ourselves before the great minds of the age who have already decreed what kinds of art can and can't be criticised?

Do tell.

Hal

Steve2: Steveageddon — I don't have animation software, but I hope someone who does renders your script in glorious cartoon format.

See http://www.muvizu.com/

There is also access to the underlying software itself.

. . . . most historical modern art displayed in the major galleries of the world---no matter how 'conceptual'---has made it into the cannon for good reason.

Yes, there is excellent modern art and it does get admired. I would argue that the reason to not bother with fitting the rest into a cannon, or bonfire, or drive something over it, is that I am lazy . . . and just happen to be bloody busy anyway.

It's just Soooo much easier---and basically much more efficient anyay---to just ignore the ineptly done stuff . . .

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