David Thompson


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April 22, 2008


wayne fontes

Ms. Shvarts explanation of her art can be better understood if read with this fisking by Margaret Soltan. Post Modern academics have attracted David's attention many times. Ms. Shvarts would seem to be an example of the students these professors produce.




“Ms. Shvarts would seem to be an example of the students these professors produce.”

Indeed, more memebots. As Margaret Soltan says, it’s “obscurantist condescension” - and worse, so generic and conformist. Shvarts seems to be a very credulous and unpleasant young woman, and befuddled by the theoretical claptrap she repeats with dreary assiduousness. The term that leaps to mind is “pretentious idiot bitch.” I suggest we play the same game and kidnap Ms Shvarts and keep her in a car boot for several weeks. When her parents and friends receive the severed fingers - which may or may not be hers - I’m sure they’ll be keen to “destabilise the locus of that authorial act” and ponder whether fingers are “meant” to be used in such a way.


Can it be that far off until we have elevated (or rather lowered) such practices as man-beast love and coprophilia to the level of art? It must be inevitable, as the true purpose of Arte today is not to create works of beauty or of lasting greatness but rather to shock, awe, disgust, and to criticize. In general, modern art celebrates that which is depressing, and comments not on the beauty of the natural world but rather on the ugliness possible in men's minds.

That being said, I did get a chuckle out of the x-ray Arte. Now I want to see one with a jaw closed and a truncated member.



Yes, Ms Shvarts’ “work” is tediously disgusting – oh, *again* with the blood and pus. But that’s what tends to happen when the idea of making something beautiful is dismissed in favour of self-preoccupation and ludicrous, parroted theory. If the artist with no art wants to grab some attention – and, of course, they do – crapping in a napkin and pretending it’s political becomes a tempting course of action.

I think we’ve reached the stage where the word “bollocks” doesn’t seem quite enough to summarise these things. When someone claims to “destabilise the locus of the authorial act,” and “reclaim it from the heteronormative structures that seek to naturalise it,” I think we need to deploy a much grander word. UltraBollocks™. That works for me.


Is this what they mean by an art "movement"?

Actually, I'm totally up for being startled, surprised, shocked etc by art. Goya and Bacon both made art which is compelling, even when it's not especially comfortable to watch. But I find this stuff yawningly predictable - conformist even. It's as if all of these artists studied with the same art teacher at the same provincial polytechnic class.

Many of the "Shock" tactics used by the Brit artists of the mid-1990s were modeled directly on the Bennetton shock advertising campaigns of the late 1980s. It's no surprise the scene's principal patron was an advertising millionaire.

Did anyone see the Robert Hughes programme in which he interrogated the more recent art trends? Hughes made a brilliant point. There are two different qualities: impact and resonance. Impact is about grabbing the audience's attention by any means necessary. Resonance is about leaving something lingering in their consciousness afterwards. Hughes thinks the emphasis is now all on the former, and the latter is being neglected.



“There are two different qualities: impact and resonance. Impact is about grabbing the audience’s attention by any means necessary. Resonance is about leaving something lingering in their consciousness afterwards.”

Exactly. There’s a difference between shock and awe. And between wonderment and tedious disgust. Another guide to art appreciation might be to ask the question: Does this object make me wish I could make something beautiful? Or: Does the world of possibility feel bigger as a result, or has it actually shrunk?

Theory is cheap, in every sense, and easy to reproduce. Talent is not.



You come up with such delightful turns of phrase that you don't need to wrack your mind to come up with a new "Bollocks". I suggest we use "Napkin Crap" instead.


Third rule of art: If you have to be stoned to appreciate it, it's not art.


I was thinking. These people can't create visually resonant worlds and images. So who can? The first names on my list:

1. Jonathan Ive - he designs most of Apple's products.
2. Michel Gondry - he makes movies and videos.
3. Wong Kar-wai - not my favourite film director, but his films are incredible to look at.
4. Some modern architecture... the Koolhaas Casa da Musica in Porto looks incredible.

No doubt David can cite people working in comics and animation who also achieve this. But there's not much that's usually classified as "art", or "fine art", as it used to be called. As with David's previous discussion of theatre, it seems the vital energy has moved elsewhere.



Your erudition never ceases to impress me. I had never heard of Wim Delvoye or his work, nor of Ms Hines.

Of Ms Hines all I can say is that her best work is behind her. But Delvoye's Cloaca machine is another story altogether. I have not laughed so hard in years. I nearly doubled over with laughter, tears ran down my face, I found it so hard to catch my breath that I started to cough and choke while laughing. It made me think that maybe it is actually possible to die laughing.

I'm not entirely sure Delvoye intended to elicit that response. What can I say? I'm not laughing with him, I'm laughing at him.


“…it seems the vital energy has moved elsewhere.”

That’s my impression, certainly. I don’t doubt people will continue to produce things of beauty, regardless of the art world and its fashions, but whether the notion of institutional “fine” art will retain its supposed cultural importance is, I think, another matter. The idea of art as something apart from, and critical of, commercial culture seems rather quaint. I no longer visit galleries of contemporary work expecting to be impressed, let alone awed. And I can’t remember the last time I was happily proven wrong. When things impress me or move me they tend to be outside of the art world. I’d suggest “fine” art has been overtaken, and rightly, by cinema, advertising, engineering and other “mere” commercial innovation.

If you want a reminder of how extraordinary life can be, which strikes me as something art might do, watch Joe Kittinger’s fall from space,


Or this film about relocating a church by unorthodox means.


There’s a discussion related to this over at ArtBlog:


KB Player

This kind of art does seem like a drunk boyfriend or badly-behaved offspring. It has to be introduced with lots of explanation. (You have to understand that. . . )

The only time I would actually purchase fine art would be when buying a card. There are loads of commercial artists turning out card-sized pleasing images - I wonder if some of them will be studied as producers of masterpieces in the future when the conceptual artists are forgotten.


My wife and I have many original works in our house, the vast majority being Japanese woodblock prints. We have a couple of antiques, but mostly modern peices. Completely apolitical and wonderful to look at. We also have a number of ceramics, very calming and pleasant. We have a few paintings on silk, mostly standard subjects, women in kimonos, floral patterns, etc. We do have one oil painting in the modern style, but it was inspired by sumi-e. Speaking of which we have a couple of those as well. Again, completely apolitical and quite delighful.

If I want politics I'll read blogs!



“Completely apolitical and wonderful to look at.”

I’ve no objection to art having political connotations, though it’s not often done well, and political pretensions can easily overwhelm any aesthetic value an object has. Aside from the influence of ideological educators and marketing pseudery, it seems to me that a very large part of the politicising of art, or pseudo-art, is due to insecurity. As art’s functions have in large part been taken over by other areas of culture, it’s not so clear what art is for. I mean art as a stand-alone thing, aloof from commercial work, and of supposedly elevating value and social import. This may help explain why artists who sideline beauty as passé or ideologically unsound have to justify attention with something else entirely. Hence the fixation with “social issues” – generally of an anhedonic kind - and opaque, preposterous theory.


I just saw a show of German Expressionist printmaking that definitely took political stances - Kathe Kollwitz, Max Beckmann and the like.


Successful political works have qualities that transcend their political issue. The best ones succeed formally, and appeal to humanity beyond political sympathies. They work with the nature of art rather than working to undermine it. Most importantly, they live out their lives as actual objects rather than hooks for some kind of pseudo-intellectual rumination.


Here's a peculiar coincidence: http://www.wasteaudit.com/dojo/6/v.jsp?p=/experience-hines


Pwyll, I read your comment about Cloaca, and thus warned, I was certain I would not laugh. And yet I did! Truly hilarious.


I'm glad to hear someone else found it funny. I know my reaction was idiosyncratic. For a day or so after encountering Cloaca I suffered from randomly timed impulses to grin or laugh outright. One time my wife was talking to me about some issues at her work, and I was trying hard not to laugh. There is no way I could have made her believe that I was laughing about Cloaca. Even worse, if she believed me and then took a look at Cloaca she might have concluded that I am deranged. And I might have had to agree.

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