Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Love is what you Want
May 2, 2012 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm sick of pretending. I DON'T "GET" ART. Wherein Vice's Glen Coco goes to a Tracey Emin retrospective at London's Hayward Gallery ... and gives up.

You know what? I'm sick of pretending. I went to art school, wrote a dissertation called "The Elevation of Art Through Commerce: An Analysis of Charles Saatchi's Approach to the Machinery of Art Production Using Pierre Bourdieu's Theories of Distinction", have attended art openings at least once a month for the last five years, even fucking purchased pieces of it, but the other night, after attending the opening of the new Tracey Emin retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, I'm finally ready to come out and say it: I just don't think I "get" art.
posted by philip-random (228 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Look at these fucking guys! Just to be clear: They are in the process of spending three minutes looking at a photograph of a woman they don't know sitting on a chair. Can you imagine how quickly they'd be skipping over this photo if it was in their mum's holiday snaps?

That's sort of the point, innit? Recontextualization? No?
One moment of our 1993 conversation made this especially clear, one during which we both looked at the textured surface of Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952, a painting by Jackson Pollock full of patches, slashes, lines, drippings, and blobs, with barely a hint of blue. “I don’t understand this,” I said. “Yes you do,” Lynch said. “Your eyes are moving.” They must have been, but I had not paid any attention. I had automatically experienced a lack of meaning because I could not stand at the prescribed, controlling viewing distance and read the painting as a rationally controlled system of shapes. Lynch had spontaneously identified the painting as a meaningful representation for me because it had released my moving eye from conventional viewer expectations. I saw that I could not contain the painting in some theoretical framework; he saw me performing with the painting. He saw as crucial that part of me that my education had taught me is inconsequential to my grasp of meaning.
—from The Passion of David Lynch by Martha P. Nochimson
posted by shakespeherian at 9:45 AM on May 2, 2012 [32 favorites]


The art of the troll.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:47 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah art sucks, except when it doesn't.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:47 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


We may just be in a shitty phase right now. This year's Whitney Biennial also seemed kind of "meh".

Except for this really cool thing that was, like, a sandbox with four different kinds of surfaces in it, and microphones on each different surface, and you could walk across it and the microphones picked up the sound of your footsteps so you could hear what you sounded like walking on leaves, then in sand, then on gravel, and...and it was really cool.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps this Glen guy should have been an accountant.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:52 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't get why the upshot here is "I DON'T 'GET' ART" and not "I don't like Tracey Emin."
posted by RogerB at 9:54 AM on May 2, 2012 [25 favorites]


But what she misses is that it is rarely the work that makes the art. And this is nothing new. In fact, this has been the case almost since Dada, and certainly since Warhol, Fluxus, Cage. This is what Danto wrote about. How do these benign things become art? That's really the question. Yes, a photo of a woman in a chair is something you might just pass over in a photo album, but the fact that it isn't in a photo album is critical to its critique and appreciation as a work of art. There are a myriad number of theories to describe how that transformation takes place - institutionalization (the fact that it's in a gallery), a certain mind set or perspective (sort of Dewey's Art as Experience notion), the supposed intention of the artist, even some old-school Humean notion that since it was selected by an expert (curator) there is something to be seen in it that is worthy and so you look for that, etc etc etc.

It was sort of the point of things like Fluxus, a half century ago, to make this problem in art theory and critique quite clear. Famous works like Ono's "Light a match and watch it burn," for example - quotidian, non-artful task transformed into art simply by considering it as such.

The point is: no one has believe art to reside in the artwork itself for quite some time. That isn't the point. That is not to excuse kind of crappy art, but just to say I disagree with her amateur premise.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:55 AM on May 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


According to the exhibition guide, this piece is one of a number of small pieces that "can easily be missed or walked past – but you have to read them, give them time." I think perhaps I need a little more time to read this one.

The painting in question looks like interpretations of the wheelchair symbol, which suggests plenty to think about if you're willing to do more than shrug and walk away. I admit that much of the art in the article didn't do much for me, but "Why are these people wasting their lives with junk like this?!" seems a strong reaction.
posted by luftmensch at 9:55 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do "get" Tracey Emin. I "get" she's a pretentious fake, alright.
posted by Skeptic at 9:58 AM on May 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


The art, yeah ok whatever, but the HAT! The HAT!
posted by Kimberly at 9:59 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of the most important books, songs and images in my life would have been completely meaningless to me if I'd been shown them when I was nine years old. Certainly, looking over the Picasso exhibit at the AGO the other day, it's obvious that I simply wouldn't have seen a fraction of what I saw there if I was the person I was a decade ago.

Which is all to say: just because you don't see it, or can't relate to it, doesn't mean there's nothing there.
posted by mhoye at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does bad art disprove all art?
posted by ardgedee at 10:01 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


What I'm curious to know is how curators decide what is good art worthy of being displayed when almost anything contextualized properly can be considered "art"?
posted by timsneezed at 10:02 AM on May 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


Tracey riding a fucking horse.

That horse was not fucking. If it was, that would have required that Tracey be a much more assured rider.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:02 AM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Cherry picking this and that from contemporary art and basically yelling "what is this shit? Seriously?" is about the most played out, unoriginal, and pointless exercise I can imagine in art writing. Heal thyself, "writer."
posted by nanojath at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


just because you don't see it, or can't relate to it, doesn't mean there's nothing there.

Right, but with Tracey Emin, there's a pretty strong argument that there actually is just nothing there. This implies precisely nothing about "ART."
posted by RogerB at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


So here's the secret I learned after many years of learning about art.

Some art sucks. There's crap in galleries and museums. It's OK to not like it.

Naturally, what art sucks or doesn't is partially relative to the viewer. Someone out there genuinely wants a neon sign that reads "my cunt is wet with fear" and thinks it's beautiful or edgy or clever and doesn't care that it mostly looks like any other hacked up neon text art that people have been making for 40 years. That's OK, let them enjoy it. But you don't have to.

Also, since Lutoslawski said "Fluxus", I have to rant a bit. Can someone go to the New York Museum of Modern Art and excise all of Fluxus, please? MOMA should try for a year to show no conceptual art made between 1945 and 1980, just embrace the rest of the modern era for a little bit, see how it feels. Yes, sometimes a mundane thing or simple phrase can be transformed to art by putting it a museum. But sometimes it's just boring. There's a lot of other modern art out there, much of it beautiful on its own merits and doesn't need a pretentious imprimatur to make it meaningful. MOMA should try just showing that kind of art for awhile.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


You go (away), Glen Coco.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2012


What I'm curious to know is how curators decide what is good art worthy of being displayed when almost anything contextualized properly can be considered "art"?

Truthfully? Usually who they met at that one party that they thought was interesting, who had lots of connections that they could bring into the gallery and buy the art, who could be sold as a personality. And a tiny, tiny bit of their own personal taste.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:04 AM on May 2, 2012 [18 favorites]


I think what has helped me grapple with some difficult art over the years is remembering that the experience is usually about helping us see or experience with a different set of eyes or viewpoint. The most powerful art I've ever encountered is life-changing, as in, it shifts my perspective in a permanent and memorable way. But one cannot expect this experience with every artist or every piece of art. Some art is bad to mediocre, sometimes there is no common ground or shared references, and sometimes the perspective is just too alien.

In short, no one "gets" all art all the time.
posted by bearwife at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


We know what art is: it's paintings of horses!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:07 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


No big deal. I don't always "get" art, either. However, I'm not inclined to pretending I do when I don't.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2012


It absolutely implies something about 'art' if Emin's work has no intrinsic worth, but is widely celebrated anyway.

When Kings of Leon won a Grammy, that said something about music - that the establishment had lost all connection with creativity, innovation, the advancement of the human endeavor to make music that was maybe even slightly different than the millions of songs that have already been made. The art world has maybe gone in the other direction.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also, since Lutoslawski said "Fluxus", I have to rant a bit. Can someone go to the New York Museum of Modern Art and excise all of Fluxus, please? MOMA should try for a year to show no conceptual art made between 1945 and 1980, just embrace the rest of the modern era for a little bit, see how it feels.

What's interesting is that if you go back and read the Fluxus Manifesto or many of the other founding documents and letters between folks like Dick Higgins, George Maciunas, et al, you'll find out that these works were never meant to end up in Museums. In fact Maciunas, the father of the Fluxus movement, describe quite intentionally his goal that all fluxus event scores and the like were to be destroyed. The point of it was that the physical works were supposed to show a way to a higher level of being, in regard to art and the not-art. One fluxus artist famously said to the effect of "you can see how fluxus has failed because of its existence in m(a)us(ol)eums."

Of course, Museums, which exist essentially for commodification and creating false economic values, put them in frames and cases anyway, because at the end of the day it was a dollars game. Just like Greek sculpture was not meant, when created, as 'art,' in the way we think of art today, we have still jammed all of it into our current paradigm, so we can have donors and auctions and private collections and art dealers.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:09 AM on May 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


no one has believe art to reside in the artwork itself for quite some time

There are still people who believe in the value of a standalone piece of art. It might be hard to find them, but they exist.
posted by spindling at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


ardgedee: "Does bad art disprove all art?"

no, but bad trolling disproves all trolling
posted by idiopath at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2012


I'm trying to decide which has more value in the long run:

1) Seeing this guy develop over time into the 'Cliff Yablonksi' of art criticsm.

or

2) Trying to convince a gallery to do a retrospective of the 'work' of Cliff Yablonski; offensive comments, offended patrons, and all. Call the whole damn thing an installation. Spike the punch bowl at the opening party with something awful, I don't know, laxatives or something. How should I know? What do I look like? An artist?
posted by chambers at 10:12 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


spindling: "There are still people who believe in the value of a standalone piece of art. It might be hard to find them, but they exist."

actually, not only that, but if music is an art, this is actually 100% the mainstream view
posted by idiopath at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So a woman rubbing money against her vagina is art ? Never knew that the brothel a couple of kilometers from my house was an art studio.
posted by Pendragon at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2012


"The Elevation of Art Through Commerce: An Analysis of Charles Saatchi's Approach to the Machinery of Art Production Using Pierre Bourdieu's Theories of Distinction"

Needs more red.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a funny piece, but lest anyone take it seriously: the worth of human artistic endeavour and the struggle to transmute the earthly to the sublime is not negated just because Tracey Emin is shit
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I DON'T "GET" VICE so I guess we're even. Why is this piece even worthy of posting, everyone knows someone who would rant in the exact same way if they wandered into a modern art gallery. It neither edgy nor subversive...
posted by naju at 10:14 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The art of the troll.

I think that needs to be squared. Tracey Emin starts it. Glen Coco accepts the challenge. And so on.
posted by philip-random at 10:14 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's simple. You just point your iPhone at it and send the snap to my soon to open website www.artdetector.com, and it will superimpose a score from 0 to 10. It will be online soon, I just have some late calibration issues to attend to something about a shark in a glass box and a urinal, have to re-check the post-it note.
posted by localroger at 10:16 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


“I don’t understand this,” I said. “Yes you do,” Lynch said. “Your eyes are moving.”

That's setting the bar pretty low.
posted by John Cohen at 10:16 AM on May 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


I read the article and just took it as a small piece of entertainment--and I found it mildly entertaining. No more/no less and I have felt the same way sometimes.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:18 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


spindling: "There are still people who believe in the value of a standalone piece of art. It might be hard to find them, but they exist."

actually, not only that, but if music is an art, this is actually 100% the mainstream view


Well, I sort of disagree. Satie said that we must consider the sounds of knives and forks. Music is just as much about context, in some respect. Of course, it is an interesting question of whether once you consider, say, the sounds of knives and forks, that makes somehow that sound an artwork and now it is standalone. What role out own sense of cognition and perception plays in this is a sort of chicken and/or egg issue, and maybe doesn't yield any interesting philosophical results.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:18 AM on May 2, 2012


The point is: no one has believe art to reside in the artwork itself for quite some time. That isn't the point.

I get that art pieces can act more symbolically and that you can appreciate art on a more meta level than just observing the piece itself, but the thing mentioned in the article that I agree with is that it seems silly that people take these sorts of things so incredibly seriously. Visiting a gallery is generally not treated as a fun "Hey let's check out this stuff somebody made" kind of event but instead as a very somber affair that involves a lot of prolonged silent staring at things while looking serious. That's the aspect of art culture that seems fake or put on to me. To me, looking at some of the pieces in the linked article and treating them seriously is fine, but a little absurd along the same lines as LARPing and other situations where most of there's a collective mental construction of meaning on top of something mundane. And I think it's slightly hypocritical that many people who appreciate what in many cases are not inherently important pieces of art sneer at anyone who unironically appreciates popular art for their own reasons.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:20 AM on May 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


What Satie had to say hasn't really informed the mainstream view of music for a good little while now...
posted by Dysk at 10:21 AM on May 2, 2012


What I sometimes find myself thinking, when looking at modern art, is that someone said to someone else, let's put THIS RANDOM THING I FOUND (or my kid painted, or my dog was chewing) in a frame (or on a shelf or on a roof), and tell people it's art. And then someone pays $120k for it. Because really, all you need is some relatively influential person to say a thing is art, and then magically, it is!
posted by Glinn at 10:21 AM on May 2, 2012


I have never wanted to do anything more than Catwoman the fuck out of this room.

Heh.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:22 AM on May 2, 2012


There is also a certain degree of impossibility in the notion of a standalone work of art, I believe. Every experience of art is shaped by our hermeneutic apparatus, so to speak, our own history, our place in time, what we had for breakfast. The degree you want to extrapolate that to the institution it's in, its supposed economic value, its politics, and the like is an interesting question, but I don't think that the Kantian ideal of a work of art free from all concepts, uses, etc. really exists.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What Satie had to say hasn't really informed the mainstream view of music for a good little while now...

I disagree. That quote by Satie was oft quoted by Cage. I've written my thoughts about this elsewhere on the blue, but I don't think there has been a bigger influence on music in the last 50 years than the work of Cage, either as a deliberate rejection of his ideals or an extreme embrace. Mainstream music exists, in a way, as a anti-Cage/Satie, which implies its influence, even if its influence is an absence.

It was a relatively similar situation in Satie's world as it is today. You had Satie v. the 'mainstream' - Wagner, Debussy. The super artsy v. the epic, the indie v. the hollywood, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:26 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Cool, so thanks for showing me how to manipulate and bend neon lights."
"Glad I could help. There's a lot of potential in neon art, in the way it broadcasts light."
"Yeah, I'm really excited about it. It's opening up a lot of ideas for me."
"What do you think you're going to do first?"
"I'm going to spell out 'MY CUNT IS WET WITH FEAR.'"
"OK. Awkward."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:26 AM on May 2, 2012 [29 favorites]


but the thing mentioned in the article that I agree with is that it seems silly that people take these sorts of things so incredibly seriously

Ha! Yes, burnmp3s, I very much agree with that.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2012


The thing is, folks, people who like, discuss and make conceptual art really aren't pretending to like it. They just have a different perspective on it to you. They have often seen and read about and studied and made thousands of other pieces in the tradition. They understand the terms of a particular artistic dialect, and appreciate what is expressed and how it is expressed. Liking something different to what you like does not make anyone pretentious. Lots of people like mashed swede, I find it emetic, but that doesn't mean I think they're being pretentious when they ask for a second helping.
posted by howfar at 10:31 AM on May 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


I do "get" Tracey Emin. I "get" she's a pretentious fake, alright.

This comment has zero content.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:31 AM on May 2, 2012


When it comes to visual art - especially "pictures" (painted, drawn, photographed, whatever), I have to be honest and say it really doesn't do much for me. Occasionally I will see a piece that stirs me enough to feel something like "Hey... cool", but that's about it. Usually those pieces are more towards the abstract or expressionist end of the spectrum; "pictures" that look more or less like things leave me pretty unmoved. The last piece I recall that caused anything close to a visceral reaction was something huge and tortured by Anselm Kiefer.

Music, literature and cinema can all move me to actual tears, or rage, or any number of fierce emotions, but the most that purely visual art seems to do for me is that "hey... cool" thing. I would never use this (lack of) response of mine to damn such art. It seems obvious to me that it's just a question of sensory or emotional triggers/receptors that I lack in that area. It's my problem, not art's.
posted by Decani at 10:33 AM on May 2, 2012


If you look at art in a gallery and think "I could do that" then by all means, you should.
posted by hellojed at 10:35 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


It neither edgy nor subversive...

But it can at least be true at times. If one can't express an honest response to a piece with 'This is bullshit', because they would be written off as just some unenlightened plebeian dullard and 'sent to the cornfield', the objets d′art have become less of a piece of art, and more a piece of dogma.

Art is not so delicate, vulnerable, and vain that it can't handle the full spectrum of responses. Artists, perhaps, but not the art itself.
posted by chambers at 10:36 AM on May 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


Liking something different to what you like does not make anyone pretentious.

I wear a Rolex that's worth more than your car. How do you feel about me?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:36 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Visiting a gallery is generally not treated as a fun "Hey let's check out this stuff somebody made" kind of event but instead as a very somber affair that involves a lot of prolonged silent staring at things while looking serious.

This is why I loved one of the exhibits that was in London's Tate Modern a while ago - can't remember its name or who made it, but it was basically a table and two chairs made vastly over scale, so they towered over visitors' heads. It was far from sombre - I spent about ten minutes in there, running around under the table giggling and pretending I was two years old again. Emotional attachment, craftsmanship and social statement all in one handy package!
posted by ZsigE at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lutoslawski, Cage has not been mainstream music for some time, if indeed he ever was. The Kings of Leon are mainstream. Try listening to the radio sometime.

(High art isn't the only art.)
posted by Dysk at 10:38 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing is, folks, people who like, discuss and make conceptual art really aren't pretending to like it. They just have a different perspective on it to you. They have often seen and read about and studied and made thousands of other pieces in the tradition. They understand the terms of a particular artistic dialect, and appreciate what is expressed and how it is expressed. Liking something different to what you like does not make anyone pretentious.

Why is it that I only hear things like this from people who are heavily invested (moneywise) into buying tripe like the things he took photos of?

If all this art was good on its own sake, why is it only always displayed only when it is for sale? Why does, in retrospect, people judge how good a show was based on sales?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:39 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


If there were no Tracey Emin, there would be no Tracey Emin jokes in Viz. or Private Eye. And that would be bad.
posted by chavenet at 10:39 AM on May 2, 2012


"If you look at art in a gallery and think "I could do that" then by all means, you should."

In a gallery, I often look at some random scribble or blank canvas in a rhombus-shaped frame, or something, and think "I could do that". I am never arrogant enough to believe I could pull off the massive feat of social engineering required to get it into a gallery and have people take it seriously.
posted by UrbanEye at 10:40 AM on May 2, 2012 [43 favorites]


Which is all to say: just because you don't see it, or can't relate to it, doesn't mean there's nothing there.
posted by mhoye at 6:00 PM on May 2


But also, as Mr. Yorke rightly has it: just 'cause you feel it, doesn't mean it's there.
posted by Decani at 10:40 AM on May 2, 2012


The thing is, folks, people who like, discuss and make conceptual art really aren't pretending to like it. They just have a different perspective on it to you. They have often seen and read about and studied and made thousands of other pieces in the tradition. They understand the terms of a particular artistic dialect, and appreciate what is expressed and how it is expressed. Liking something different to what you like does not make anyone pretentious.

There's also a way to see them as the various players in the Emperor's New Clothes fable. The status quo and their elevated position within it demands that they not just see the Emperor's clothes, but also all the luxuriant details -- the weave, the colors, the audacious design.

It's a powerful fable, I believe, and particularly apt for our conformist times.
posted by philip-random at 10:40 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why is it that I only hear things like this from people who are heavily invested (moneywise) into buying tripe like the things he took photos of?

Are you assuming that a lot of the people in this thread have made significant monetary investments in conceptual art?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who else didn't get art--except for nice little representational watercolors?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was an intern at Glimmerglass Opera one summer. The previous season they did Imeneo. It was set on a rooftop with a trussed up dear carcass hanging off one of dormers. The props department had a hell of a time creating a PETA friendly deer carcass. The head of the paint department seriously broke protocol at a public Q&A and asked the scenic designer why on earth she included a deer carcass in the design? She responded that she didn't know.

There was no deep meaning to the deer carcass.

I later stumbled upon a photo of that set in an exhibition of various works from the previous year in Boston's ICA. I was pretty disappointed.
posted by UrbanEye at 10:42 AM on May 2, 2012


I wear a Rolex that's worth more than your car. How do you feel about me?

Ha! I don't own a car! What's your rolex worth now!?!

(This is not performance art.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:43 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lutoslawski, Cage has not been mainstream music for some time, if indeed he ever was.

I'm not a huge fan of Beck but I recall an interview with him a while back where he described how he decided whether a recording was finished or not. He'd always play it in the next room while he did stuff in the kitchen (or wherever). Plates clinking, pots and pans knocking into each other, the sound of the neighbor mowing his lawn -- if the record didn't find a way to work with all of that, to cut through and get noticed, then it wasn't finished.

This strikes me as a very Cage-like position.
posted by philip-random at 10:44 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


>I am never arrogant enough to believe I could pull off the massive feat of social engineering required to get it into a gallery and have people take it seriously.

Yeah. It often seems that the art isn't putting the object in the frame; the art is putting the frame inside the exhibit, and getting buyers/visitors to attend that exhibit.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:44 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"You know who else didn't get art--except for nice little representational watercolors?"

BOOM! GODWIN! HA!
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 10:44 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


particularly apt for our conformist times.

Has there ever been such a thing as genuinely nonconformist times?
posted by aramaic at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2012


Lutoslawski, Cage has not been mainstream music for some time, if indeed he ever was. The Kings of Leon are mainstream. Try listening to the radio sometime.

(High art isn't the only art.)


? I don't think I said Cage was mainstream (and why so mean?) You missed my point (and Cage would never have wanted to be considered 'high art.') High art is a relatively new concept in human history, and most art we consider 'high' today was of course once pop. And this split really was just happening around the time of Cage, and not just passively but in a very aggressive way. That's why fluxus came in to being - to grapple and try to destroy this idea of high and low art (it is no coincidence that Maciunas was a socialist). The Kings of Leon may not know that they are a reaction against Cage and Fluxus and that type of art, but the tradition they are in certainly is. None of these things happen in a vacuum. Art is a relatively young thing, only about 200 years old, and none of it is too far removed from another.

And for the record, I kind of like Kings of Leon - sometimes. GASP. Seriously though, Day Old Blue is kind of a great song.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lutoslawski: but I don't think that the Kantian ideal of a work of art free from all concepts, uses, etc. really exists

I'm not implying it is possible, or even desirable, to have a piece of art that is free from concept or context.

The last two images in the post (the John Martin painting "The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah" and the Tracey Emin neon sign that says "My cunt is wet with fear") provide me with different experiences.

The first piece uses visual language, the second deals with verbal language, and I place more value on the experience I have when I look at the John Martin work.

Both pieces have a concept, but only one is conceptual art.
posted by spindling at 10:46 AM on May 2, 2012


While there are indeed still intelligent, thoughtful musicians who have put thought into what art/music is and means, and very occasionally one of them might even break through and have commercial success (Beck, for example) this does not mean that the mainstream opinion on music is informed by an awful lot of thought, their own or others'.
posted by Dysk at 10:46 AM on May 2, 2012


To me, looking at some of the pieces in the linked article and treating them seriously is fine, but a little absurd along the same lines as LARPing and other situations where most of there's a collective mental construction of meaning on top of something mundane.

That's unfair to the LARPers. They put away the pretense at the end of the day.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:46 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan of Beck but I recall an interview with him a while back where he described how he decided whether a recording was finished or not. He'd always play it in the next room while he did stuff in the kitchen (or wherever). Plates clinking, pots and pans knocking into each other, the sound of the neighbor mowing his lawn -- if the record didn't find a way to work with all of that, to cut through and get noticed, then it wasn't finished.

It's worth noting that Beck's grandfather and mentor was Al Hansen, a friend of Cage and Fluxus artist.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the things that annoys me about conceptual art in general is that it seems like the artist did not consider whether the concept is best expressed in a given format. Putting a toilet bowl in a gallery to point out the artifice of the artistic establishment and the institution of gallery showings is a poor way of expressing those points. Moreover, it insults the very audience you are knowingly addressing.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2012


I don't think you're supposed to 'get' art. You're supposed to like it or not like it, be moved by it or bored by it, but don't feel pressured to 'get' it. Just move on to the next piece.
posted by rocket88 at 10:50 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


One problem I have with ordinary objects being presented as Art, is that I am a very lazy observer. An artist like Dali presents visual depictions of a way that he perceives things. After viewing the art, I am more able to perceive things in his fashion throughout life. I use the artistic piece as a lens. I suppose Dali could have created a completely ordinary statue of an elephant and challenged the viewer to picture it as a massive elephant on thin, stilt-like legs. But, I'm not sure why I would need Dali to do that.
posted by UrbanEye at 10:52 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Except for this really cool thing that was, like, a sandbox with four different kinds of surfaces in it, and microphones on each different surface, and you could walk across it and the microphones picked up the sound of your footsteps so you could hear what you sounded like walking on leaves, then in sand, then on gravel, and...and it was really cool."

One of my favorite parts of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh was Warhol's Silver Clouds, which is basically a room filled with these air-filled plastic pillows made to float around through the use of fans and the right amount of air pressure. So, you walk into this room and do basically whatever you want: my favorite thing was to pick up a pillow and throw it at another pillow, watching them collide and split off in slow motion.

Is that art, in the same way that Starry Night is art? Well, it did make me feel something: a really strong sense of almost child-like glee. That seems the measure of what good art is. And why saying you "don't get art" is a lot like saying you "don't get music" or "don't get food" - it's just too many different sorts of things for you to be categorical in that way.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:52 AM on May 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Tracey Emin produces incredibly dull, tendentious, etiolated work that can only exist in the living-embalment of the museum, and even there it feels depressing. She's not an artist, she just has stuff in museums.
posted by clockzero at 10:56 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like. For example, here is a photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans, part of an ongoing series of experiments informed by darkroom mistakes, often made without the use of a camera and derived solely from darkroom chemicals.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:57 AM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't think you're supposed to 'get' art. You're supposed to like it or not like it, be moved by it or bored by it, but don't feel pressured to 'get' it. Just move on to the next piece.

But it's not that simple. The piece is in a gallery space demanding your attention. It better have something to show for it. If it is ill conceived, poorly executed, or just plain dumb and yet there it sits on a gallery wall occupying the same space in society as masterpieces, it's upsetting. It has unearned validity just by its presence.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 10:57 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


particularly apt for our conformist times.

I really can't think of a single thing more conformist in our society than sneering at "modern art". Just look at this thread. Metafilter is fairly representative of English-speaking society's arty-farty lefty liberal wing, and look at the hackneyed philistine tripe being belched out here as if it constituted original thought.
posted by howfar at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think saying "I don't 'get' food" would be valid in the context of a restaurant where, instead of giving you things you could eat, the chef came over and smashed your plate with a hammer while singing off-key opera, at which point you were expected to say "Oh I'm full now, thank you that was very tasty" or "That was a bit salty, not my cup of tea!" because everyone kept saying that what you just experienced was food because it was contextualized in the space of a restaurant.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2012 [28 favorites]


burnmp3s: "other situations where most of there's a collective mental construction of meaning on top of something mundane"

Money is just a piece of paper, words are just sounds in your throat or squiggles on paper, death is just a ceasing of a set of chemical reactions.

All of the things we call "meaningful" are collective constructions on top of something mundane.
posted by idiopath at 11:00 AM on May 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I used to say that I didn't "get" most art, and I probably still don't really compared to some people, but I stopped caring and now mostly enjoy it. Once I accepted that it was ok that I just liked looking at the stuff and thought very little about the philosophical importance or meaning of the pieces all of a sudden a day at an art gallery sounded like fun. Art is different for everybody. We went to the Museum of Latin American Art here in Long Beach last month and my girlfriend spent a solid 30 seconds looking at each piece. If I was by myself I probably would have spent 10. Does that mean she "gets" it more than I do? Maybe, but fuck it, we're both having fun.

And, since I like shakespeherian's idea, I really like this and I'm accepting donations to get it on my barren walls.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


the fact that it isn't in a photo album is critical to its critique and appreciation as a work of art


No. It's really not. This is a lazy and tired tenet in modern art that is rapidly becoming passe, even in the art world, as evidenced by the article... once you disconnect subjective experience, and demand the viewer to judge the art as important simply because of it's setting and artist, the thing reeks of privilege and cronyism. It alienates the viewer. It's symptomatic of an inbred elitism, and people have had quite enough of it.

Banksy has turned that little trope of "It's art because it's in an exhibition because the artist and curator said it should be" on its head... he uses place and context in a rich and meaningful way, and now there's no going back without looking like a pretentious twit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


>look at the hackneyed philistine tripe being belched out here as if it constituted original thought.

Personally, my objection is that if someone took the phrase

LOOK AT THE HACKNEYED PHILISTINE TRIPE

and rendered this in neon, smuggling it into Tracy Emin's exhibit and placing it on the wall... I suspect many attendees would see nothing amiss.

Apparently,
Cheap Koan/Mild Contradiction/Some Pensee You Would've Found Impressive as a Twelve-Year Old + Physical Rendering+ Exhibit= Art.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:07 AM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


All of the things we call "meaningful" are collective constructions on top of something mundane.

If everything is sacred, then nothing is.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:08 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lutoslawski: "Museums, which exist essentially for commodification and creating false economic values"
Er, what?
posted by brokkr at 11:09 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Money is just a piece of paper, words are just sounds in your throat or squiggles on paper, death is just a ceasing of a set of chemical reactions.

All of the things we call "meaningful" are collective constructions on top of something mundane."


You can't just give me any old piece of paper and expect me to work or trade something for it. You can't spill an inkwell on a sheet of paper and expect me to read it.
You can't have a hangover and expect to get a funeral.
posted by UrbanEye at 11:10 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


In art school I shared a studio for a semester with a student who participated in a group show about a visiting artist, where students could make commentary pieces that would be displayed in a linked room in the gallery. I saw the student taking a table hockey set, removing the players and replacing them with onions. I asked what he meant by it.

"Well, I could be using a piece of food that will rot to make a commentary on the transitory nature of installation art by visiting artists. The fact that the onions move by pushing and pulling rods to achieve various dance-like interactions also brings a performative aspect to it while simultaneously articulating something about indirect management and staging. Also, the juxtaposition with hockey brings some interesting recontextualizing of art in sport, and the reverse."

"Or maybe I just think her installation stinks."
posted by fatbird at 11:10 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, you could, but I won't.
posted by UrbanEye at 11:11 AM on May 2, 2012


burnmp3s: a little absurd along the same lines as LARPing and other situations where most of there's a collective mental construction of meaning on top of something mundane.

I think this is the problem. It is a collective mental construction of meaning built on the mundane, but it has left vast majority of the population people out of the collective. It offers little of value to anyone who does not participate in that collective.

Anytime you have small, self-selecting and self-reinforcing groups building these isolated towers of reason you see them getting further and further away from both reality and utility to the rest of humanity. I assert you can see these trends equally in critical theory and theology.

This is in contrast to say football, which can be seen the same way, but has brought the bulk of the population along with it, even if football and modern art are equally mysterious to me.

So sure the art may make sense in these isolated contexts, but really it offers nothing valuable to society for anyone not part of its in-crowd. Modern art has just done a better job of getting society to buy into it than critical theory or academic theology. On the other hand its done much worse than football. On the gripping hand much of its appeal to people who are part of that collective is its impenetrability to most people.
posted by pseudonick at 11:12 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really can't think of a single thing more conformist in our society than sneering at "modern art". Just look at this thread. Metafilter is fairly representative of English-speaking society's arty-farty lefty liberal wing, and look at the hackneyed philistine tripe being belched out here as if it constituted original thought.

There is "sneering at modern art" and then there is calling bullshit on certain artists/works of modern art. And calling bullshit on this erudite elitist club of artists and gallery patrons, which is what mostly this is.

The pieces that are photos in that article are the things that look like they are "hackneyed philistine tripe being belched out," not our informed criticism.

Can you imagine if we changed movie theaters into "Galleries?" People in funny outfits, who don't have to go to work in the morning, could stand and gaze in awe at films like Battleship, hands touching their chins.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


But it's not that simple. The piece is in a gallery space demanding your attention. It better have something to show for it. If it is ill conceived, poorly executed, or just plain dumb and yet there it sits on a gallery wall occupying the same space in society as masterpieces, it's upsetting. It has unearned validity just by its presence.

It's there because someone else liked it enough to put it there.
Art is subjective; don't let that upset you.
posted by rocket88 at 11:17 AM on May 2, 2012


hackneyed philistine tripe being belched out here as if it constituted original thought

Funnily enough, that sort of sums up my reaction to Emin's art.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:20 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because really, all you need is some relatively influential person to say a thing is art, and then magically, it is!

Arguments about whether something is or isn't art or music or whatever always are pointless and roundabout. I suspect the reason why is that the question itself is framed in a misleading way. It assumes that a thing can intrinsically be art, or not be art. But it seems to me that "art" (or "music", or cetera) better describes a way of interacting with the thing than it does the thing itself. Another way to say this is that art is a role that a thing can take, a function it can perform. Some things are clearly created to be used that way, and aren't very well suited to many other uses. These things are pretty easy to call art, e.g., the Mona Lisa*. But for things that can perform multiple functions, context is important. A photo in a vacation album is usually used to save and share personal memories. The same photo in a gallery serves a completely different function. And the same photo used as an advertisement serves a third function entirely.

So, is the stuff in that gallery art? Is it a joke? Is it trolling? Is it a scam? It can be any of those things if you engage it in those ways. I personally find my reaction to them is a blend of all four. I have a similar reaction to the article itself.
posted by aubilenon at 11:21 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a piece by Mark Bradford, which is part of a series of works made using permanent wave end papers and scavenged advertising posters found in the neighborhood around his mother's shop. The works are subtly layered as the end papers are semi-transparent and have a kind of depth and warmth to them. This one is called 'Strawberry.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:22 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder if a sign of the decline of a civilization is when the artists and poets have stopped taking emotional risk in favor of taking formal risks that cost the artist/writer nothing but time and money. Like the emergence of a permanent class of artist/poets whose audience is increasingly themselves rather than average people of ordinary intelligence and education is maybe somehow a bellwether for the dissolution of a shared culture. The arts becoming a profession would therefore be the first sign of a society on the verge of collapse.

All of which is to say: I for one welcome our new ant overlords.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:23 AM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is "sneering at modern art" and then there is calling bullshit on certain artists/works of modern art.

Which is not what the Vice piece or this thread are doing. Your ridiculous caricature of gallery goers as "People in funny outfits, who don't have to go to work in the morning, [who] stand and gaze in awe...hands touching their chins." nicely sums up the real agenda here, which is bullying, crowing and mockery. Enjoy it, but I imagine it will leave you feeling even more empty than modern art does.
posted by howfar at 11:23 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Hey lady. You are at least 50 years old. What the fuck are you doing?"
posted by ericb at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Banksy has turned that little trope of "It's art because it's in an exhibition because the artist and curator said it should be" on its head... he uses place and context in a rich and meaningful way, and now there's no going back without looking like a pretentious twit.

Well, Banksy has had his fair share of exhibits in galleries at this point. It isn't much different than the fluxus stuff - it was supposed to be everyday art, out there for the people, and then it gets taken in by curators and such. Banksy is nothing revolutionary or new (though I do like him).

I don't disagree that there is a certain elitism to asking a work to be considered because of its placement in a museum or the like. It's an unfortunate after effect of mid to late 20th century art movements and cultural shifts. But I don't think people have had quite enough of it, judging by the ubiquity of monthly gallery walks and the types of things you see in them.

Also there is a huge, huge divide between "judging something important" and simply considering something. And I think that's crucial. By putting something on a wall in a gallery, you aren't asking people to think it's good, you're simply asking people to consider it in an art way, which are different things indeed. I'm not sure any of this is 'good' for the art world, if there is such a notion at all.

Lutoslawski: "Museums, which exist essentially for commodification and creating false economic values"

Er, what?


A Museum is part of what makes art, which is not exactly a business onto itself, into a business (similar to what a record label does to music or whatever). Museums are a major part of what drives the economy behind artworks, which have no real economic value, inherently. They, along with dealers and auction houses and such, are what sort of erroneously drives prices for art, deciding that this painting is worth $35m while this one is garbage, etc. Museums, most of which are NPOs, use their collections as assets to bolster their balance sheets and leverage resources (not necessarily a Bad Thing, but sort of a not inherently connected to artworks qua artworks thing). And as an art consuming culture, we have largely conflated artistic value with economic value, i.e. this painting is worth x therefore it's artistic value must be this or that, depending on the value of x. But it's kind of a sham, no? I think it is, anyway. I guess Hirst is sort of my go-to example here.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:27 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because really, all you need is some relatively influential person to say a thing is art, and then magically, it is!

So, is the stuff in that gallery art? Is it a joke? Is it trolling? Is it a scam? It can be any of those things if you engage it in those ways.

The thing is, this argument has been happening since art has been happening (Hume made the first assertion, Dewey and some others the one you make - both of which are kind of valid in their own rights). That we continue to have the same debate about art and what it means is what keeps it interesting and vibrant. At least I think so. Aesthetics is a bottomless pit, but it's kind of a fun fall.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2012


Stop all this nuanced discussion! Every piece of artwork MUST Be judged in comparison to the greatest works of art ever made. If "my cunt is wet with fear" is found wanting compared to the Mona Lisa, it shouldn't exist anywhere for my eyes to see, least of all an art space.
posted by naju at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rapture is one of Kiki Smith's better-known works. Smith's pieces tend to focus on the female body through depictions of birth, internal organs, skin, etc. This one is sort of playful and seems to refer to the story of Red Riding Hood.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:34 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Art is subjective; don't let that upset you.

*snerk* This sounds like the Cardinal Rule that a blogger I sometimes write play reviews for told us when he was training the new writers on his site's style - "Don't forget: even if a play is really bad, the people who put it on did not do so to personally annoy you."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's there because someone else liked it enough to put it there.
Art is subjective; don't let that upset you.


I will admit that the emotional quality of my response comes from a place of misanthropy which itself comes from a place of insecurity, but that does not change the fact that stupid shit passes as art and the people that make it get to call themselves artists. Fundamentally, these piecse exhibit no craft, no creativity, and no worthwhile thought. That isn't subjective. There exists bad art and bad artists. We should be able to say so.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 11:36 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can you imagine if we changed movie theaters into "Galleries?" People in funny outfits, who don't have to go to work in the morning, could stand and gaze in awe at films like Battleship, hands touching their chins.

That's actually a fun game. If you happen to see a terrible movie, when everyone else is shaking their heads, praise it like it was high art. "It was a wonderful deconstruction of X" or "The director was clearly recontextualizing Y."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:37 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Hey lady. You are at least 50 years old. What the fuck are you doing?"

Wearing an awesome hat with gravitas is not an activity limited, or even suited, to the young.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:38 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Life is noise.

Art is signal.
posted by jet_manifesto at 11:40 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


There exists bad art and bad artists. We should be able to say so.

Who's preventing anybody from saying bad art exists? I've published a fair amount of art criticism, and I say that all the fucking time.
posted by neroli at 11:42 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cherry picking this and that from contemporary art and basically yelling "what is this shit? Seriously?" is about the most played out, unoriginal, and pointless exercise I can imagine in art writing.

Not as played out at "MY TWO YEAR OLD COULD DO THIS!!" but almost.

Anyway, that thing that Glen Coco does? Hennesy Youngman, AKA H-Rock, AKA The Pharaoh, is a lot better at it.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:46 AM on May 2, 2012


Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Still #4 is part of a long-ongoing series of photos with Sherman herself as model staged to look like they're frames from films which have never existed. Sherman's work often looks at existing depictions of female sexuality (sometimes overtly so, with lewdly-positioned Barbie-doll-like figures). I like this one because in a single image it suggests quite a bit of story and emotion. I also think it's very interesting that Sherman tends to use herself as the model in her photographs.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:47 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who's preventing anybody from saying bad art exists? I've published a fair amount of art criticism, and I say that all the fucking time.

Perhaps I'm being defensive but I feel like a lot of people in this thread are saying that if we don't like certain contemporary art pieces that we aren't thinking it about it right or that our reasons aren't real reasons. Could be that be that those pieces suck. That is what I'm saying.

In fact, the comment following yours belittles the old "my two your old could do this" criticism. The thing is, I think it is a valid criticism. It is just as valid to say are art should exhibit some level of craft as to say art doesn't need craft. But who is being shouted down in this thread?
posted by SugarFreeGum at 11:52 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have been taught by modern art to go into an exhibit with suspended expectations. Some of it just isn't going to talk to me, and that's ok. It may talk to someone else, or perhaps only to the artist themselves. That doesn't offend me, any more than a conversation between two other people that I'm not in should offend me.

I find that when I'm in that frame of mind, I'm more open to the things that can speak to me; lovely or unusual or disturbing things. When that happens, it's pleasant enough that it usually makes wading through the rest of it worthwhile.

It also helps not to wonder "what does it mean?" or "how will people 500 years from now possibly understand this?" Who cares? We won't be here, and all art has fluid meaning.
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on May 2, 2012


I don't know if it's great art or not, but a neon sign that says "my cunt is wet with fear" is hilarious.
posted by freakazoid at 11:56 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uh, no. Some guy goes to a shitty gallery opening in London and declares from that oh-so-elucidating experience that art is shit? Fuck that right in the ear. Go to better openings. Try to seek out art, not just free cocktails. Don't be so goddamn pathetic as to think what you happen to bump into is the epitome of the form. I (didn't really) read The Hunger Games, and from that I conclude that hegemonic notions of capitalistic narcissism render writing as an art form completely without value? Uh, no. I repeat: uh, no.
posted by CaptApollo at 11:59 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Hey lady. You are at least 50 years old. What the fuck are you doing?"

Wearing an awesome hat with gravitas is not an activity limited, or even suited, to the young.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:38 PM on May 2 [2 favorites +] [!]


You do realize my comment is a reference to Glen Coco's original post, right?
"I'm like, 99% sure that nobody's ACTUALLY into art and it's just some exclusive club you can only join if you've got more money than interesting things to communicate to the rest of the human species. Just as nobody wanted to be the first one to go up to the Emperor and say "dude, I can see your arsehole", nobody wants to be the one to go up to the lady in the above photograph and say "you are at least 50 years old. What the fuck are you doing?"
posted by ericb at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2012


In fact, the comment following yours belittles the old "my two your old could do this" criticism. The thing is, I think it is a valid criticism.

Maybe, but "Your two year old didn't," is an equally valid reply.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Name as Though It Were Written on the Surface of the Moon is one of those neon-light-words things of which there are a few in the post above. This one is by Bruce Naumen, who cites Wittgenstein as an influence, and often seems to be interested in language and communication and the problems inherent therein. A lot of Nauman's works are sort of jokey and playful and while they come from serious thoughts of the artist's they nevertheless do not really appear to take themselves seriously, and don't really expect the viewer to take them seriously either. Nauman told PBS that at some point he had the realization, 'If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art.' He became much less concerned with making works to stand as grand statements about important subjects and started having fun and trying to make fun and interesting things. I don't think there's a lot of deep meaning to My Name as Though It Were Written on the Surface of the Moon, but I think it's funny, and the medium gets me to think about how we use neon lights and things like them in society and what they mean, and why.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I once had a friend, now sadly dead, who was an art historian. At one point when I was young and brash at the time, I got into an argument with him about what was, and was not, art.

He offered what is still the only definition I've ever encountered that I can't really argue with:
Art is what people make
Until after he died I never thought to ask him if "... and call art" was an unspoken part of his definition, or not.

So, I'm reluctant to say that anything displayed as art isn't art. However, I know that there's a broad swathe of art that I personally dislike. However, I'm not going to pretend that my personal likes and dislikes set any standards for anyone.

It's tempting to imagine that my own personal likes and dislikes reveal some conspiracy, that the successful artists I dislike have managed to scam the pretentious into giving them lots of money for garbage.

But I really doubt that's the case. Getting into the upper echelons of the art world, the place where you'd be in a position to scam the credulous and make easy money selling garbage is such a craphsoot I really doubt anyone sets out to do so deliberately.

I think in a lot of ways it's like veganism. A lot of people seem to have a visceral reaction against art they see as pretentious fakery because they imagine that there are condescending jerks just waiting to pounce on them and declare them to be philistines for failing to see the beauty of whatever sort of art they dislike. Just as they imagine that there are haughty vegans ready to denounce them for eating meat.

But you know, I've never encountered either the mythic vegan who denounces meat eaters, nor the mythic art lover who declares me to be a philistine because I don't like a particular sort of art. I'd be surprised if such people didn't exist, there are a lot of people and jerks abound in any subculture after all, but they're far from common.

I do wonder how so many people got to be so jumpy and defensive about a threat that is all but non-existent though.
posted by sotonohito at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


It is just as valid to say are art should exhibit some level of craft as to say art doesn't need craft. But who is being shouted down in this thread

Except that the first statement is exclusive and the second one inclusive. The first statement is capable of shouting down the first, but the converse is not true.
posted by howfar at 12:02 PM on May 2, 2012


"tendentious, etiolated work that can only exist in the living-embalment". A work of conceptual art in itself. Although it did force me to use an online dictionary--and I still can not find embalment
posted by rmhsinc at 12:03 PM on May 2, 2012


Threeway Handshake: Why is it that I only hear things like this from people who are heavily invested (moneywise) into buying tripe like the things he took photos of?

Confirmation bias?
posted by The Bellman at 12:07 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


>>In fact, the comment following yours belittles the old "my two your old could do this" criticism. The thing is, I think it is a valid criticism.

>Maybe, but "Your two year old didn't," is an equally valid reply.


Maybe, but "He did, but I wasn't pretentious enough to think it belonged in gallery," is an equally valid reply.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:10 PM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


He offered what is still the only definition I've ever encountered that I can't really argue with:

Art is what people make


My problem with this definition is that it is boundless and therefore meaningless.

Maybe, but "Your two year old didn't," is an equally valid reply.

If my two year old had done it should it hang on a gallery wall while sophisticates sip cheap win and awkward college kids on first dates mill about anxiously?
posted by SugarFreeGum at 12:14 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there is one thing I have repeatedly discovered, it's that when people rush to say the emperor has no clothes, as this article literally does, more often than not the emperor actually does have clothes, and they are glorious.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


He offered what is still the only definition I've ever encountered that I can't really argue with:

Art is what people make


Connects with Brian Eno's definition of culture being whatever humans do that they don't need to do. So if it requires some kind of effort but isn't either concerned with basic survival, it becomes this other thing, which by its nature arouses our curiosity.

My problem with this definition is that it is boundless and therefore meaningless.

Not boundless, just very broad, which tells me that the discussion to have is not about whether something is or isn't Art (or a cultural artifact) but whether it's any good. And (very important) why. If you can't back up your judgment with a "why" then please shut up.
posted by philip-random at 12:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


more often than not the emperor actually does have clothes, and they are glorious.

Which is exactly what his sycophants insisted.
posted by philip-random at 12:20 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now I kind of want to go to this gallery and say, in front of that "MY CUNT IS WET WITH FEAR" sign, that "My two year old could do this."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:22 PM on May 2, 2012 [26 favorites]


Wall Drawing 289 is one of a long series of pieces by Sol LeWitt which actually consisted of instructions, often written on notecards, from the artist to draftsmen installing the piece in the gallery or museum. LeWitt's Wall Drawing pieces are drawn directly on the wall of the gallery, often in pencil, and the instructions are often ridiculously convoluted and function as like word puzzles for the installers to work out. Because the instructions are often referential to points on the wall ('center' just for e.g.), no two installations will ever look exactly the same. You can see some of the work going into executing a LeWitt exhibit here. LeWitt once described how he saw this process thusly:
The draftsman and the wall enter a dialogue. The draftsman becomes bored but later through this meaningless activity finds peace or misery. The lines on the wall are the residue of this process. Each line is as important as each other line. All the lines become one thing. The viewer of the lines can see only lines on a wall. They are meaningless. That is art.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:23 PM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


One thing has to be said, though: Charles Saatchi is the ultimate salesman. He's managed to sell both Margaret Thatcher and Tracey Emin to the undiscerning masses...
posted by Skeptic at 12:24 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When it comes to "scams", real estate and banking are less work for a much bigger guaranteed payout.

Yeah, awesome, the emperor has no clothes, now can I go back to enjoying my naked emperor?

If saying "I am a moron for liking the art that I like, which is actually crap and not art" will lead to being left alone and unbothered by the needling of those rare sages that can see through the pretense and bullshit that has duped all the sheeple of the art world, I am prepared to make that statement. Can we shake on it first? Then I can go back to enjoying my crap that isn't actually art and you can go do whatever it is that this terrible stuff that isn't actually art was keeping you from doing.
posted by idiopath at 12:24 PM on May 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


it is rarely the work that makes the art.

no one has believe art to reside in the artwork itself for quite some time.


So we don't need the works at all, do we? Whenever I feel like viewing some art, I'll just declare that whatever my eyes are pointing at is it.
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:26 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eccolage is the art of comic book collage. It doesn't require explanation.

full reveal: I've been known to commit Eccolage on occasion, but I'm a mere acolyte. Frank Zeidler is the master.
posted by philip-random at 12:27 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


If art doesn't reside at all in the artwork itself then looking at a compressed JPG or reading about a Pollack or Rothko is the same as actually viewing a Pollack or Rothko. Which has not been my experience.
posted by Justinian at 12:28 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which is exactly what his sycophants insisted.

Yes. I am familiar with the story. And I think that with contemporary art, we have a reversal, with thousands in the street chanting that the emperor is naked when, in fact, he might as well be in a Mardi Gras parade. So, yes, maybe topless.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:30 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will concede that it is hopeless to try to define art, but I will offer humbly my suggestion for how to judge art: art should be judged on its craft, creativity, and/or concept.

Following this rubric, my articulation of the "my two year old could do it": X piece exhibits no mastery of the presented craft (i.e. a two year old with no manual dexterity could create something of equivalent design) and no creativity (i.e. a two year old doodling with no purpose could create something of equivalent design). There may be something conceptual about challenging our expectations that art be representational or something about trying to capture the subconscious mind unburdened by causality, but - as I expressed above - ink/paint on paper is a poor medium for expressing such an enormously nuanced idea.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 12:39 PM on May 2, 2012


But you know, I've never encountered either the mythic vegan who denounces meat eaters, nor the mythic art lover who declares me to be a philistine because I don't like a particular sort of art

Make a FPP about your favorite band....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:41 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


note: the following comes from someone who is profoundly lacking in any kind of real education or understanding of the principles of art.

I saw a documentary recently by Peter Greenaway called Rembrandt's J'accuse. It was a deconstruction, following his earlier film Nightwatching, of Rembrandt's painting The Nightwatch, but also a condemnation of modern-day visual illiteracy. It begins with a scalding monologue about how modern audiences simply do not have the visual vocabulary to understand art. To me it sounded like an equal condemnation of both humanity's general art ignorance AND art's general impenetrability, but the internet tells me it's actually a very one-sided argument against our collective lack of education, art-wise. Okay. Either way, his general point that to understand a piece of artwork one must be able to recognize and consider the vocabulary an artist chooses to use when creating a work of art was very very strong, and for me at least it was nearly incontrovertible. I consider that the source of my lack of appreciation for most non-film, non-book art. I simply do not know what it is about something on a wall or pedestal that engages beyond the immediate visual satisfaction of looking at it. (please, bear in mind that I am perfectly capable of enjoying a thing on my own terms regardless of the artist's intention and this is not a plea for emotional support. I'm fine, thank you.) I believe him when he says that there is an existing vocabulary being used by artists who are familiar with the world and history of art, and that for viewers like myself this vocabulary is unknown and that in at least one sense our appreciation of the art is diminished by this ignorance.

But this isn't about us, the people who simply don't have that education. This is about someone who seems to actually have it and is instead exasperated by artwork which seems to also be ignorant of any vocabulary or means of speaking with the audience, and artists who (I would imagine) refuse to be cornered into providing any means by which the art can be accessed by an audience outside of blind faith or immediate visceral reaction. Moreover, I'd wager the author is actually saying that the art relies on being impenetrable as a means of avoiding criticism of the work. It's essentially the oldest criticism of art ever: you're making it hard to understand because you're pulling one over on us and if you don't tie yourself down to a particular meaning then we can't criticize it because you'll just say we don't get it.

which, when it comes from someone who has no education in or understanding of art basically sounds like ignorance on display. But maybe there isn't a whole lot of conversation in today's galleries and analysis about the vocabulary used to make this work, any more. I mean, if you watch Rembrandt's J'accuse, (and seriously do that, it's awesome) Greenaway goes into how the lighting in the painting is actually inconsistent, lightsources seem to come from nowhere and light only one subject in a peculiar way. it was something the artist clearly did intentionally, it was a clue to point something out. Or he'd have a musket, or hand, that seemed attached to no person in the painting. It wasn't a mistake, it was part of what you should notice in order to get what he was saying, Greenaway argues. Is that true of flower pots on a bunch of old wood pedestals? I don't know, but neither does this guy seem to. And I wonder if the artist would even agree to explain anything at all about it. I can't blame the author if, with an education in art and a lifetime of keeping up with the art of today, he feels like there's nothing to grab on to. I really can't blame him if he thinks it's evidence of fraud and hucksterism. Maybe, even with an appreciation for all kinds of art, he feels like everyone's just bullshitting because there's just so. much. room. for them to get away with it. I mean, people have accused massive successes like Mathew Barney of this kind of thing, but Barney at least published books explaining exactly what his point is. Criticize the work as presented all you want, but the motherfucker was abundantly clear about what precisely he was presenting, and he sure as shit never showed up to a gallery wearing a hat that stupid.
posted by shmegegge at 12:43 PM on May 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like

That's a great idea. And since I made fun of neon art earlier, I'm going to point to a couple of photographs of Dan Flavin's work: one, two. Unfortunately photos are not very helpful, since his work is all about the light given off by fluorescent tubes filtered through various pure color gels and the way that light illuminates a specific space. But in an installation they're absolutely beautiful.
posted by Nelson at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Katsuyo Aoki is a master of ceramics. He has a few pieces at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston right now. Outstanding craftsmanship.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2012


> a neon sign that says "my cunt is wet with fear"

I love hearing the lamentation of their women.
posted by jfuller at 12:48 PM on May 2, 2012


If my two year old had done it should it hang on a gallery wall while sophisticates sip cheap win and awkward college kids on first dates mill about anxiously?

Maybe, but "He did, but I wasn't pretentious enough to think it belonged in gallery," is an equally valid reply.

I guess so, if your two year old is the kind of infant who thinks art galleries are pretentious.

I think both of these remarks say less about art than about the fears of the people who made them. I see a lot of art shows. I've seen a lot of work that I think is "bad," for some value of that word: charmless, dull, poorly considered, poorly made, whatever; but none of that's ever made me want to dismiss entire categories of art, or art as a whole, or the efforts I make to see any of that art. I've never felt "taken" or "scammed." I don't usually feel like someone's "trying to put one over on me" even on the rare occasion when I suspect that someone maybe is. An art show is like a concert or a play; sometimes everything really works and it's great, sometimes it's merely satisfying, sometimes it's just an opportunity to get out of the house. But I can't think of any show that I've actually regretted seeing.

To some degree, part of what makes "art" (in the contemporary world) is the looking at and the talking about art.

As someone wrote above, it's just art. Some of it will speak to you, some of it won't.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nelson, I love Dan Flavin's stuff. There was an exhibition here in Chicago in 2005 that was just magnificent.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:54 PM on May 2, 2012


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like

This is one of my favorite pieces, by H. P. Snodgrass, called "Untitled B 2" which is a painted bronze cast of a cubicle wall. I think it speaks for itself.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:59 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm like, 99% sure that nobody's ACTUALLY into art and it's just some exclusive club you can only join if you've got more money than interesting things to communicate to the rest of the human species.

I don't get it. He uses a painting of John Martin to make a positive comparison, so if he likes it as art, his beef is with conceptual art, not art itself. If he's never liked a single piece of art in his art career and he uses Martin's painting because of Martin's technique, I'm still baffled. The running exhibitions of Lucian Freud or of David Hockney teem with visitors, have works that showcase great technique and have some stunning paintings.

Though I doubt iPad is the future of painting, David.
posted by ersatz at 12:59 PM on May 2, 2012


The inevitable sequel. I think it's obvious that Glen Coco's beef is not with art per se, but what is being sold and glorified as art in the contemporary sphere despite its technical and aesthetic shortcomings. But you philistines can't appreciate his genius.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think both of these remarks say less about art than about the fears of the people who made them.
Perhaps, but this is true of all qualitative statements people make. There is a problem with this kind of analysis/comeback. You can turn it around over and over. Why so defensive? Do you have something invested in the idea that some of these artists have no clue what they're trying to accomplish beyond novelty or narcissism?

"My two year old could make that" is a *valid* criticism. It implies not only is the art not very skilled, but thoughtless, or at least conceptually simple or self-centered, and that argument from authority is not a valid way of appreciating art. To accuse someone of leveling that critcism thoughtlessly is ok, but examine *very* carefully whether you're making the same mistake.

Likewise is the suspicion that the artist is scamming the gallery goers. It may be wrong, but the feeling does have the implicit criticism that, again, the art seeks to rise to about the level of an internet meme, and no further.

Whether something *is* art is kind of beside the point. It's all art -- 2 year olds make funky art -- but whether it should be seriously considered, whether people who be paid for it, whether the artist should be given a space to show it is a valid thing to discuss, even by philistines.
posted by smidgen at 1:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Update: Alright, I'll Do It - I'll Give Art A Second Chance. Mighty big of her!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:19 PM on May 2, 2012


Dangit, anigbrowl.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012


I don't get it.

This article, and its companion, linked at the bottom, is a nuanced troll-work pointing out the absurdity of the modern art (not "Modern Art") gallery scene. The reactions of readers/participants in this scene are themselves, I believe, the actual objets d′art of this performance piece.
Trolling is a art.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012


"My two year old could make that" is a *valid* criticism.

No, it really isn't, unless you really do have a two year old who could.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:26 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Art is that which you put on display, intending that others may appreciate it. If they don't appreciate it, it's bad art. If they appreciate it in a way you didn't want, it's failed art, which might be good or bad art depending on who's talking.

Establishing whether something is or isn't art is a totally arbitrary subjective business. Sometimes this totally arbitrary subjective business is important for the purpose of getting art sold, or getting funds to make it properly or whatever, at which point it becomes sensible to argue what "art" means for those purposes at that time.

It's like trying to decide who your allies are. "Ally" is about as vaguely defined as "art" is. Can you call someone an ally if you don't know what exactly they want from you, if anything? If you don't know what they'll do for you, if anything? If you need to know the answer to those questions for some purpose, for instance if you're building a political model or preparing to actually negotiate, you can disambiguate "ally" in the way that best fits your needs. This is totally normal and people do it all the time, never seriously expecting that there should be any definition of "ally" that applies absolutely everywhere.

I wonder why anyone expects different from "art"?
posted by LogicalDash at 1:27 PM on May 2, 2012


It's 'Nathan Barley Goes to a Gallery and Doesn't Get Any Free Gak' is what it is.
posted by howfar at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2012


I think a lot of the sneering about modern art - right down to the tropes about fey gallery owners and the college kids at the exhibition kissing on their first date - comes from a general defensiveness that, real or imagined, people who dig modern art are trying to make those who don't like it feel stupid and unsophisticated.

While I have no doubt in my mind that yes, there are artists, gallery owners and aficionados who do derive some arrogant satisfaction from smirking at people who don't "get" a piece, this is not, in my experience, the norm. Most people who like modern art - believe it or not - actually, really, sincerely like it. True story.

No, the much more pernicious influence comes from attempts made to stuff and bloat a piece with as much possible "meaning" as possible. This is forgivable, because you want to be able to talk about why you like a particular piece, or why a certain work is important. But there's a certain grace and simplicity in accepting some pieces at face value that I find very refreshing and enjoyable.

On the subject of favorite artists, I personally lovelovelove Mariko Mori. This woman built a UFO, wherein people would lay down with electrodes placed on their scalps, and their brainwaves creating their own personal music and light show. That is some pretty imaginative stuff right there.

Some of her other work includes:

1. Tom Na H-iu: "The piece is 3m tall, and made from glass. Mori's Tom Ha H-iu captures the death of stars and indicates its rebirth. This is realized by a computer connected to Super-Kamioka Neutrino Detection Experiment (Super-Kamiokande) that catches the light that stars generate when they die. The piece interacts with the incoming signals to radiate a new ray."

2. Dream Temple: "a full-scale temple inspired by Yumendono, an Eighth century Buddhist temple in Japan ... Mori's vision of a contemporary meditative space is a mesmerizing journey into the micro and macrocosmic forces of creation. The finished temple, built out of dichroic glass, an ever-changing, iridescent surface, serves as a metaphor for both the body and consciousness."

3. Various photographic works: Mori started out as a model, and the first art piece she created after moving to London, Play With Me, satirizes the fetishization and dehumanization of women in her home country.

The woman is just amazing. In my top ten list of dream interviewees. Simply stunning.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:31 PM on May 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Art is a relatively young thing, only about 200 years old
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:45 PM on May 2


What?
posted by joannemerriam at 1:36 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops, the Tom Na H-iu link should be this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:41 PM on May 2, 2012


I watched a three-year-old make some art this past weekend. Lots of long, looping lines (because they're fun to draw) interspersed with small, dense marks like poorly-drawn periods.

"What's that?" (pointing to a group of loops)
"Bread."
"And that?" (one of the small, dark marks)
"That's the mommy ghost."
etc.

It was a window into this inarticulate little human's fantasy life and his way of understanding the world around him. I thought it was pretty cool.
posted by twirlip at 1:41 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, the much more pernicious influence comes from attempts made to stuff and bloat a piece with as much possible "meaning" as possible.

Agreed, and this is why I have a very ambivalent relationship with a lot of conceptual art. For example:

Famous works like Ono's "Light a match and watch it burn," for example - quotidian, non-artful task transformed into art simply by considering it as such.

As if people had not lit matches and watched them burn for aesthetic pleasure since the advent of matches as a cheap commodity. This isn't the transformation of something into art, it's the identification of something as art, conflating identification with authorship. Recontextualizing things by putting them in an art gallery was innovative when Marcel Duchamp did, but endlessly replicating that innovation has degreaded it to a mere marketing technique (to sell luxury yachts, for example).
posted by anigbrowl at 1:43 PM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


No, it really isn't, unless you really do have a two year old who could.
Wrong. I think you mean it isn't if you know of a 2 year old that is able to. And then you have to define "able to" in a meaningful way to be able to successful state that.

But, this is dumb, the rational person realizes that it's just hyperbolic shorthand. Getting overly literal about a remark is a nice way to win an argument, but it really doesn't make your point very well. Most 2 year olds can't shape neon to write one liners spelled correctly about sexual orifices, but the quality of thought involved is perhaps less than what people give it credit for.
posted by smidgen at 1:44 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't the transformation of something into art, it's the identification of something as art, conflating identification with authorship.

I got nothing against recontextualization; I love having my perception forcibly shifted because of context. But Ono is really hit or miss for me. For example, I love Peace Tower - and not just because I can see it from my living room!

On a side note, if I ever create an OKCupid profile, I'm totally putting "I love having my perception forcibly shifted because of context" under the Interests heading.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:47 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wear a Rolex that's worth more than your car. How do you feel about me?

I don't wear a watch; but I do own an extra car, so that I can avoid resetting the clock when the time changes.
posted by steambadger at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


But you know, I've never encountered either the mythic vegan who denounces meat eaters, nor the mythic art lover who declares me to be a philistine because I don't like a particular sort of art.

Oh, they exist. Although, I've usually felt when meeting people like that that it's more a matter of them being rude dicksmacks than it is about them being vegans or art folks or whatever.

...I think a lot of the complaints in the article are better directed not at the artists themselves, or "art", but rather at a certain subset of art fans, which is where I've found much of this kind of thing lives -- people liking a particular kind of art not on its own merits, but because somewhere, deep down, they think they're supposed to.

I ran into the theatrical equivalent some years ago, when I was asked to judge a script based on the work of Richard Foreman, who's been a longtime figure in the experimental theater scene. Experimental stuff hasn't necessarily been my bag as a rule, but I do find that if there's a there there in your script, I can go with some awfully weird stuff.

And about 10 years ago I was part of the selection squad for that year's Fringe Festival. Groups of us all read about 30 plays each, and then had to collectively pick out our 10 favorites to recommend to the head honchos. And one script we got was apparently based on stuff that Foreman had worked on and given up on -- it was stuff he didn't even like. I tried reading the thing, I really did, but I could not make head nor tail of it. It was all rubber fish and stampeding herds of pencil sharpeners and nonsequitur dialogue. When I met with my team, I gave it a thumbs-down - but the other two of them enthusiastically gave it a thumbs-up and outvoted me, and thus it made it in.

When I asked them why, the only defense they could give me was "because it's Richard Foreman!" They didn't have any opinion about the quality of the work in and of itself -- the only thing they kept saying in its defense was that it was by Richard Foreman, and therefore it was good. I gave up.

Now, I did once meet someone who could give a more detailed, on-its-merits explanation for why he liked Foreman's work, and that was a revelation ; Foreman's still not for me, but I understood what some people saw in it. However, I've met a hell of a lot more people whose only explanation for why they like Foreman's work is "because it's by Richard Foreman." I think there's just some sort of Emperor's-New-Clothes thing going on with a lot of art and arts "fandom" sometimes -- where someone just ends up being the Public Darling for a while, and the people who want to be In With The In Crowd cultivate an appreciation of their work in themselves that is based solely on "it's what the smart/beautiful/cultured people all are getting into, and I want some of that."

I do not doubt that there are people who dig the work of Fluxus, Hirst, Gilbert and George, "My Cunt Is Wet With Fear," etc. on its own merits. However, I also have a hunch that there are also people who are telling themselves they like it because they think they're supposed to, and are denying the fact that really, they'd much rather something just a tiny bit more representational.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


"My two year old could make that" is a *valid* criticism.

No, it really isn't, unless you really do have a two year old who could.


Willingly obtuse. The phrase "my two year could make that" implies that the work lacks order, coherence, meaning and intent. You know this.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:55 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was sort of agreeing with him until I got to the last piece, the neon sign.

Damn if that one hasn't stuck with me. Much more than the 'proper' painting above it which looks like video game concept art.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:03 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


But you know, I've never encountered either the mythic vegan who denounces meat eaters

As an aside, I was going to recommend you visit a Cafe Gratitude restaurant next time you're in the SF Bay Area, for the kind of in-your-face veganism that tempts you to defy it by taking a bite out of your own forearm. I have nothing against vegans or vegan food, but CG exemplified everything that was potentially wrong with the concept. Unfortunately you won't have the chance, however, as the chain has shut down under a blizzard of employee lawsuits.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:08 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Human Artistic Endeavour
R.I.P.
?? - 2 May 2012

(Thanks a lot, Tracey!)


[Overwhelmed; stumbles off to YouTube to find a clip of Kontakte]
posted by droplet at 2:12 PM on May 2, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: "one script we got was apparently based on stuff that Foreman had worked on and given up on -- it was stuff he didn't even like"

I'd take an even bet that it was from his notebooks, which he explicitly shares, whether they led to plays or not. I actually participated in a Foreman festival last year, where we all had to work from the same set of notes. Yeah, thanks to "art" that someon's two year old could have done I got paid a whole $50 for a week's creative work. I sure hope the rubes don't wise up and realize art is fake, because damn I would miss the money.

In all seriousness, the one disappointing part of that festival for me was an attempt to use conventional narrative, it was like one aria in a night of instrumental chamber music - not bad in itself but totally out of place in context.
posted by idiopath at 2:12 PM on May 2, 2012


Pointing to this Tracy Emin show and saying something like, "woe, what hath the world of art become?" is kind of like going to a Gawker media website and asserting that journalism is dead.

Art, in the sense of artifice, can be created by anyone. It's just as accessible as language. A blurb in a farm equipment catalog, a contemporary novel, and a piece of sports journalism all use the same medium, but obviously they serve different purposes and whatever merit they might have is judged in different ways. In general, we have no problem with this because we are used to the different contexts and purposes for the written word. Hey, look, I'm writing an ad-hoc comment on the internet about art! Does this mean that art criticism is dead? Clearly it is not good evidence.

My very personal opinion is that a lot of artists have gotten lazy. Fabrication is faster now, and easier, and cheaper. An artist can have an "idea" or a "concept" and realize an expression of it in a very short time. Moving quickly, though, reduces the amount of time with which you engage with your own idea. We've all written some kind of paper or story before as part of our job or school or personal leisure. Many of us have noticed that when we spend a lot of time on that piece of writing, carefully outlining it, revising drafts, getting editorial comments, it comes out better, more expressive and evocative of our ideas. I know when I write internet comments though I don't do drafts. I do go back and make sure I'm not writing fragments, etc, but many people don't even bother with that. Art is sort of going the internet comment route in many cases. Artists are moving too quickly, not editing their ideas, and they don't push their peers to do so either.

All this does not mean, however, that wonderful writers are not still writing (and editing) or that wonderful artists are still not creating (and editing.) It just means that the level of signal to noise is getting greater every day. That's not the fault of "art" or "artists," it is the fault of the industry surrounding the promotion and distribution of art, as has been mentioned above.

Also, my contribution to the "art i like" game: Chiyoko Tanaka is a fiber artist.
posted by newg at 2:13 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

dogsplayingpoker.jpg
posted by pyramid termite at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy and it is indeed amazing.

I also saw the Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997, which featured the likes of Emin and Damien Hirst. I came away thinking those people needed less, not more, attention.
posted by Summer at 2:24 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like Istvan Sandorfi.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:24 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you can't back up your judgment with a "why" then please shut up.

My art teacher would hate me saying this but "Because I like it," is really the only reason I find any piece of art valuable.

One of my favorites is Wassily Kandinsky, because his strange marks and dots create unreasonable joy when I look at them. I couldn't tell you why if my life depended on it, but I never seem to get tired of looking at his paintings.

Isn't that good enough?
posted by emjaybee at 2:25 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is for me.
posted by Summer at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2012


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

Liam Brazier's polygon art.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:35 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pointing to this Tracy Emin show and saying something like, "woe, what hath the world of art become?" is kind of like going to a Gawker media website and asserting that journalism is dead.

I think it's Hayward Gallery here that should correspond to Gawker in any such analogy and this show as one of Gawker's trashy pieces.

But is that how Hayward sees itself, and do the public? Should they, maybe?
posted by Anything at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2012


as -> to
posted by Anything at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2012


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

Brandon Bird
posted by klausman at 3:04 PM on May 2, 2012


Can you imagine how quickly they'd be skipping over this photo if it was in their mum's holiday snaps?

He said, non-ironically, as a caption under his own amateur snaps. I skipped right over them. Any amateur can make art look bad.

I get Emin, she's brilliant. I will show three items for comparison.

Jasper Johns, 1960, Painted Bronze (Ballantine Ale).

Claes Oldenburg, 1969, Soft Drum Set. Canvas and rope.

Tracey Emin, 2008, Child's Sock. Bronze.

Art is a dialogue between artists. If you can't follow the conversation, too bad for you, just don't whine about it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:08 PM on May 2, 2012


OK I'll take the bait -- mind explaining what is going on in this particular conversation?
posted by Anything at 3:15 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

Temple of Stars by David Best
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:37 PM on May 2, 2012


I prefer Mags Harries's bronzes to Tracy Emin's, actually.

Also putting in my usual plug for the work of El Anatsui.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:56 PM on May 2, 2012


clyfford

still

i don't like tracy emin much but there's too much out there to be obsessively angry at any one artist
posted by beefetish at 3:56 PM on May 2, 2012


The Way To Get Art

1. Look* at it.

2. Have a reaction.

* Or listen to it, smell it, touch it, etc. Whatever makes sense for the particular work.

If you want to, you can study the context in which the work was created: the biography of the artist, his influences, the time period in which he worked, additional info about the subject matter, the techniques used in creating the work, etc. Then repeat step two. Context may or may not help you evoke a meaningful reaction to it. ("Meaningful" means "interesting to you.")

You can also let some time pass and then repeat step two. Sometimes you'll have different reactions to the same work at different times.

I highly recommend you don't judge your reaction. Don't say, "Well, I can see it's an important piece, but it doesn't do much for me." Don't say, "I guess I'm naive, but I like it." Just have a reaction. The work of art is the object itself plus your reaction to it. There are no good or bad reactions. All reactions are equal.

It may happen that other people praise a work that does nothing for you. That may confuse you. You may think, "Why is my reaction so different from everyone else's?" and that's an interesting question. Explore it if you want. Meanwhile, you have the reaction you have. If you discount it -- if you say "my reaction is wrong" or "my reaction is stupid" -- you're robbing yourself of an honest interaction between yourself and the work. If your reaction embarrasses you, then don't tell anyone about. Just have it. (You will, whether you want to or not.)

Maybe some reactions will get you more respect than others if you write them up and publish them. But that's a different activity than "getting art." That's discussing art. Discussions about art tend to be highly ritualistic, layered with all kinds of assumptions and jargon that have filtered through academia over the centuries. Participate in it if it floats your boat. Still, there's a meaningful event that happens when you're in a room with a work and you have a reaction to it.

There's no such thing as art in the abstract. You can't get art. Art isn't an object that can be perceived. There are just individual works. There's little you can say about them as a whole. You form a separate relationship with each piece you see. You can "get" the Mona Lisa. You can't "get" art.

Perhaps "I don't get art" means "I don't get why these curators have decided to display these works in this gallery." Perhaps it means, "I don't understand what academics and critics are talking about." Fine. But when you're in a room with a work, you have a reaction. You must, because you have sense organs and a brain. Maybe your reaction is, "this is boring." Maybe your reaction is "That blows me away." Whatever. You have a reaction and that reaction is yours.

Art is most fun if you relate to it as you relate to food. You taste something and you have a reaction. You don't say, "This tastes disgusting, but I recognize its value." (At least, I hope you don't.) You have a visceral response. Our culture is so layered with things we're supposed to do, supposed to say, supposed to think, supposed to believe... Don't relate to art that way. Just let it move you. Or not.
posted by grumblebee at 4:44 PM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


By the way, when I earlier in the thread made references to "Pollack and Rothko" I wish to be clear that I was not misspelling Pollock but was in fact talking about Polish persons in a derogatory fashion. Thanks.
posted by Justinian at 4:48 PM on May 2, 2012


If you look at art in a gallery and think "I could do that" then by all means, you should.

What if you think "I could do that, and there is no merit in it"?
posted by -harlequin- at 4:51 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if you think "I could do that, and there is no merit in it"?

Then don't.
posted by grumblebee at 4:53 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: now can I go back to enjoying my naked emperor?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:55 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem I have with most contemporary art is that I get the feeling that spending any time in the company of the artist would be excruciating and awful. If the art is an attempt to communicate, what it often communicates to me is that the person who made it is someone who I would prefer to avoid. Some art doesn't make me feel this way (some art I a lot), but much of it does does.

Of course, it's also possible that I'm the problematic part of the dialogue.
posted by xchmp at 4:57 PM on May 2, 2012


You can "get" the Mona Lisa. You can't "get" art.

Perhaps "I don't get art" means "I don't get why these curators have decided to display these works in this gallery." Perhaps it means, "I don't understand what academics and critics are talking about."


"The audience can't please the artist, it can only please the painting." -Marcel Duchamp

Your interpretation of the "don't get it" as a failure to understand why the curators have selected them, only reaches halfway. The usual anti-intellectual reaction is that since *I* don't understand it, neither should anyone else, and if they say they do understand it, they're lying or trying to pull the wool over your eyes. And then they go on to call the artist arrogant. Look in the mirror, pal.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:07 PM on May 2, 2012


My Kid *Could* Do That
posted by Lucinda at 5:09 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The usual anti-intellectual reaction is that since *I* don't understand it, neither should anyone else

But if you take my stance, which is that what's worthwhile is each person's individual reaction, then that stance is meaningless.

"Your reaction is stupid" is just as pointless as "my reaction is stupid." Reactions are what they are.
posted by grumblebee at 5:10 PM on May 2, 2012


The author is an art expert, and he pretty clearly "gets" art with the best of us, and his expertise and experience on the subject leads him to thinks there is a lot less merit on show than the people involved insist is the case. This is hardly unique to the art scene, and it's completely human that people involved don't like that criticism.

A philosopher once noticed that some studies showed that economists are woefully bad at what they do - that in some areas of their trade they perform worse than monkeys (dumb luck), and they're the experts. Naturally, the philosopher then asked "If economists are so piss poor at their field of expertise, are philosophers any better than that at philosophy? How do we check whether we're not, as a whole, failing to think very much clearer, failing to teach thought that well, failing to gain very much more insight than no doing philosophy?". He then went on to study the issue. And his question is a good one to keep in mind - groups of experts can be authorities in the field, and the field can be a great club for its members, and very satisfying and stimulating to them, and at the same time also piss poor at doing what it purports to do. There are clearly artists of great talent (and also salesmen of great talent working as artists), and the art scene is very successful if its purpose is important things social networking, etc. But if its purpose is evaluated in terms of how successful it is at selecting and elevating the most meritorious art while weeding out the most vapid art, well, there is certainly precedent for failure.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:26 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


My Kid *Could* Do That

That article is from 1989, you'll note. When Damien Hirst was still at Goldsmiths and the world didn't know a YBA from the YMCA. Sneering middlebrow intellectual snobbery had to make do with abstract painting as its target at that time, as there was no money in conceptual art. The art world changes, but the paucity of imagination shown by its critics never does.
posted by howfar at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2012


The author is an art expert

Claims to be one. This is a troll piece in Vice. I wouldn't put too much faith in its truth or even its sincerity. It's as likely to have been written by a conceptual art loving snob sneering at the proles as by someone who genuinely means what they say.
posted by howfar at 5:32 PM on May 2, 2012


If you can't back up your judgment with a "why" then please shut up.

My art teacher would hate me saying this but "Because I like it," is really the only reason I find any piece of art valuable. One of my favorites is Wassily Kandinsky, because his strange marks and dots create unreasonable joy when I look at them.


"Because his strange marks and dots create unreasonable joy" is a pretty good why.
posted by philip-random at 5:37 PM on May 2, 2012


When the thought behind something that is presented as a work of art is deeply obscured I've learned to take the assumption that this thought is something incredibly boring and thus obscured for a good reason.
posted by Anything at 5:38 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a troll piece in Vice. I wouldn't put too much faith in its truth or even its sincerity.

That's true, though there are enough people who both well-versed in art and quietly disillusioned with the art world, that... well... you know what we say about the author's intention not mattering :)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:41 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you can't back up your judgment with a "why" then please shut up.

Okay.

(I still like it, though.)
posted by grumblebee at 5:43 PM on May 2, 2012


> Willingly obtuse. The phrase "my two year could make that" implies that the work lacks order, coherence, meaning and intent. You know this.

Let me help you off that high horse, pal. Wag me no finger-wags over what I know about the opinions of another around here. Smidgen, upthread, conceded that "MY TWO YEAR OLD COULD DO THAT!!" was hyperbole, you agree, apparently, and I made the same point, so I don't know with whom you think your arguing. There are plenty of ways to criticize a piece of art; there are even plenty of ways to say that a work "lacks order, coherence, meaning and intent." "MY TWO YEAR OLD COULD DO THAT!!" says none of those things, though it says a lot about how the speaker envisions her positions vis-à-vis some imagined notion of art. If you want to talk about a work, or an artist, or art more broadly, then you should take the advice any adult would give to that hypothetical two year old: use your words.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:59 PM on May 2, 2012


there are enough people who both well-versed in art and quietly disillusioned with the art world, that... well... you know what we say about the author's intention not mattering

Oh, of course there is snobbery and pretension and greed and empty rhetoric in the art world. I just don't see that where we are now is radically different from where we've been before. I don't think that the perceived "art as investment" boom fostered by Saatchi has been remotely healthy, and I think there are people who do buy art uncritically in the hope of it putting on value. But I also think that people have always bought art for selfish purposes. Huge amounts of great Renaissance art was commissioned as a symbol of status and wealth, and more than likely with an eye to appreciating value, rather than appreciation of value. Plus ça change...
posted by howfar at 6:14 PM on May 2, 2012


When the thought behind something that is presented as a work of art is deeply obscured I've learned to take the assumption that this thought is something incredibly boring and thus obscured for a good reason.

It works as a rule of thumb, but sometimes there's a there there that may not be immediately obvious. Comedians talk about the "one per centers" that most of the audience won't get, but the ones that do will be rolling on the floor. Lacking a gallery system, most comedians refrain from making their entire act one per centers.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:31 PM on May 2, 2012


A neighbor who is developing quite a successful second career as an abstract painter mentioned one day that an editor of one of the national art magazines was going to be in town and was interested in seeing his portfolio. One day I noticed a long dinner with a woman on his porch, seemed like he was being a gentleman and dong a good job of being polite and entertaining. After that he seemed mildly enthusiastic about the meeting and very modestly implied that it may be very good for his career.

Sometime later we were chatting and he dropped that he had received a bill for several thousand in "consulting" fees.

So high art, there is fiscal value in when there is a monetary transaction that does not later involve the bunko squad. Art is intrinsically a scarce commodity, and we know how markets handle scarcity. But there does seem to be a system.

Here's an image from Kiki's Pa, Tony. (I'm related)
posted by sammyo at 6:35 PM on May 2, 2012


I just don't see that where we are now is radically different from where we've been before.

That something is still crap doesn't mean that it's not crap, or that people are wrong for considering it to be crap.
If the response this provoked was "yeah we know, thanks captain Obvious, we've got our sights set high, and we're working on it, but we're human", that would be a response that suggested the criticism was misguided. But as long as a big part of the response is denial and mockery, then maybe someone has to keep harping on about it :)
(That said, I think we largely agree).

Art is intrinsically a scarce commodity,

I don't really think this is true. Humans have, do, and will happily produce more art than there is audience for it. And if the market for art was removed overnight, art production wouldn't cease. That's part of where the phrase "starving artist" comes from - the well that this stuff comes from is bottomless.
I think the market value is more a product of various group consensus on which artists and works have status and influence, than a product of any shortage of good works.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:51 PM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Money is just a piece of paper, words are just sounds in your throat or squiggles on paper, death is just a ceasing of a set of chemical reactions.

All of the things we call "meaningful" are collective constructions on top of something mundane."


This is incoherent. If there are constructions on top of the mundane things, then you should delete the word "just" all three times you use it in that first sentence. Money isn't just the paper; it's also constructions about the paper, etc. Reductionism doesn't work.
posted by John Cohen at 8:07 PM on May 2, 2012


Wow. Are you going to copy-edit the whole thread?
posted by howfar at 8:10 PM on May 2, 2012


I'd take an even bet that [the Foreman piece] was from his notebooks, which he explicitly shares, whether they led to plays or not.

It was, in fact. And was kind of universally panned (all the critics agreed that this particular group went more for the weird imagery than they did for substance).

I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

Wow, I've got a few: paintings by Balthus and Hopper, to start. And this video piece just tickled me in a place I couldn't reach.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 PM on May 2, 2012


My very personal opinion is that a lot of artists have gotten lazy. Fabrication is faster now, and easier, and cheaper. An artist can have an "idea" or a "concept" and realize an expression of it in a very short time. Moving quickly, though, reduces the amount of time with which you engage with your own idea.

I don't think this is necessarily so. An artist who creates a piece whose physical creation might take a short amount of time might have been engaging with the idea behind it for a very long time, putting a lot of work into the concept and how to best execute it. The length of time it takes to physically create a work of art isn't a good barometer for the time and creative energy that went into it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:24 PM on May 2, 2012


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

Wow, I've got a few: ...


Ooh yes. I'll point my link to the Long Now foundation's Ten-Thousand-Year Clock Project.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:33 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think there has been a bigger influence on music in the last 50 years than the work of Cage

What a load of shit.
posted by smithsmith at 8:42 PM on May 2, 2012


OK I'll take the bait -- mind explaining what is going on in this particular conversation?

I think it's "Who farted?"
posted by Snyder at 9:18 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The length of time it takes to physically create a work of art isn't a good barometer for the time and creative energy that went into it.

And neither the time nor energy invested correlate particularly strongly to a piece's effectiveness.
posted by aubilenon at 9:54 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


But also, as Mr. Yorke rightly has it: just 'cause you feel it, doesn't mean it's there.

It is also true that just because you don't feel it, that doesn't mean it isn't there.

Not sure what 'it' is here, but it doesn't really matter. Neither does 'it'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:52 AM on May 3, 2012


I think this thread would be a lot more pleasant if everyone linked to a piece of art that they like.

OK, here's a couple of my favorites. But everything in this slide show is amazing.

Epanouissement and Mire G 96 (Kowloon) by Jean Dubuffet.

I quit painting for years, then my sister showed me the catalogs for his Mires and Non-Lieux shows. I had to start painting again. She knew I would.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:14 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn you, shakespeherian, for suggesting we link art we like, then linking Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Still #4. I was going to link #7, which is my favourite. Now I look like a pretentious artist who can only reference that which went before me by a greater commenter.

Thanks everyone who's been linking stuff they like. It's fun to look at them.
posted by harriet vane at 1:38 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


TL;DR for this thread: If it's in an art gallery, it's art.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:16 AM on May 3, 2012


Welp, time to establish the Canonical Definition of "Art Gallery".
posted by LogicalDash at 6:51 AM on May 3, 2012


If it's in an art gallery, it's art.

Add a few capitals and agree. If it's in an Art Gallery. It's Art. But then I feel compelled to counter with ...

Fuck your capital "A" Art, just give me a situation ...

A situation where each moment is both end and creation of the world, a universal cycle complete in itself; where people have no interest in imitation, only in probing for what they uniquely have to offer; where people aren't trying to make something happen because that something is already happening; where everything is interesting because everything seems possible -

A situation that raises the stakes of everyday life all over the world, that unleashes a roar, a cacophony that rips up the syntax of everyday life, a ruthless criticism of all that exists, a bringing to life of forgotten desires, a creation of entirely new desires -

A situation where everyone must search for what he loves, for what attracts him; a search that will force us into contact with everything we hate because, of course, that's what always stands in the way, so even the smallest obstacle demands a total contestation.

A situation that supersedes art, the frame, the stage, the gallery, the screen, the cliques, any limits of presentation and/or performance that restrain creative energy, that deny critical mass, that hold any of it back, because it all must come through.

Or Else We Are All Fucking Doomed.


(anonymous rant recorded from radio maybe twenty years ago)
posted by philip-random at 9:27 AM on May 3, 2012


Personally, I like Pro-Wrestling better than capital A art, especially esoteric, conceptual art such as this. I think most people don't "get" wrestling either. Hearing about how "Fake" it is, is probably as cloying and simple as "my two year old could do this!"

What I dislike about these sorts of discussions, is I can point to something with a rich and storied history such as Pro-Wrestling and describe everything that goes into it: how champions are selected, how much the audience plays into the evolution of performance and the characters, how knowledge of backstage politics can transform the experience from a violent ballet to a greater dance of the physical, the social, and the emotional; I could quote from Mick Foley's book, I could discuss Vince McMahon playing himself AND a caricature of himself that was forged from a real life incident of treachery which shaped who "he" became, both onscreen and off, not to mention the physical performance and meshing and matching of styles, how Superstars are born, and how they die, but I'd be tuned out and called ignorant, or mainstream, or I'd get similarly sneering comparisons to NASCAR or the like.

Yet, when it's "art" in an official Art Gallery, it becomes "What is art? What is life, what is money but paper, etc" Like, you can dismiss what moves other people as 'pedestrian' or 'beneath you', yet get the breath of life from carefully arranged trash on the floor, and deem anyone who doesn't share your reaction as a philistine?

I don't get as upset about being told I don't "get it" as some people, but I can see why it rubs people the wrong way at times.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:42 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


TL;DR for this thread: If it's in an art gallery, it's art.

The article wasn't about whether anything wasn't art, but about art being of such poor quality that it doesn't seem to justify the scene that has been built around it.

My take on what he describes is that humans are social animals, therefore in order for a scene to happen, people only need an excuse, not a justification :-)

A restaurant is ostensibly about dining, but in reality while some people might go to the restaurant for the food, some people go for the company, some people go for the status, some people go because they're bored, some people go because they want to be like other people who go, some people go out of convenience, or any combination of the above.

All things considered, the food isn't really all that important.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:50 AM on May 3, 2012


Like, you can dismiss what moves other people as 'pedestrian' or 'beneath you', yet get the breath of life from carefully arranged trash on the floor, and deem anyone who doesn't share your reaction as a philistine

I suspect I was the first person to use "philistine" in this thread, and I used it to describe exactly the reaction you are describing: sneering and mocking without caring to understand that there is a reason for other people liking what you don't like. I didn't use it to dismiss anyone for not sharing my reaction, but rather to attack them for dismissing me because I didn't share theirs. Lots of people don't like conceptual art, but suggesting that those of us who (sometimes) do are pretending to like it, which is what the original link did, and what many posters in the thread have done, is pretty much exactly as philistine as sneering at wrestling from a position of ignorance.

But maybe some of this is beside the point. After all, the unpleasantness in this thread wasn't about dismissing pro-wrestling, it was about dismissing "art". Show me the thread where literal dozens of commenters added their uninformed criticisms of wrestling to a delightedly dismissive pile-on and I might start to believe in the opposition you suggest. Saving that, I'd suggest that there is no casus belli between "high" and "low" culture, only the need to resist the temptation of being drawn into the middlebrow, where we only comprehend our own pleasures and reject those of others as "pedestrian" or "pretentious".
posted by howfar at 12:31 PM on May 3, 2012


I think part of the problem is that people seem to have the idea that what they don't like must be defined as not-art, rather than art.

Pro-wrestling is art.

The Mona Lisa is art.

Fountain, by Duchamp, is art.

4:33 is art (whether or not it is music is another discussion).

Etc.

I have no problem identifying all four as art, even though I really don't like any but the second.

I think the more important question, on an individual level, is "what do you like?"

I find that I dislike conceptual art, and I'm not so hot on abstracts. For me a critical part of enjoying art is the mechanical or craft skill required to create it, the less skill required the less likely I am to enjoy the art. I note that a great many people seem to share that peculiarity of taste, perhaps a majority.

However, I do find it puzzling that people are so willing to be dismissive of art that doesn't match their taste, and worse claiming that those who enjoy art they don't must be faking it.

To take another example, let's look at pizza and anchovies.

The vast majority of people do not much like anchovies on their pizza. There is a small minority who do. And while the non-anchoviests may well say "eeeww, you like anchovies?" I note that there isn't any particular feeling that those who like anchovies must be faking it.

Perhaps some of this is related to class resentment? There does seem to be a widespread belief (I'd assume to be false) that the higher one moves in economic and class circles the more the minority tastes in art are expected to be lavished with praise.

Pro-wrestling is assumed to be a lowbrow, lower class, lower income entertainment. Appreciating the works of Duchamp and the other Found Art types is assumed to be an elite, upper class, upper income sort of thing.

I strongly suspect this is not the case, that the majority of rich people aren't actually all that fond of Duchamp, and that they don't claim to be.

But, if all a person knows about the more minority tastes in art is seeing various gallery openings and whatnot on TV and in movies, I could see how they might get the impression that if one is rich one is expected to attend such events regardless of whether or not the rich person in question really likes it.

And, possibly, there's some truth to that, though I rather doubt most rich people are involved in gallery openings or that such things really are part of the average rich person's social life.
posted by sotonohito at 2:54 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


sotonohito: "For me a critical part of enjoying art is the mechanical or craft skill required to create it, the less skill required the less likely I am to enjoy the art"

compare the skill needed to perform Webern to the skill required to perform Bach. Webern is much harder to play, and also much less popular. Or better yet compare Webern to Rock - even easier, and even more popular. At least in music (if music is art) what you are saying does not hold at all.
posted by idiopath at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2012


Also, see the financial success of superhero comics and their publishers.
posted by idiopath at 3:32 PM on May 3, 2012


idiopath I think to be fair you need to compare like with like, else you can prove anything about anything. Ie compare rock music with rock music. The skill of Bach the composer with Webern if comparing the music, or if comparing the performance, compare with a performer playing the same piece. Comics with comics. etc.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:43 PM on May 3, 2012


Webern is more like rock than conceptual art is like the Mona Lisa.
posted by idiopath at 4:03 PM on May 3, 2012


Another thought: Most art that the masses tend to appreciate is rarely labeled as art. Movies, TV, comic books, popular fiction novels, pop music etc are undeniably art, but are generally not thought of as art by the average person. In general when the average person sees something explicitly labeled as "art" in the news, it's going to be something conceptual, or abstract, or otherwise often not to the tastes of the average person. This gives the average person the false impression that "art" is just stuff they don't like, and that it's for rich people only.

And, while formal, explicitly labeled, art is not always conceptual or abstract, that does seem to be a major thread in the more art focused communities. Possibly because realistic art has been played out, is something they've seen done so much that they're focused on the next thing?

@idiopath I think it's not so much that my appreciation of art is directly related to the amount of craft or mechanical skill involved, as that there's a floor value and if the craft/mechanical skill is below that floor I just really have a hard time liking it. Art above said floor is valued on other criteria.

Thus Fountain just does nothing for me. I don't deny that it's art, and that others may appreciate it for their own reasons, but for me it does nothing. Pretty much the totality of conceptual art, found art, abstracts, etc leave me cold. I'm sure there are exceptions, examples I'd like, but they're few and far between. For whatever reason the art appreciation part of my brain just doesn't engage when seeing such things, and the only common thread I can find is that none involve any particular mechanical or craft skill.

I'm not even sure that mechanical/craft skill really is the criteria, just that so far that's all I've been able to identify as the common factor dividing art I do like from art that I just completely fail to get or appreciate in the slightest.
posted by sotonohito at 7:14 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


sotonohito: "For me a critical part of enjoying art is the mechanical or craft skill required to create it, the less skill required the less likely I am to enjoy the art"

idiopath: compare the skill needed to perform Webern to the skill required to perform Bach. Webern is much harder to play, and also much less popular. Or better yet compare Webern to Rock - even easier, and even more popular. At least in music (if music is art) what you are saying does not hold at all.

I think the key part you missed of what you were responding to was the 'for me', and the context of the sentence preceding the one you quoted: "I find that I dislike conceptual art, and I'm not so hot on abstracts."
posted by Dysk at 9:24 AM on May 4, 2012


It is also true that just because you don't feel it, that doesn't mean it isn't there.

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:52 AM on May 3


Umm... that was the gist of the comment I was replying to, dude.
posted by Decani at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2012


Dysk: "I think the key part you missed of what you were responding to was the 'for me'"

I was suggesting that like most people, he probably likes Bach more than Webern, and that maybe there is something else he could articulate to nuance "more skill means better", which would help all of us maybe understand why we like the art we like. And from his response, I think we are moving in that direction.
posted by idiopath at 11:04 AM on May 4, 2012


« Older Solar Islands:...  |  It's animation student film se... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments