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March 28, 2013

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rjmadden

“Art” is whatever an artist says it is... Full stop.

Sounds like a good argument for ending all public subsidy. Full stop.

David

Sounds like a good argument for ending all public subsidy.

Well, yes. But you’re forgetting that artists, like socialists, belong to a higher caste.

As I’ve said before, it’s interesting how readily so many artists slip into the role of parasite, as if it were their right and destiny. And the more egalitarian their pretensions, the more likely this manoeuvre is. Bettina Camilla Vestergaard, for instance, longs for a place to escape “the choking effects of the market,” a place where she and her peers can air their “radical and uncompromising thoughts.” Ms Vestergaard and her associates are precious flowers and are choked by the free market, which after all implies a reciprocal arrangement with whoever’s footing the bill. A parasitic relationship, in which the taxpayer has no say, is coerced, and is essentially irrelevant, is much more liberating.

For her, that is. Not the little people.

Franklin

Just to be clear, I would stop short of accusing anyone of vanity on this point. Rather, we're looking at a logical conclusion drawn from a dubious premise, that an object or activity can become art by being named as such. In the past, Ed has praised the work of Stanley Brouwn, a Dutch conceptual artist who declared in 1960 that all the shoe stores in Amsterdam constituted an exhibition of his work. Ed finds this sort of thing interesting and it informs his choices of what work he shows in his gallery.

But if art can be declared in this way, what stops the viewer from un-declaring it in the same manner? The answer, says Ed, is that they can't, because doing so is limiting to human achievement and an affront to artistic freedom. "The reason I insist on this way of approaching the question is that it gives maximum latitude to artists to create whatever they wish and to present whatever they wish as a work of their creation. Any other formula is too restrictive in my opinion, limiting where the human artistic mind might one day take us, and in that way a hindrance to ultimate human potential."

But notice that while he says that the viewer can't un-declare something as art, the reasons he gives are why he musn't. This is a brittle assertion, because it doesn't address what makes artists so special that their claims are to be taken as given without argument. And the answer, of course, is nothing.

David

Franklin,

Ed has praised the work of Stanley Brouwn, a Dutch conceptual artist who declared in 1960 that all the shoe stores in Amsterdam constituted an exhibition of his work. Ed finds this sort of thing interesting and it informs his choices of what work he shows in his gallery.

Ed can show whatever he likes in his own gallery. Presumably, he and his willing customers are footing the bill. The issue arises, or arises most acutely, when self-defined artists expect the taxpayer to subsidise their self-defined art. By the time we, the punters, get to the question of whether a supposed piece of art is any good - our “limited role” - we’ve already been billed for it. Which is a rather important detail in the artist-public relationship. The unilateral definition, and unilateral expectation of status, indulgence and other people’s cash, is presumptuous, obnoxious and vain.

Franklin

Indeed, when art-by-fiat meets funding-by-fiat you get an unholy alliance. If you're in the proper circles you can without much trouble find people who support arts funding as a matter of public good and think said public should be shown works that challenge aesthetic or social mores, also as a matter of public good. The farcicality and fundamental unfairness of taking money from people and turning it into art they probably won't like is lost on them.

I'll note too that the few genuinely innovative ideas within conceptual art had become thoroughly rehashed by 1975, and one of the reasons it persists, maybe the main one, is because of the hold it has on the arid imagination of the academy, and by extension the contemporary museum. Moving art out of the realm of the visual and into the realm of the intellectual excites a certain kind of academic mind. Conceptual art, and the conceptual take on visual art in general, is a way of expanding access to art from the relatively few people who have acute visual sensibilities to the relatively many people who can read. And via its connection to the academy and museum, it is essentially a publicly funded phenomenon.

David

Franklin,

The farcicality and fundamental unfairness of taking money from people and turning it into art they probably won’t like is lost on them.

And rarely more so than among our artistic class warriors. E.g., the anti-capitalist pseudo-artist John Jordan, who feels entitled to unending public subsidy because he’s “challenging” us and “showing us how to live differently.” (Again, socialist self-flattery is the gift that keeps on giving.) As I’ve said before, if people want to pretend that, say, a table covered in cigarette ends is some kind of aesthetic triumph, or that it’s transgressive in some never-defined way, they’re welcome to do so. In a free market. What they aren’t welcome to do is take my money against my wishes in order to indulge their pretence.

AC1

Anyone who isn't doing 100% hard maths, and also decides that it isn't beautiful is doing art (i.e. everyone).

Would it not therefore be better to subsidise everyone equally just in case? Whilst every citizen would be getting an Art grant and that would unfortunately shrink somewhat the amount given to luvvies, they could bask in the fact the whole nation are now artistes.

David

Franklin,

Another line that struck me was this lofty fluff:

Any other formula is too restrictive in my opinion, limiting where the human artistic mind might one day take us, and in that way a hindrance to ultimate human potential.

It all sounds very grand - and faintly comical when juxtaposed with the actual, typical products of such conceptual noodling. Which is to say, aesthetically vacuous toss like this, this and this. All of which were funded, coercively, by the taxpayer.

DJMoore

Hey, wait a minute.

Isn't the whole point of pomo deconstruction and such exactly that the intent of the writer means nothing? That modern readers can read Shakespeare, for example, and declare that Romeo and Juliet is nothing but an attempt to justify the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie? That math is patriarchal?

But when it comes to illiterate, ugly, unskilled garbage that pretends to ignore, mock, or subvert the power-over ruling structure, all an artist has to do is point at something like "all the shoe stores in town", something he had nothing to do with, is his "art" because he says so?

Damn, I wish I was in the cool crowd.

(Incidentally, the shoe-store gambit looks to me like it's not the collection of stores that's the artwork. It's the declaration itself. But that means I can now declare the entire performance art movement to be MY work of art, and by gods, I want my grant money.)

DJMoore

Ahem.

"...is his 'art' because he says so?"

Should be, "...and declare that it is his art, simply because he says so?"

Sorry.

mojo

The whole point of starving "artists" is to provide them with incentive to produce something someone would be interested in buying. Public arts funding blows that out of the water, leading to crap like this.

David

The whole point of starving “artists” is to provide them with incentive to produce something someone would be interested in buying.

There’s a lot to be said for trying to keep paying customers pleased and intrigued. A few months ago I got a new smartphone. The touchscreen interface is quite clever and I still find myself being pleased by the way it works visually. It’s a small pleasure, all things considered, but a pleasure nonetheless. It’s a well-designed product made by people with skill and visual imagination. But I can’t remember the last time I visited a gallery of contemporary art and experienced a comparable reward. Which is to say, my phone is more aesthetically pleasing than anything I’ve seen in my local galleries during the last couple of years. But then my local galleries tend to be cluttered with the kind of conceptual claptrap we’ve laughed at on this blog.

Franklin

Public arts funding blows that out of the water, leading to crap like this.

It just so happens that I live near the Museum of Bad Art. That project is wholly tongue-in-cheek. Truly execrable paintings done by rank amateurs are set up in the vicinity of the men's room of a movie theater, and are given hilariously overwritten wall labels analyzing their content and formal achievements. In other words, MoBA is a treasure.

dicentra

"Art: The selection and arrangement of elements (visual, auditory, tactile) that are presented for aesthetic contemplation."

That's the bare-bones definition of art, far as I can muster. It excludes anything that happens to look/sound/feel good but that was not produced by an agent who was intending art: birdsong, sunsets, mountain vistas, dilapidated barns. As soon as someone records the sound/view/texture and invites you to aesthetically contemplate it, you're moving into the realm of art.

If you're in the woods with a friend and you invite that friend to stop and enjoy the birdsong, it's not art. If you record the birdsong and include it as a track in a New Age album, it's art.

Please note that the definition doesn't preclude the possibility that what is selected, arranged, and presented for aesthetic contemplation is absurd, vulgar, moronic, amateurish, narcissistic, worthless, unsanitary, or repulsive.

It's art all right: it's just not worth my time to aesthetically contemplate it, nor worth a thin dime to fund it, nor worthy of anyone's respect.

Franklin

David: It all sounds very grand - and faintly comical when juxtaposed with the actual, typical products of such conceptual noodling.

The freedom to do anything and the power to do something significant remain as far apart as ever. This is demonstrated to you in short order if you attempt something that requires skill and taste. The basic confusion about conceptual art is the notion that ideas have quality as art. They don't, but much of the defense of conceptual art is based on the assumption that they do. And coming up with ideas is pretty easy, so completely wacky objects and performances can be given a veneer of seriousness on that model.

Dicentra: Please note that the definition doesn't preclude the possibility that what is selected, arranged, and presented for aesthetic contemplation is absurd, vulgar, moronic, amateurish, narcissistic, worthless, unsanitary, or repulsive.

"Art" nevertheless has an honorific implication in the English language. The irony is that despite the hundred-year effort of conceptualists to undermine the category of art as an honorific designation, if they truly didn't believe in the honor, they wouldn't keep working to include things within the category. This is an example of the class of ironies in which the self-declared radicals are, at their core, the most hardened conservatives. Meanwhile the designers of David's phone don't think of themselves as artists and yet produce objects of real beauty, the likes of which a conceptualist could never muster.

David

Franklin,

“Art” nevertheless has an honorific implication in the English language.

That’s the problem for Ed. The word has connotations of seriousness, accomplishment, beauty, value, etc. Qualities that are hard to come by in many galleries. One such place in my home town – heavily subsidised and almost always empty – is a classic example. The last things I can recall seeing there were a few ugly fluorescent lights positioned on the floor, apparently at random; and an “installation” that consisted of Velcro strips tangled around some wire, again done artlessly and for no discernible reason. There was also a pile of nondescript parcels, the aesthetic of which escaped me.

Now it’s possible I may have missed something truly breathtaking, but I tend to keep an eye on the gallery’s website and until quite recently I was on their catalogue mailing list. After years of being reliably disappointed I’m reluctant to renew my subscription and now only visit the place occasionally out of morbid curiosity. And I know of quite a few people who’ve also learned not to be interested because the odds of seeing something pleasing and memorable are very slim indeed. The objects and texts on show are presented as if they were art by people who call themselves artists; the venue is called an art gallery and receives public subsidy because it allegedly serves some vital artistic function. And yet art as widely understood is rarely visible, or indeed welcome. It isn’t a place to visit if you’re looking for an aesthetic experience.

dicentra

"Art" nevertheless has an honorific implication in the English language.

It implies skill and inspiration. Capital "A" art.

But "art" is, after all, just a short way of saying "artifice."

So yeah, they can call it "art" by fiat in the lower-case "a" sense of the word. They can even call it "Art". Still doesn't mean anyone should pay for it what don't want to.

Rob

I name our struggling artist "Franklin Pisspot".

That is Art, gentlemen.

Franklin

Ah, I see that I've roused the Freedom Brigade. You might be interested in an essay I wrote that addresses, in part, Dadaist Triumphalism.

http://www.einspruch.com/writing/2011/academic-and-other-pejoratives/

svh

That’s the problem for Ed.

It's a problem for us too. The Arts Council takes our money "for art" then palms us off with shite.

witwoud

I've stopped believing in 'art' altogether. Makes things much easier.

jonuk

A turd on a bed in a glass box...is that art?

David

I suppose a big part of the problem is that many visual artists, or would-be visual artists, imagine their role as having some kind of intellectual gravitas. There’s a kind of status anxiety, a need to play teacher. Many art students have been led to believe that their primary function is to be “challenging” and political – or, God help us, transgressive. As if their job was to unnerve and correct the rest of us with their “critiques,” “explorations” and radical cleverness. But from the typical punter’s point of view, the function of the artist is quite simple. To make pleasing images, objects and experiences that the rest of us might like and even want to pay for. That’s basically it. And when it’s done well, that’s no small feat.

But if you look at Arts Council funding lists, you’ll find an awful lot of people who sneer at the idea of aesthetics and skill in any conventional sense (and who, by extension, sneer at the public and what it might like). And so we get a mountain of drek – naff conceptual noodling that doesn’t stand a minute’s scrutiny and is forgotten in less time than it takes to read the press release. And not coincidentally, many of these people disdain the idea of having customers to please, of having a reciprocal relationship with the people footing the bill. Instead, they prefer state bureaucracies, Arts Council cronyism and coercive taxpayer subsidy, whereby the expectations of the public can be sidestepped, sneered at and made irrelevant. And so the role of the public, whose money is being pissed away, is reduced from Person To Please down to Person To Fleece.

And Ed’s argument about who gets to define what counts as art, and therefore what counts as deserving of subsidy and status, feeds into that vanity.

LS

Or we could just go the "meta" route and say that the statement "That is not art" is art.

Franklin

As I say in the essay, another possible response is "I guess, but I don't care."

Rene Magritte

Ceci n'est pas de l'art.

Karen M

“Is that art?” is not a valid question for the observer, despite how well educated, to apply to a declared artwork. “Art” is whatever an artist says it is.

I love the conceit that only people called 'artists' can decide what's art. Are the rest of us still allowed to decide whether something is beautiful?

dicentra

A turd on a bed in a glass box...is that art?

Someone selected and arranged those elements and then presented them for aesthetic contemplation. So strictly speaking, yes, it is art.

Execrable, puerile, narcissistic, dull-witted, uninspired art—but art nonetheless.

Or we could just go the "meta" route and say that the statement "That is not art" is art.

If you say "That's not art," they'll write you off as a troglodyte whose soul is too cramped and dull to understand their loftiness.

However, if you stroll over to the gallery, Wearing Black, and pronounce it "bourgeois, derivative, and done-to-death," you can send them into a frantic spiral of self-loathing.

Sounds like a hobby one might take up, if one can affect the proper mien of credibility.

David

Karen,

I love the conceit that only people called ‘artists’ can decide what’s art. Are the rest of us still allowed to decide whether something is beautiful?

I suppose Ed’s implicit assumption is that art needn’t be beautiful or pleasing to the eye, hence the tendentious comment about “observers” being “educated.” But if art needn’t be beautiful or pleasing, even to the “educated,” that rather makes me wonder what it’s for, or why anyone would want their taxes to fund it.

But yes, there’s quite a bit of conceit lurking in there somewhere.

Rich Rostrom

1) Ed isn't reserving the identification of art to some elite. Anyone can be an artist and call something art.

2) Ed says any observer is absolutely free to judge the merits of the identified art and call it bad or worthless.

What he is not saying is that "artists" have the right to approval and funding for whatever they call art. At least, I don't see that. Dunno what he thinks about government-funded art; or who has the right to decide on such funding.

Franklin

Ed isn't reserving the identification of art to some elite. Anyone can be an artist and call something art.

If you click all the way through to Ed's post, where my discussion with him took place, you will see that he does not hold that opinion. "What's at stake here is granting license (much as we do to doctors or lawyers to operate on us or risk everything we have in court) to some person to present anything they wish as 'art'...as a vessel to carry into the future something important about who we are. Some definition, some validation would seem appropriate."

http://www.edwardwinkleman.com/2013/03/what-makes-that-art-reformulated-open.html

David

Karen,

Are the rest of us still allowed to decide whether something is beautiful?

Some artists will try to make that kind of judgment as difficult as possible, if not redundant. For some, cleverness (or imagined cleverness) is much more important.

For instance, Glenn Brown rose to brief notoriety for his painting The Loves of Shepherds, an oversized reproduction of a science fiction paperback cover by the commercial artist Anthony Roberts. How the title related to a copied image of a spaceship wasn’t immediately clear and several critics were baffled. However, Brown seems to have been nodding – cleverly, in his mind - to overly romantic pastoral depictions of rural life, including William Holman Hunt’s The Hireling Shepherd, which replaces harsh reality with a far more idealised view. Presumably, Brown was suggesting that the impressive technology of Anthony Roberts’ book jacket served much the same escapist purpose.

Now without a fairly detailed knowledge of pastoral art - and critical commentary of it - Brown’s artwork is merely a large and indifferent copy of a sci-fi paperback cover, the actual painter of which wasn’t credited by Brown until he was threatened with legal action. (As one critic pointed out, “If you can’t see the original reference then you’re a bit lost.”) One therefore has to wonder whether the artist is trying to impress viewers with his aesthetic handiwork, which in this case is pedestrian, or with his knowledge of art theory. Presumably, Brown imagines that his implicit comment – that depictions of the future can be as misleading as those of the past – is somehow novel or profound, or expressed in a way that’s both worthy and remarkable. He’s wrong on all counts. But he can hide behind a pretence of intellectualism and the supposed need for audiences to be “educated” in order for them to grasp just how clever he is.

If you look at The Loves of Shepherds as a painting, it’s mediocre and uninteresting (and lifted wholesale without acknowledgement). If you look at it as a “concept” (more accurately, a notion), it’s pretty poor too. But the claim of “being conceptual” or intellectual excludes the “uneducated” and allows Brown much more room to hide his inadequacy.

[ Added: ]

Brown subsequently claimed, rather grandly, that, “to make something up from scratch is nonsensical… It’s impossible to make a painting that is not borrowed.” Which doesn’t explain why his “concept” for The Loves of Shepherds was so thin or why he chose not to credit the person whose work he’d copied. And like so many of his peers, Brown has learned to be disdainful of the people whose work he appropriates: “I’m rather like a Dr Frankenstein, constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artist’s work… I see their worlds from multiple or schizophrenic perspectives, through all their eyes.” You see, he sees more than they do, being so clever and all. And while his offerings are “fine art,” because he’s so clever and conceptual, their work is waved aside as mere commercial “residue” and “dead parts.” He, unlike they, is “making serious art.”

One particularly asinine comment came from the Tate’s Nicholas Serota, who said that Brown’s reproduction had “transformed” the original painting by “giving it a completely different scale.” Which is to say, gosh, it’s bigger. But even allowing for size, it isn’t clear to me why Brown’s work should be acclaimed and given awards, funding, praise, status, etc., while the “unserious” commercial works he copies should be regarded as somehow less worthy and less sophisticated. And I can’t help wondering if any percentage of the £30,000 sale price of The Loves of Shepherds will find its way into the pocket of Anthony Brown, whose work was copied wholesale and whose name was thought unimportant.

Tim Newman

There’s a lot to be said for trying to keep paying customers pleased and intrigued.

I think there are a lot of people that don't realise the masters of yesteryear were working on commission, not idling around producing stuff for the fun of it. The Mona Lisa is a picture of somebody who was paying for her portrait to be painted. Michaelangelo was paid to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by its owners, who wanted a nice ceiling. Mozart was paid to write The Marriage of Figaro, likewise Rossini and The Barber of Seville.

There was never a time when artists just hung out on public subsidy in order to "free up their minds": they were always working for a living, and the contrast between that and the subsidised shit that is served up nowadays reflects that.

Franklin

...Brown has learned to be disdainful of the people whose work he appropriates...

In 2011 Richard Prince appropriated photos by Patrick Cariou, turned them into wretched painted collages, and sold eight of them through his gallery for over $10 million total. Cariou sued for infringement. In court, Prince and his attorneys claimed that Cariou's photography was not art. According to Artnet,

Prince argued that Cariou’s photographs were “mere compilations of facts” arranged “in a manner typical of their genre,” and therefore not protected by copyright law.

Prince lost the lawsuit, Gagosian Gallery was found liable, and buyers of the works can now no longer legally display them. One hopes that the guilty parties were duly chastened but that is likely too much to expect of megalomaniacs.

http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/news/artnetnews/richard-prince-loses-lawsuit-3-21-11.asp

David

Franklin,

There are quite a few other “serious” artists doing this kind of thing. There’s a woman (whose name escapes me) who basically reproduces the panels and pages of comic books with the pages slightly turned, while leaving the original commercial artists uncredited (and presumably unpaid). Artists in general tend to be a little self-flattering, present company excepted, but the greatest concentration of presumption seems to be among artists who sneer at the commercial and say they’re being “serious” and conceptual.

While taking the cheque, of course.

Rafi

There’s a woman (whose name escapes me) who basically reproduces the panels and pages of comic books with the pages slightly turned, while leaving the original commercial artists uncredited (and presumably unpaid).

David, her name is Sharon Moody.

http://www.scottedelman.com/2011/12/17/a-few-words-in-defense-of-jack-kirby-sal-buscema-irv-novick-and-other-anonymized-artists/

David

Rafi,

That’s the one. Thanks very much.

I probably don’t have to point out Ms Moody’s use of the terms “playthings” and “adolescent fare” – as opposed to her own, no doubt cerebral and sophisticated, copies. Again, uncredited.

You really do have to marvel at the arrogance.

Franklin

Well, hang on. Ms. Moody actually does paint toys and games, so that's likely not condescension, and there's a tradition of American trompe-l'oeil in which the artist does such renderings of ephemera and commercial printing, John Frederick Peto for example. And I'm not overly bothered by the lack of attribution in her case, to be honest. Her paintings come off with great reverence for the source material, to my eye. Royalties or damages, should someone have extracted them from her, would not have gone to Kirby or Buscema - they would have gone to a corporation that likely has better things to do than haul the likes of Moody into court. I have been considering lately that we may want to scrap intellectual property anyway.

The example of Prince is more galling because he put himself on the legal record that his source photographs aren't art, thus depriving another artist of the generosity upon which his own work depends for its very credibility.

David

Franklin,

And I’m not overly bothered by the lack of attribution in her case, to be honest. Her paintings come off with great reverence for the source material, to my eye.

Well, at least it’s (more) obvious that she is in fact copying existing commercial work – unlike Brown’s effort above. But a great reverence that doesn’t name the originators of what she’s copying? Copying quite well, I grant you, but still… Would the supposed conjuring of nostalgia (for turning printed comic pages or whatever) work if Moody hadn’t used actual art by actual other people? Things we remember and maybe have some residual affection for? Don’t those artists at least deserve a name-check? It seems to me Moody’s appropriation diminishes the particulars of any given comic book artist, as if it were little more than generic clip-art, something to be patronised by more sophisticated souls, gifted as they are with hindsight and irony.

It still seems a little too close to the Glenn Brown ethos.

[ Edited. ]

TimT

Have to say that I generally favour the argument that 'is that really art?' isn't a useful question, and that 'is that good or bad art' is by far the more useful question for making critical distinctions, and sorting the unoriginal, derivative nonsense from the interesting, well-crafted stuff.

Years ago my views would probably have been different but then I found that no matter what rules I invented for art - 'art is communication', 'art does not express emotion', etc - I either broke myself, or found myself admiring the works of others who broke the same rules. I just find it more useful working out what the artist sets out to do, if their goals are worthwhile, and if they achieve those goals effectively.

TimT

David. Fascinating tale about Glenn Brown and Anthony Roberts. The defence Brown and his mates make of his appropriation of Roberts' work seems to elide an important point - if he does intend to reference, or parody, or play with, or make mischief with tradition (as represented by Holman Hunt), he's done a crap job of it - as parody, satire, call it what you want, requires a good deal more of the person making the parody than simply copying someone else's work and giving it a referential title. Parody, if worth anything at all, is *creative* imitation; it is not just what it imitates; it is new; and what is new in the parody will contain a detailed critique of what is old.

dicentra

Brown has learned to be disdainful of the people whose work he appropriates: “I’m rather like a Dr Frankenstein, constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artist’s work… I see their worlds from multiple or schizophrenic perspectives, through all their eyes.”

Swell. Only someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder would say something like that. Narcissists frequently plagiarize because they don't see why they should have to actually produce something to get credit for it, then when caught they refuse to acknowledge that they plagiarized, or like Brown, claim that his copy is superior to the original.

The belief that they should be praised and honored without concomitant achievement is one of the red flags for NPD.

Lucky us.

David

TimT, Franklin, dicentra,

I suppose what I’m getting at is that the examples above rest a little too heavily on someone else’s work, and so crediting seems in order. I can’t muster quite the same disdain for the Sharon Moody stuff – in her case, it may simply be presumptuous and impolite. Either way, I’m not a fan. Her series of comic book paintings strikes me as an exercise, not something that captivates. I’d rather spend an hour reading the original comics. Brown and Prince are more interesting in their arrogant wrongness, as it were. In Glenn Brown’s case, it’s basically a very slim idea added as a veneer to an existing visual work. Take away the oblique title and what has he actually delivered? And is this the stuff of Turner Prize nominations? (Well, yes, I suppose it is, but that’s another thread in itself.)

I generally favour the argument that ‘is that really art?’ isn’t a useful question,

And yet artists and curators seem to think we, the punters, should be endlessly fascinated by it. Apparently, just asking the question, decade after decade, is worth taxpayers’ money. Goodness, they spoil us. If press releases are to be believed, it’s a question that third rate artists are continually “exploring” and “interrogating” with their “critiques,” albeit in ways that are remarkably inconclusive and difficult to care about. A better question might be, “Is this beautiful?” Or, “Is it visually compelling?” Or, “Does it make me glad I came to the gallery today?” At least those questions are easier to get a grip on, and they kind of steer you towards an answer for the other question.

ErisGuy

If the observer cannot decide what is or isn’t art, then the observer is forbidden from issuing grants for artworks, as the observer is unable to determine if a proposed performance or installation is or isn’t art.

jones

I operate at the level of whether I 'like' it or not.

Presumably my detestation of the excrement that these pseuds peddle as 'art' simply demonstrates just how deeply ingrained the peasantry is in me?

jones

P.S.Forgive me...some it REALLY IS excrement....

TimT

Jones, I've met plenty of arty types who see through/laugh at the nonsense conceptual/post-conceptual artists come up with. I think the urgency behind the modernist and post-modernist movements in art (of all sorts, not just visual) has passed; a lot of the behind-the-scenes, non-official art being produced now - the sort that won't get mentioned in the papers or on the news, but is being produced, in great volumes by enthusiastic amateurs - may be where all the cultural energy and momentum is.

David Gillies

Tautologies don't add any semantic content. Allowing soi-disant artists to say what is and is not art is self-referential and, ultimately, vacuous. If the meta-question "what is art?" is interesting then it's because it's an aesthetic version of the Sorites paradox. Over here we can say, "this is art" and over there we can say, "that is not art." At some point in between we cross between art and not-art. Deciding into exactly which category any given work falls is a potentially engaging pursuit. But to arrogate to oneself the exclusive ability to make that decision based solely on one's membership in a group is exactly the sort of closed-mindedness that your typical transgressivist would decry in any other sphere. It's vacuous because such ex cathedra pronouncements can't be refuted. It's a bit like how any deviation from dogma in certain political systems is dismissed as false consciousness.

Jonathan Stuart Berkey

Wheesh, look at all the highbrow conversation.

Little plebian ol' me just wanted to drop in to recommend the second embedded video from this article's first link (that would be Franklin's artblog): 20th Century Man, by Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club.

I've no doubt David especially appreciated the line: "And I'm the first to take Art to a 'Whole New Level,' make it so full of sh!t, that you gotta bring a shovel."

David

Jonathan,

Wheesh, look at all the highbrow conversation.

To be fair, we also keep abreast of exploding toilets and aggressive flatulence.

It keeps us grounded.

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