Monday, November 29, 2010

A Rebuttal Rebuttal: Pointless Puppets

Well it seems that the previous rebuttal post has ignited a flame of debate around this divisive issue as another of our dedicated readers has chimed in with his two cents about modern art. You can read the previous rebuttal here and the original post here if you missed them.

It's a fact that our judicial systems strongly factors in intent when considering sentence. The difference in sentencing can be extreme between a murder in which it is demonstrable that planning took place, and a murder that was an uncharacteristic act of passion in an otherwise docile individual and the unfortunate conjunction of circumstance leading to a fatal accident.

We place importance on the motives of the accused as it allows for an understanding of nature and character and it is upon character by which we ultimately judge them.

The technique on display on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel makes it art. We all know Michelangelo did it for a buck but by his hand and talent it transcends his motives. He wasn't even a believer.

Without technique and craft are we forced to judge art by the intent of the artist alone. Art Brut for example relies on the fact that the mentally ill, the physically disabled and the socially isolated produce outside of the game court of the art world and we therefore treat the, often infantile works produced from the outside, as being created by a purity of expression. Now there's an outsider art scene it's no doubt now become quite convoluted to work out this entirely subjective value, as when there's commerce involved questions like just how retarded is this mongo prodigy and does isolating oneself in the maze of the Internets and hiding behind the comfortable modern Minotaurs of anonymity constitute isolation or saturation?

We make the mistake of romanticizing the artist as a kind of ephemeral figure wandering the moors of societies perimeter, tracking new paths and reporting back, but just like any business most folks are either in it to prove something to the kids that made fun of them in high-school and/or, usually and, just for the money. It would be naive to think that the Tate modern with all the analytical data on offer just from their sales and acquisitions books would not then start designing artists the same way we've been designing pop stars - to be market friendly and make a buck. You and I are factored into pie charts and ven diagrams, and analyzed in board meetings to come up with what we want to see as consumers and by what "types" of drunken woolen coat wearing post-feminist rock stars will make it. As patronizing as it may seem nobody would paint celebrities, build diamond rings "as art", deface themselves in some demeaning feminist fireworks spectacle allegedly about vaginas or sculpt giant reproductions of burger joint kids toys if it wasn't what we were consistently demonstrating we wanted.

In the case of Damien Hirst, so smugly rammed up the orifice of the consumer hole and operating within the politics of the symbiosis of galleries and rich collectors, any self-expression that occurs in the work he out-sources could only be the product of random chance. Damien Hirst is judged by his intent to make money and a lot of it, and so an idealistic all art is self-expression applies here only from a very literal, don't people do just the darnedest things, positive perspective. I agree that Wall Street ethics and Pacman-consumerism on display in the countless works of celebrity faces and reproductions of comic characters sold as art is in itself an accurate reflection of our grabby globalized society and therefore achieves the function of truth in art but only if I'm really, really reaching.

Without craft, without actual technique, we are bound by the same idealism as teenagers deciding to go define themselves as a Goth, a Fundamentalist Christian, a world weary John Cussack in High Fidelity or an internet Minotaur and a desperation to believe does not make what we desire to believe in true. The techniques that painted Christ on the ceiling of the Vatican city Mac Donalds could just as easily portray Bowie, Warhol, Mickey Mouse or any of the other deity worshiping mainstays of modern art subject matter and require zero bullshit, zero make-believe and zero politics to admire. Despite thinking the subject is a bunch of bullshit.


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  2. And if an artist is taking even a moment to learn their craft they're going to weighting the bar they set themselves under when they place their art before us, and making avoiding their message of their work impossible.

    The argument could be raised that if paint sploshing art students or computer aided design students could paint a Caravaggio then they would - so I guess I'm saying this: Consider that 450 pound bar if having a knack for bullshit got you under it. Then what?

    It'd be a short demonstration.

    That's what I'm saying: If you call yourself an artist and lie beneath that bar you better be prepared to lift.

    I'll pass the mic back to Two Bullets before I drop the weight now an thank him for his hospitality and opportunity to scream into the wind. Thanks, mate.

    - John-boy

  3. If those who paint like Caravaggio could get an audience to be interested in their work, they would. Art is at the mercy of evolution and skill is not as simplistic as clean brush strokes.

  4. I think there is a real problem with this argument. It sounds to me like you are arguing for form over substance. In my view, art has the capacity to take its subject and transform it into a symbolic representation of something beyond the subject itself. Whether an art work succeeds in doing so is a question of substance. The medium through which this transformation is achieved is not particularly important. The merit of any particular technique is subject to change over time. Artists who become obsessed with learning technique / method more often than not make poor art. They would also be more likely suited to a craft, like cabinet making.