I would like to start off with a few disclaimers — my art educations is limited. Everything I learned formally about art I learned in elementary school. We had art classes. It was glorious — finger painting, learning to color in the lines and so on. I have a history degree from the University of Washington and in my history classes it was inevitable to learn about — how the art influenced culture. None of this was done in a formal way. I took no art history classes. And then I became ill and could no longer work and was given the gift of 3 years to study art on the internet.
That is where my I learned about art. Everything — what is impressionism? Who is Degas? Who is Francis Bacon? Why are there so many artists named Thierry? What is modernism? What is conceptual art? What makes art surreal? Also why is that upside urinal considered art? What is performance art? Why do people hurt themselves and call it art? What makes something beautiful? If something is beautiful is it art? Who decides what is art? And how is art related to culture? And who decides that? What if no one decides?
Also I began to make connections. I am also an English major — I had read Kant, Foucault, Nietzsche, Sontag, and others I can’t remember at the moment but read them in the context of literature. Now wow — they were talking about art! And not just art — culture! And all the history I had learned — all of it from Plato and the Greeks and even before began to connect. Art was, and is a record of people, of cultures. What do you think archaeology is? Learning about people from what is left behind, from what they made — from their art, whether it is was their art of daily living or their art of architectural structures or their fine art.
So I would like to to talk about this whole nonsense of “art is dead”. Now you can’t talk about art, without actually looking at some art, so I am going to put in some pictures. If I put in your art, I am going to link it back to your page. If you want me take it out email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will remove it immediately. I mean no offense, and none of the artwork here is mine, and I own none of it. This is all for purely educational purposes.
So I also have to say this — I am a white middle aged woman living an incredibly privileged life. I got to go college. I have health care (thanks President Obama!) I work every day to include diversity in my life because it is essential, and because the world is shifting and changing and everyday thousands of people are uprooted from their homes and moved because of war, poverty, and god only knows what other horrors and are forced to migrate. The world is changing — the composition of cultures is changing, the nature of warfare is changing, the environment is changing, and I would be foolish to think that change won’t come to me sitting here at my keyboard even though right at this moment I have every need met. The way we communicate is changing for better or worse and that already affects me, so here I am writing about art in a little square box on the internet of all places.
So on to art. I would like to respond to two articles in particular.One considers the chronology of art: How Art Became Irrelevant: A chronological survey of the demise of art by Michael J. Lewis and On the False Democracy of Contemporary Art by Keti Chukhrov. There are more references out — these just seem the most comprehensive. So let’s talk about the death (or demise) of art. Starting with some art of course!
“People keep asking me where the Blues started and all I can say is that when I was a boy we always was singing in the fields. Not real singing, you know, just hollerin’. But we made up our songs about things that was happening to us at the time… and I think that’s where the Blues started.” — Son House
This is the artist Eddie James “Son” House, Jr (March 21, 1902 — October 19, 1988). He came of age during the height of Jim Crow in the South and influenced some of the greatest blues players ever. Where does art come from? It comes from the artists experience. So listen:
So think about where art comes from here is some contemporary art. When I say contemporary I mean something probably radically different than you may think, or is defined by art critics. Lets for the sake of clarity contemporary art is anything created in the last 20 years. But that is an elastic definition, so if I put up something and it was created 22 years ago, it’s not a big deal. So here are a few pieces of contemporary art (for links click on pics):
Ok — so that is just a beginning, a small beginning, a taste of contemporary art. What you say- that isn’t contemporary art — where’s the Rothko! Where’s the installations! Where’s the outsider art? Where’s the weird what the hell are we looking at art (come on I know you think that when you look at pieces like this:)
Please that’s a soft ball — here’s a what the hell are we looking at and why is this in an art gallery piece:
Here try this:
And from an artist who produces beautiful art and then gives us this:
So these also are contemporary art — installation art. Now there will be those of you reading who will say, “Those are amazing! Those are wonderful — I love that” too which I say each to his own and you’re wasting your time reading this unless you really really want to stretch yourself and are very patient. Also there are those of you who looked at the first set of art I put up there and are shaking your heads going, “What the hell is that? That isn’t art. I hate that. Who are these people?” Please indulge me, be patience and let’s have a conversation which I crave above all else. So about the installation art — there is some installation are which I will put up shortly which I love love love — there is also that which is above which I think makes art look bad. This is what I think most people unassociated with, and unused to art look at and go “this is why I hate art”. It makes no sense, it seems like a waste of perfectly good space in museums and galleries, and it seems like a waste of expensive materials. So I have offended many people and maybe artists — some of you are maybe even cringing. Here is the other problem with installation art — it is so impermanent — that is why some people love it. These things can’t be put in someone’s living room, can’t go on a dining room wall, can’t be recreated in my local library (well at least not willingly where I live). There are worse pieces of installation are which I have spared you from (think nude figures being tortured, body parts doing obscene things).
So this art in particular makes me cringe, and I want to challenge myself to figure out why it is art, but then to be completely honest I am tired. This process of knowing art that you don’t immediately like, that isn’t immediately beautiful
(And I admit there are some who may not find this beautiful) but to learn about art is to run up against things you don’t understand or find is difficult. Jeannette Wintterson writes in an essay “Art Objects”
“Art has deep and difficult eyes and for many the gaze is too insistent. Better to pretend that art is dumb, or at least has nothing to say that makes sense to us.”
Yes — deep and difficult, difficult being the operative word. If I see a piece of art that I immediately like there is not difficulty involved, it does not challenge me. The other works — they are like something with a bad taste I want to spit out. Also, they have no context — there is no context that allows me to know if they are comical or serious. The problem is no context. I will talk about context later.
I have struggled mightily and this is what I lean to — art should be available to everyone, and when an artist makes a piece of art that can only be shown in one place like these, that are so grotesque it defeats one of the great things about art — it’s ability to transmit something of the artist to the rest of the world. OK I am showing my biases, especially against performance art which I am slowly coming around to. A Performance disappears once it is performed, and even if it is recorded, it was never meant to be seen on video. It was meant to be experienced live- like theater. So why isn’t it theater? What differentiates it from theater? Theater tells stories, but performance art doesn’t always? Blah — all the effort of performance art I think should be put into theater. Theater performances are reproducible — there is a script. It will never be exactly the same, but costumes and sets can be recorded. And theater can be be made new again and again for each generation. Performance art? A one off. Like these installation pieces.
Here is the other problem — if your only conception of art is these installations and include these:
So let me just give you a little taste of what Keti Chukhrov concludes about art in his piece “On the False Democracy of Contemporary Art” He has a problem with all the large biennials and large public showings of art as well, but his is more of social criticism. His work is, well, dense.
“If the artist makes a political claim to social change, but artistic production is not able to accomplish it, then the decision is to find groups more efficient with social work and let them occupy the institution — thus attempting the collapse of the art institution in favor of its becoming a socially efficient tool. This was the standpoint of Artur Żmijewski, Polish artist and curator of the 7th Berlin Biennial.”
I’m sorry but tool seems to be operative word here. Let me break it down a little, at least my understanding. This biennial — a great gathering of art from around the world (for which the artists paid a pretty penny to be able to get their art into) wants to be focused on “a political claim to social claim”. Thus “collapse of the art institution”. So who needs art anyway? We have a “socially efficient tool”! Yes tool. So blah blah blah blah — the work isn’t about art, it is about how people are manipulating art and artists for social change, but it doesn’t even address what social change. Here’s the thing change is happening but not in biennials, or in gallery shows, or on large manicured lawns of palaces — It’s happening ON THE INTERNET! I’m sorry was that not clear enough — CHANGE IN THE ART WORLD IS ALREADY HAPPENING ONLINE!!!!!!
So I’ve written enough for now — I’m going to start writing in a new article now, if anybodies interested. Lisa