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They insist it is not a gimmick.
May 2, 2008 5:34 AM   Subscribe

Are lice art? "Seven young artists from Berlin are trying to stretch the boundaries of art by living in an Israeli museum for three weeks with lice in their hair." Video.
posted by fleetmouse (141 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hate to sound like some reactionary old fart, but... perhaps the "boundaries of art" really don't especially need stretching in this particular direction.

But, hey, these artists could probably use the scratch, right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:44 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I dig it.
Conceptual art isn't for everyone.
This is a an arresting idea, and I'm glad you posted it, fleet.
posted by Dizzy at 5:48 AM on May 2, 2008


I was going to say lice could be art. I mean, it makes one think of olden times and how far we've come and body image and cleanliness, right? But the artists themselves seem pretty vague and confused as to what they are doing, so while this project could be art, I think they are actually just gimmicky.
posted by DU at 5:50 AM on May 2, 2008


will the lice be trapped between layers of plastic sheeting and wrapped around a suspended cube?
posted by wabbittwax at 5:54 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hai look ebrybuddy, I iz sqatter in Izreal muzzeeumzz! Wai mor hard kor den u.
posted by Mister_A at 5:54 AM on May 2, 2008


pretty vague and confused as to what they are doing

I agree, DU. They should be actively exploring the Nazi implications, not pussying out. The connections must have been obvious from the get go - then they decided that being too explicit would get them physically attacked, perhaps.

Or maybe they want the audience to manufacture the controversy for them and actually become the art themselves.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:00 AM on May 2, 2008


This art is lousy
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:00 AM on May 2, 2008 [13 favorites]


Oh I meant not just the Nazi implications but the other stuff you mentioned - body image and cleanliness and being lice infested oafs and all that. Without a context it all seems sterile, ironically.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:02 AM on May 2, 2008


This is a stunt, not art.
posted by papercake at 6:05 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess it's artistic licence.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:05 AM on May 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


will the lice be trapped between layers of plastic sheeting and wrapped around a suspended cube?

straight outta bat yam, crazy motherfucker named lice cube
from a gang with german inaptitude
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:06 AM on May 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


no.
posted by darkripper at 6:08 AM on May 2, 2008


Are lice art?" I was asked
and I said "yes of course!
and so is this beetle, this frog and this horse!
so is my fingernail, so is your nose
so is the toe jam between all your toes
and listen now, friend,
to some real sonic art,"
I said, as I unleashed a long, bleating fart.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 AM on May 2, 2008 [10 favorites]


Let's end this now.

From now on, let's not discuss whether something is art. Let's use the same rules that apply to "a meal". Is mac and cheese "a meal?" Is a twinkey "a meal"? If the person eating is says it's their meal, ITS A FRICKIN MEAL.

It might not be a nutritious meal. It might not be tasty TO YOU. It might not be filling, even to them. But if that's what they say it is, then that's what it is.

IT'S ART. It's not to my taste, I doubt it will influence or inspire much, but hey, more power to them. It's a heck of alot more art than some people I know are doing.
posted by ewkpates at 6:14 AM on May 2, 2008 [11 favorites]


It's a heck of alot more art than some people I know are doing.

Just as I always suspected: ewkpates knows all the wrong people.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


"We are serious," said artist Akim One Machine-Tu Nyuyen.

"No, you're not," said critic Bloobloo Six Apparatus-Vein Twabingo.
posted by crazylegs at 6:18 AM on May 2, 2008 [11 favorites]


I agree. Art is whatever the artist says it is. We may not like it (or understand it, or want it to be worth actual moneys), but it's still art.

If I want to frame my turds and call them performance art pieces, there's nothing that anyone can really do to stop me.
One mid-October night in 2001, some canny bloke, a cleaning man, arrived at the Eyestorm Gallery in London to find it strewn with "half-full coffee cups, ashtrays with cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, a paint-smeared palette, an easel, a ladder, paintbrushes, candy wrappers and newspaper pages," according to the New York Times, and, assuming it was the leavings of a party held earlier in the evening for artist Damien Hirst's new exhibition, swept it up. Later he told the Evening Standard, "As soon as I clapped eyes on it, I sighed because there was so much mess. ... It didn't look much like art to me. So I cleared it all in bin bags, and I dumped it." He had cleaned up the art--valued in the six figures--along with the trash.

It had to happen eventually: some poor sot mistakes art for refuse and makes the papers by binning it. Except that, in his case, the cleaning man was not mistaken--the trash he cleared away was, in fact, trash. Only the context made it art, and the dubious claim that an "artist" had directed its strewing. It wasn't an atrocious painting or the result of some untalented sculptor's attempt at making something that looked like trash. What the cleaning man tidied up was an actual pile of real butts, cups, and beer bottles. That Hirst prefers real objects--pill bottles, medical equipment, sliced-up sharks, cows, and sheep--to crafted ones does not necessarily mean that his pieces are not amusing; they usually have a wicked one-liner quality to them. At their best, they resemble oversized Wunderkammern: funny, engaging, and strange. Still, Hirst's aims do not exactly converge with what we normally think of as the aims of art, which he himself has acknowledged in a number of interviews. For instance, asked about the links between his use of actual dead animals in his installations (such as those exhibited two years ago in the controversial Sensation show at New York's Brooklyn Museum) and those paintings by Chaim Soutine and Francis Bacon that depict animal carcasses, Hirst explained, "I love Soutine and Francis Bacon. But what I was doing is not painting. It's completely different.... Soutine would never have exhibited the dead animals. I wanted reality."
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:18 AM on May 2, 2008


I'm covered in ticks does that count for something?
posted by nola at 6:19 AM on May 2, 2008


Reminds me of this.
But only in that they're both recent conceptual art exhibits featuring living creatures that try to make random points about revulsion.
posted by seanyboy at 6:21 AM on May 2, 2008


"Trying" being the operative word.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:23 AM on May 2, 2008


I am filthy. Lice gnaw me. Swine, when they look at me, vomit. The scabs and sores of leprosy have scaled off my skin, which is coated with yellowish pus. I know not river water nor the clouds' dew. From my nape, as from a dungheap, an enormous toadstool with umbelliferous peduncles sprouts. Seated on a shapeless chunk of furniture, I have not moved a limb for four centuries. My feet have taken root in the soil forming a sort of perennial vegetation—not yet quite plant-life though no longer flesh—as far as my belly, and filled with vile parasites. My heart, however, is still beating. But how could it beat if the decay and effluvia of my carcass (I dare not say body) did not abundantly feed it?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:28 AM on May 2, 2008


Learn to draw

Learn to draw

Learn to draw
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:31 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


The idea is that we live in the museum as their guests, and at the same time we are hosting lice on our heads," said artist Vincent Grunwald, 23, wearing a plastic shower cap to prevent the lice from spreading.

Wearing shower caps?? I may not know art, but I know a pathetic cop out when I see one.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:33 AM on May 2, 2008


IT'S ART.

No it's not. My kid could have those lice.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:35 AM on May 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


Art is whatever the artist says it is.

As compelling a justification as, when having a discussion/arguement, someone hits you with the "...but that's my opinion" card, thereby trumping all your arguements automatically.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:36 AM on May 2, 2008


By the way, fleetmouse, excellent use of the infestedgermans tag.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:36 AM on May 2, 2008


Lice of remarkable beauty that crawl like aspiring philosophers from cherished eggs; pubic hairs conversing in a brothel; sharks preparing duck-liver paté and cold soup from victims of drowning; a human-faced toad, as sad as the universe and as beautiful as suicide; covetous fingers prodding the lobes of innocent brains in order to smilingly prepare an effective unguent for the eyes; how man, applauded by the crablouse and the adder, shits on the Creator's uplifted face for three days; devouring your mother's arms with gusto while she is still alive by tearing them off and cutting them into snippets...!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:36 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can call anything art. That doesn't make it interesting or worthwhile. Some off the wall "art" is great. This one just sounds silly. They didn't really have anything to say so they just tried to be controversial instead. I somehow doubt anyone will be talking about these clowns in art history class in twenty years. No, this is about as interesting as a velvet Elvis.
posted by caddis at 6:43 AM on May 2, 2008


Are lice art?

If they are, they suck at it!
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:44 AM on May 2, 2008


Lice capades.
"Who put you in charge?"
"God Did... When he killed my wife."
posted by seanyboy at 6:45 AM on May 2, 2008


C-squat called, they want their gimmick back.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:45 AM on May 2, 2008


There is an insect nourished by men at their own expense

(or: an explanation of meteorites, wherein our hero constructs a mine full of lice and projects an aerolith thereof, the trajectory of which crosses the visual path of a thoughtful peasant)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:46 AM on May 2, 2008


Sounds like just a really boring flea circus.
posted by TedW at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2008


...this is about as interesting as a velvet Elvis.

Actually, I've sorta wanted a velvet Elvis for years now. I'd put it somewhere in my house.

These lice infested Germans? Not so much.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:50 AM on May 2, 2008


limerick:

Inside a museum there's a German
Who has covered himself with white vermin.
The sight isn't nice.
HE'S COVERED WITH LICE!
Is it Art? I don't know, but I'm squirmin'.

haiku:

i came to see art
but parasites follow me
and get hefty grants
posted by crazylegs at 6:51 AM on May 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


hmm. Scratch cards?
posted by tawny at 6:53 AM on May 2, 2008


I've got a conceptual project where I blur the boundries of self and other by hosting tiny organisms, each with their own DNA, in each of my cells.

What's funny is that making this argument probably gets more of a reaction out of biologists than the lice would.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:54 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, if serial abortions can be art, why not a lice infestation?

(Yes, I know, the story turned out to be a hoax.)
posted by JDHarper at 6:57 AM on May 2, 2008


If art is to be defined as anything the 'artist' says it is, then art has lost all meaning and cultural relevance, since all six billion+ of us can just declare anything we're doing at any time as 'art'.
If everything is art then nothing is art.
posted by rocket88 at 7:00 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the Israelis should send these Germans to the delousing chamber. And the de-pretiontious-art-school-bullshitting chamber after that.

They can call it art. I can call it not-art. Shit, I can call it a meal, as per ewkpates (but I promise you, I will not). Whose opinion trumps whose here?
posted by adamrice at 7:02 AM on May 2, 2008


Yo, I've got a urinal here, and I say that's art!

No wait, an unmade bed hung on a wall!

Got you beat, I got a head made of blood here!

Check out the crucifix in piss!

Buy my dress made of meat!

Here's a great big hole in the ground!

I gotta line of Cadillacs upended and buried in Texas!

Can't beat a cow cut in half and soaked in formaldehyde!

No, wait, a canvas covered in PAINT!

...

ok, i made that last one up...
posted by crazylegs at 7:05 AM on May 2, 2008


Oh btw I saw Under Siege 2: Dark Territory the other day and boy was it art. I'm kidding of course in order for some form of expression that has no merit that any observer can point to, and could never be mistaken for something as lowbrow as entertainment, in order to be Art you have to call it, you know like calling shotgun, or tag you're it! If you don't call it who the hell would know you had just made Art in your pants? Without calling it first and putting a gilt frame around it someone might just think you were just an itchy kraut with a shower cap on his head.
posted by nola at 7:07 AM on May 2, 2008


If everything is art then nothing is art.

Warhol in one.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:08 AM on May 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


rocket88, I think the artist's reputation comes into play here. Art is anything an established artist says it is. Hirst is the most famous example of this phenomenon. There are other, less renowned artists doing similar work (to Hirst's), but their work doesn't carry the price tag his commands (if, indeed, it commands any price at all).
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:08 AM on May 2, 2008


I like conceptual and performance art as much as the next guy. I mean, give me a guy eating condiments until he pukes or jamming a turkey baster full of paint up his rectum or even a robot that's sole purpose is to digest food and defecate any old day. This project just seems sort of meh. Maybe I've been desensitized?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:09 AM on May 2, 2008


If everything is art then nothing is art.

You may have hit on what the current art community is working towards.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:10 AM on May 2, 2008


There's no talking to you people. First you insult my beatnik friends who do nothing and call it lifestyle art. Then, you claim that art is whatever the artist says is art, and then you claim that's what I said. It's art if someone other than the artist thinks it is.

If a tree falls in woods on somebody's recently completed velvet elvis that no one else has ever seen, the remains of the velvet elvis are not art, nor is the tree falling on it, performance or otherwise, sans anyone hearing it.
posted by ewkpates at 7:11 AM on May 2, 2008


E-prime for the win.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:17 AM on May 2, 2008


If velvet Elvis can't see the forest for the trees falling on him, and if there's no one there to hear him sing "Love Me Tender", IT'S STILL ART! END OF DISCUSSION!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:17 AM on May 2, 2008


Licentiousness. Pure and simple.
posted by Kabanos at 7:20 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


"If everything is art then nothing is art."

You may have hit on what the current art community is working towards.

posted by wabbittwax

Yeah, but to what end? I've heard this argument before, some lame notion that 'anything is art if it's put into context', but that both devalues art that people actually work on and takes away the very context these 'conceptual artists' are working in (not to mention being utterly without merit as a 'concept').

Art is beautiful without rules, but that doesn't mean that just anything is art.
posted by Pecinpah at 7:22 AM on May 2, 2008


check it out:

ART

(this is not art)

(that is not "art")

the above is art

the above is a lie

the above is a "lie"

this lie is truth

that was art

art is a lie.

I hereby declare this post art.

Signed R. Magritte
posted by crazylegs at 7:23 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think a better argument could be made that art is what the viewer says it is. Art is an attempt at communication by the artist, but it takes an audience to determine its success.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


If this is art, then morning zoo radio is on the cutting edge of a new art movement.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:27 AM on May 2, 2008


Whenever I see something like this, or the abortion girl or whatever else, I'm nigh convinced that I just don't get "art", because it all just looks like pretentious prattle. In fact, I have a strong memory of going on a field trip to the Smithsonian when I was in elementary school, and they had some kind of modern art display, and I think I asked someone "this is art? It's just a bunch of trash collaged together!" I don't recall what the answer was, i think it was something circular like "Well when OTHER people throw trash together it's trash, but this man is an artist, that's why he's in a museum!" I forget, it was almost 20 years ago, and the teacher probably just wanted to make sure I wouldn't get home and start digging through the garbage claiming "I'm an artist!"

But I digress, I used to think I didn't "get" art, but I think I get it now: The actual act isn't the piece, or whatever bullshit 'message', the 'art' comes from the ability to convince X amount of people that what you're doing is art. The tools of an artist are not paints and brushes, but bullshit terms like "mixed-media" and "installments" and hackneyed messages about the true purpose of the effort, and getting noticed for it. The canvas is the public and their insecurities, an unspoken seduction game where an entire tapestry, consisting of a larger, unknowing public both disgusted and fascinated by this discrepancy ("A giant canvas painted green? A crucifix in a jar of piss? That don't look like art to me, but it's in a museum so maybe I'm missing something") and a smaller community 'in the know' of similar artists, gallery owners and critics, so wrapped up in their insular counterculture conformity that they wouldn't dare say the emperor is naked.

I understand now, the true artist is a salesman and politician, whose strongest work comes not from what they produce but what they do, and that we've heard of them. Andy Kaufmann was brilliant not for his comedy (he was never funny), but the fact that he sold it so well. Andy Warhol painted soup cans and literally told the world 'fuck you, you'll buy anything' and everyone did.

I finally understand now, it sheds new light on the "art" world, and all I can say is, well done, art, well done.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:28 AM on May 2, 2008 [8 favorites]


This is a stunt, not art.

Well, it's a start.
posted by Elmore at 7:32 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


LOUSE EXCITES EVERYTHING

LOUSE knows everything. LOUSE spits everything out.

BUT . . . . . . . . .

HAS LOUSE EVER SPOKEN TO YOU:

about Italy
about accordions
about women's pants
about the fatherland
about sardines
about Fiume
about Art (you exaggerate my friend)
about gentleness
about D'Annunzio
what a horror
about heroism
about mustaches
about lewdness
about sleeping with Verlaine
about the ideal (it's nice)
about Massachusetts
about the past
about odors
about salads
about genius, about genius, about genius
about the eight-hour day
about the Parma violets

NEVER NEVER NEVER

LOUSE doesn't speak. LOUSE has no fixed idea. LOUSE doesn't catch flies.

THE MINISTRY IS OVERTURNED. BY WHOM?

BY LOUSE

The Futurist is dead. Of What? Of LOUSE

A Young girl commits suicide. Because of What? LOUSE
The spirits are telephoned. Who invented it? LOUSE
Someone walks on your feet. It's LOUSE
If you have serious ideas about life,
If you make artistic discoveries
and if all of a sudden your head begins to crackle with laughter,
If you find all your ideas useless and ridiculous, know that

IT IS LOUSE BEGINNING TO SPEAK TO YOU

cubism constructs a cathedral of artistic liver paste
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
expressionism poisons artistic sardines
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
simultaneism is still at its first artistic communion
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
futurism wants to mount in an artistic lyricism-elevator
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
unanism embraces allism and fishes with an artistic line
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
neo-classicism discovers the good deeds of artistic art
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
paroxysm makes a trust of all artistic cheeses
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
ultraism recommends the mixture of these seven artistic things
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?
creationism vorticism imagism also propose some artistic recipes
WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?

WHAT DOES LOUSE DO?

50 francs reward to the person who finds the best
way to explain LOUSE to us

LOUSE passes everything through a new net.
LOUSE is the bitterness which opens its laugh on all that which has been made consecrated forgotten in our language in our brain in our habits.
It says to you: There is Humanity and the lovely idiocies which have made it happy to this advanced age

LOUSE HAS ALWAYS EXISTED
THE HOLY VIRGIN WAS ALREADY A LOUSEIST

LOUSE IS NEVER RIGHT

Citizens, comrades, ladies, gentlemen

Beware of forgeries!

Imitators of LOUSE want to present LOUSE in an artistic form which it has never had

CITIZENS,

You are presented today in a pornographic form, a vulgar and baroque spirit which is not the PURE IDIOCY claimed by LOUSE

BUT DOGMATISM AND PRETENTIOUS IMBECILITY
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:33 AM on May 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


Elmore: now that was art. Well done.
posted by crazylegs at 7:34 AM on May 2, 2008


What's irritating about this kind of art is the lack of any real humor and the pious tone they insist on. Warhol at least put his humor and frivolousness up front and made the joke fun for everyone. These works (if you can call them "works") can't stand on their own, so the artists and curators have to produce a significant amount of verbiage to back them up, and this verbiage always includes the tired cliche of "stretching the boundaries of art" or "calling art into question", usually three or four times, in between fits of bad philosophy or just plain old bullshit. Apparently this curator said "Art is no longer just a painting on the wall. Art is life, life is art." This statement is somehow both vacuous and disingenuous at the same time. If the curator really meant that, they could save a bunch of money on exhibits and just throw open all the doors and windows to whatever drifts in and try to collect admission for that. But of course, they don't -- instead they search for more gimmicks. One artist apparently insisted that it's not a gimmick by saying "We are serious. The lice are part of the art." What does his being serious have to do with whether or not it's a gimmick? What are they serious about in the first place? Oh yeah: "the chance to explore with visitors the concept of the parasite and to ask whether the word could be 'reclaimed' in Israel." But apparently they weren't thinking of the Holocaust when they came up with this, so it's left rather vague when and how the Israelis lost the word "parasite" and what it would look like to reclaim it. And they're interested in blurring "the boundaries between art and life". We've heard this so often at this point that it is quite literally meaningless. Are the artists suggesting that art is not part of life -- is art alleged to be supernatural most of the time? Maybe some artists early in the 20th century who originally wanted to merge life and art had something in mind with the life/art contrast, but I can guarantee you that these artists have absolutely nothing in their heads when they parrot it. Meanwhile, there are people who actually work for years and years on their painting rather than just spewing out fifth-rate Derrida.
posted by creasy boy at 7:42 AM on May 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


rocket88 writes 'If art is to be defined as anything the "artist" says it is, then art has lost all meaning and cultural relevance, since all six billion+ of us can just declare anything we're doing at any time as "art". '

I honestly can't see how defining art as 'that which is presented by a self-designated artist' makes art 'lose all meaning and cultural relevance'. It just means that, with the barrier of technical skill removed, there's likely to be a bit more art knocking about, and that we'll maybe have to work a bit harder to find the good stuff. Artists help with this, since all six billion of us are unlikely to self-identify as artists and declare some action or object to be art. So do art schools/galleries/curators/critics, who look at the output of self-designated artists and present the stuff they find to be of value to a wider public, who then make judgements of their own.

In other words, the situation is exactly the same as when art was defined more conservatively as, I dunno, 'skilled representations of things in the world, perhaps symbolic' - art gets made, some is good, some less so, and it's up to you to decide which is which.

chuckdarwin writes 'rocket88, I think the artist's reputation comes into play here. Art is anything an established artist says it is. Hirst is the most famous example of this phenomenon. There are other, less renowned artists doing similar work (to Hirst's), but their work doesn't carry the price tag his commands (if, indeed, it commands any price at all).'

Not really. An unknown artist presenting work in a minor gallery (or some space the unknown artist has designated as something like a gallery - off-site projects in the current jargon) is making art, in the same way Hirst is. Though Hirst is a pretty bad example - he makes sculptures and paintings, which the reactionary 'That's not art!' crowd tend to include inside the art fold.

Sometimes I'm really tempted to write '1917 called and wants it's arguments about the definition of art back' in these threads. Out of my system now.
posted by jack_mo at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


What gets respect, and gets you remembered years later, is doing something no one else could do. Putting in work, making it obvious that thought and craft went into something. Perhaps even telling a story.
But i guess that's just entertainment.
Not just living your life. Cheese. That's really pretty much the opposite of art. It seems like a lot of 'artists' have these weird, S&M ideas about what art is. "If I do this X amount of suffering, the Gallery will pay me Y$."
Publicity stunts. marketing.
You may call yourself an artist, but artists who can draw or put thought into their pieces will just pat you on the head. Sure, kid, you're an artist. Duchamp said everybody is.
posted by Miles Long at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2008


I just got a phone call from Art, who told me that everybody is Duchamp.
posted by crazylegs at 7:55 AM on May 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


SPOILER: Lice may be art.
posted by not_on_display at 7:57 AM on May 2, 2008


Here are some ideas for "art" I just thought of. If they haven't been done already, you all are free to use them.

--Live in a buffalo carcass for a week in a museum.
--Watch TV in the museum for a week.
--Drive a car through the side of the museum into the exhibit. Sit there in the car blaring your radio for a week. Wear sunglasses.
--Cover the floor with mousetraps. Tip-toe around them very carefully for a week.
--Set up a bear trap on the musuem floor. Walk guilelessly into it. Writhe there in pain for a week.
--Strip naked. Bring lots of viagra with you. Try to maintain an erection in the museum for a week.
--Blog continuously in the museum for one week.

Hey, you'll "blur the distinction between art and life"!
posted by creasy boy at 7:58 AM on May 2, 2008


Answer: no, lice are not art.
posted by killdevil at 7:58 AM on May 2, 2008


An unknown artist presenting work in a minor gallery (or some space the unknown artist has designated as something like a gallery - off-site projects in the current jargon) is making art, in the same way Hirst is.

They might be making art, but they probably aren't selling it.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:59 AM on May 2, 2008


nola : I'm covered in ticks does that count for something?

Usually Lyme disease.

What I want to know is if I can go to museum's little shop, where they sell reproductions for people to take home, and buy myself a jar of lice?

Because, if no one has thought of that, they are missing the chance to do something really artful.

"You convinced several hundred people to spend money on lice and bring them into their homes?"

"Yep."

"Genius."
posted by quin at 8:00 AM on May 2, 2008


................XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.....................
...............X..............................X...................
.............X........O...........O...........X.................
............X..............I..I...................X...............
............X..............I..I...................X...............
............X..............I_I...................X...............
............X.....................................X...............
............X......_____________..........X...............
.............X..................................X.................
...............X..............................X...................
.................XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX....................


Is this art? If not, my head is kinda itchy...
and I feel an abortion coming on...
posted by crazylegs at 8:01 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


creasy boy, you might just be the next Saatchi.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:01 AM on May 2, 2008


It's like when you begin a great sent ---
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:02 AM on May 2, 2008


You know, it's now pretty well-established that the CIA covertly funded Jackson Pollack, whose work, too, helped to 'expand the boundaries of art' further away from the once dominant representational and realist schools that lent themselves so easily to the causes of social justice with their clear, unambiguous depictions of actual human beings suffering through poverty and other unpleasant realities of the human condition. But there's still a lot of debate about the CIA's real motives in funding Pollack.

Well, I think this is exactly the kind of thing the CIA wanted to have happen: turn the art world into such a bizarre, inscrutable culture that ordinary people will find no further use for art and it will appeal only to those gullible enough to consider themselves cultural elites with no use for art of any practical value. In other words, take away the real political power of art as a mechanism of persuasion and communication used by ordinary people, and make it a thing only a few people can be bothered to care about, and even then, only in a way so abstract and disconnected from reality as to render its value moot.

So now instead of depictions of migrant workers picking fruit in the sweltering summer heat, we get stuff like this: art that 'pushes the boundaries of art.' Art that lives in its own rarefied space with no power to move or influence ordinary people. That's what this seems like to me, just more of the same.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:02 AM on May 2, 2008 [11 favorites]


Uther Bentrazor writes 'I understand now, the true artist is a salesman and politician, whose strongest work comes not from what they produce but what they do, and that we've heard of them.'

You could also make that argument of, say, Renaissance artists of mind-blowing technical skill working the patronage system in order to secure commissions, and so fame, adding a dose of reputation-building through non-artistic means (Caravaggio comes to mind, though who knows how deliberate his scandal-mongering was).
posted by jack_mo at 8:02 AM on May 2, 2008


def ZOMG_ART_OR_CHICANERY(artwork):
for comment in range (0,end_thread):
response = random.randrange(1,10)
if artwork.media == traditional:
if response <= 8:
response = response + 2
comment.append(rothko_reference)
else:
response = response - 2
if response <= 1:
comment.append(piss_christ_reference)
comment.append(rand_thing_i_am_going_to_do_with(artwork.media))
return comment
posted by everichon at 8:03 AM on May 2, 2008


quin - Piero Manzoni didn't bother with lice. How can anyone top this? Go home and paint pictures, transgression has died a natural death.
posted by crazylegs at 8:04 AM on May 2, 2008


You know who else had lice?

Leonardo da Vitchy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:06 AM on May 2, 2008


Years ago, (around 1975... earlier?) someone staged a performance art event in which he had himself shot in the shoulder with a rifle, at close range (I can't remember who).... At least this is only itchy. And damn, UbuRoivas, I'm printing out and framing that last comment.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:08 AM on May 2, 2008


And Tracy Vermin, who is writing a Maninfesto about it.
posted by crazylegs at 8:08 AM on May 2, 2008


If they had contracted to have UbuRoivas there reading that weird shit he's posting (I like it!) and whacking himself on the genitals with a flyswatter, then that would be provocative performance art. Right now it's like, "hey, I didn't shower for a bit, it's ART!"

In fact, I hereby propose that we adopt ART! as the pseudo-official term of derision for this sort of thing, along the lines of SCIENCE! for anything published in New Scientist.
posted by Mister_A at 8:09 AM on May 2, 2008


Kronos_to_Earth - Chris Burden, who was also crucified onto a Volkswagen.
posted by crazylegs at 8:11 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's art if you get sex or money for it.
posted by alasdair at 8:13 AM on May 2, 2008


But UvuRoivas's post is a Lousification of a Dada poem, which was explicitly not only NOT ART, but ANTI ART.

ART!

NOT ART!

ART!

NOT ART!

*punches self in face*
*eats many drugs*
*dies*
posted by crazylegs at 8:13 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is not art. Back in my day, women inseminated themselves, consumed herbal abortifacients, videotaped their menses, and collected their menstrual blood in a plexiglass cube.

Now that was art. This is just a stunt.
posted by turaho at 8:14 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


...So do art schools/galleries/curators/critics, who look at the output of self-designated artists and present the stuff they find to be of value to a wider public, who then make judgements of their own.

...art gets made, some is good, some less so, and it's up to you to decide which is which.


This was precisely my point. We "make judgements of our own" and we "decide which is which".

We don't want to be told by the artist or the art 'establishment' what is art and what isn't. I can decide that for myself. When I or anyone else in this thread declares "No, this isn't art" we're absolutely right. When you declare that it is, you're right too. There are no absolute truths here. Art is a subjective concept. I can define my own definition and nobody has authority to tell me I'm wrong. They can disagree, to be sure. It's like arguing over what is beautiful. It's pointless.
Art isn't what the artist says it is. Art is what the viewer says it is.
posted by rocket88 at 8:16 AM on May 2, 2008


chuckdarwin writes 'They might be making art, but they probably aren't selling it.'

You'd be surprised. Those are pretty much the only places I can afford to buy art, anyway ;-)

But, really, what does selling have to do with defining art? Not a great deal - ask a Van Gogh fan.

creasy boy writes 'Here are some ideas for "art" I just thought of. If they haven't been done already, you all are free to use them.

'--Live in a buffalo carcass for a week in a museum.
'--Watch TV in the museum for a week.
'--Drive a car through the side of the museum into the exhibit. Sit there in the car blaring your radio for a week. Wear sunglasses.
'--Cover the floor with mousetraps. Tip-toe around them very carefully for a week.
'--Set up a bear trap on the musuem floor. Walk guilelessly into it. Writhe there in pain for a week.
'--Strip naked. Bring lots of viagra with you. Try to maintain an erection in the museum for a week.
'--Blog continuously in the museum for one week.

'Hey, you'll "blur the distinction between art and life"!'


1 Beuys, 1974 (though his coyote was alive, so present your action as an homage to him.)
2. Rirkrit Tiravanija kind of did this at Cologne Kunstverein, but he invited other people to join him, and cooked them meals.
3. Ballard at the Arts Lab, 1970 (he had a topless lady, much cooler than sunglasses!)
4-6. As seen at the National Review of Live Art, every sodding year.
5. I've forgotten the name of the artist who installed a writer in a space for a week, but there is one. The blogging spin might help with your funding application, though.
posted by jack_mo at 8:22 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just got a phone call from Art, who told me that everybody is Duchamp.

I'm not.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:26 AM on May 2, 2008


I'm not.

Yeah, well, whose opinion trumps whose here?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:28 AM on May 2, 2008


Is this art or not? I don't care. What it is is boring. Here's why: I see these people, and they look like they are backpackers staying in a hostel. Because of this it wouldn't be particularly unlikely for them to have lice. So the art is people who look like they might have lice do. And there is nothing interesting about that.

Now lice have so many strong connotations with things like parasites, disease, filth, and primitive cultures on top of a real visceral revulsion that it would be possible to incorporate them into a performance that was really engaging. I think if when the exhibit was 'over' if they refused to leave the museum and had to be removed by force that would be a nice little hook. But as is... MEH
posted by I Foody at 8:29 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Allright jack_mo, here's a new batch:

--lie in a bed in the museum for a year getting fat. Get fatter than the world's fattest man.

--get a boob-job live in the museum.

--let children tattoo your body with whatever they want, for a week. Provide lots of different colors of ink.

--waterboard yourself in the museum.

...that's all I can think of for now, I'm supposed to be getting work done.
posted by creasy boy at 8:32 AM on May 2, 2008


rocket88 writes 'We don't want to be told by the artist or the art "establishment" what is art and what isn't. I can decide that for myself. When I or anyone else in this thread declares 'No, this isn't art' we're absolutely right. When you declare that it is, you're right too. There are no absolute truths here. Art is a subjective concept. I can define my own definition and nobody has authority to tell me I'm wrong. They can disagree, to be sure. It's like arguing over what is beautiful. It's pointless.
'Art isn't what the artist says it is. Art is what the viewer says it is.'


Fair enough, I was more arguing against the tendency of people to dismiss art that they don't like as not being art, which you seemed to me to be doing way upthread.

I do think that it's worthwhile communally defining art, though, and that the common contemporary definition - 'that which is made by an artist' - is the best one available. If only so that we can have a conversation on MetaFilter about the merits of a given work without it devolving into the argument we're all having now!

As for 'Art isn't what the artist says it is. Art is what the viewer says it is.' - how is the viewer supposed to know that they're looking at art unless it's being presented as such, in some sort of art-looking context? Art is what the artist and/or viewer say it is, and vice versa, maybe...
posted by jack_mo at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2008


-Get a cold and give your cold to museumgoers(who of course pay for the privledge) "Your concepts have taken up residence in their bodies"

-Hunger Artist- People in a restauraunt pay to watch you starve in front of them.
posted by Miles Long at 8:39 AM on May 2, 2008


I have two things to say:

1. Authorial intent.
B. HITLER!!11!

Discuss.
posted by Mister_A at 8:40 AM on May 2, 2008


Alright, I fucking hate this. Just say "hey, wouldn't it be funny to live in an art gallery with lice in our hair for a week?" Then get over it. Because it's stupid.

It's classic only-child syndrome in my opinion. "Oh look Mom, I took a big shit in the toilet. Pay attention to me! It's art!"

"Look mom, I'm starving a dog. It's art!"

"Look mom, I'm smearing my menstrual blood all over everything. It's art!"

"Look mom, I spent $10k on a giant fuck toy that looks like me (if I lost 20 lbs and got a boob job). It's art!

These people don't have a creative bone in their body, and I wish they would shut up. Just because the digital age has made it easy to publish doesn't mean that everything should be.
posted by zekinskia at 8:42 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Fair enough, I was more arguing against the tendency of people to dismiss art that they don't like as not being art, which you seemed to me to be doing way upthread.

No, there's plenty of art that I think is crap that I would still call art. Whether it's good or not isn't part of my personal definition.
posted by rocket88 at 8:43 AM on May 2, 2008


"But if that's what they say it is, then that's what it is."

I'm sitting at my desk reading MeFi at work. I say it's a meal. The fact that you say it's not a meal, since nothing is being consumed and there is nothing edible within reach, is completely irrelevant. Reading MeFi at work IS A MEAL.

It's also art. And a floatation device.
posted by Ragma at 8:46 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


creasy boy writes 'Allright jack_mo, here's a new batch:

'--lie in a bed in the museum for a year getting fat. Get fatter than the world's fattest man.

'--get a boob-job live in the museum.

'--let children tattoo your body with whatever they want, for a week. Provide lots of different colors of ink.

'--waterboard yourself in the museum.


1. Lennon & Ono ;-)
2. Orlan has done this, to quite an extreme degree.
3. An intriguing reversal of Santiago Sierra's tattoo piece (he paid whores, using drugs as currency, to have a line tattooed on their backs), with shades of Chris Burden's Shoot et al.
4. This guy planned to do that, but I'm not sure if he ever did.

'...that's all I can think of for now, I'm supposed to be getting work done.'

Same here. (A review of some amazing video art, as it happens.)
posted by jack_mo at 8:47 AM on May 2, 2008


Lets try this:

Art is culturally privileged communication or expression.

Reactions to this include:
1) "That's not art" = "That doesn't deserve to be privileged."
2) "Anything's art if you say it is" = "Anything can be interpreted as communication, and you can privilege it if you like."
3) "This is good art" = "This communication is expressive in a way I find worth privileging."
4) "It's all marketing" = "This artist has had his communication privileged by virtue of his own privilege or standing, and not any quality inherent to the work."

Does this work?
posted by Richard Daly at 9:05 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't see how defining art as 'that which is presented by a self-designated artist' makes art 'lose all meaning and cultural relevance'. It just means that, with the barrier of technical skill removed, there's likely to be a bit more art knocking about, and that we'll maybe have to work a bit harder to find the good stuff.

Art 2.0?

God help us.
posted by Mayor West at 9:07 AM on May 2, 2008


the worst aspect of this project is all the nit-picking it inspires
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know why every crap piece of performance art is fodder for a debate about art. It should be fodder for a debate about how good art is ignored, virtually unknown in public education and discourse, and relegated to museums where it is forgotten.

So... I guess it comes down to what Daly said, or what these guys came up with:

Well, one Messiah is what I want!
I'll tell you what you want, mate! You want a bloody photographer, that's you want.
I'll tell you what I want! I want a last supper with one Christ, twelve disciples, no kangaroos, no trampoline acts, by Thursday lunch, or you don't get paid!
Bloody fascist!
Look! I'm the bloody pope, I am! I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!

Here ends the lesson.
posted by ewkpates at 9:11 AM on May 2, 2008


My conceptual art idea was to have an ensemble of morbidly obese people in lundersized sweatsuits sitting on lawn chairs in the courtyard of a museum playing chamber music or light jazz (still deciding) while wealthy patrons dine on hors d'oeuvres. This would occur in the deep south or southwest during midday in summer.

None of you steal my idea or I'll sue, damnit!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:23 AM on May 2, 2008


Pollomacho, a couple of questions:

1.Light jazz? WTF???
7. lundersized garments are hard to find, especially for great big fat people.
posted by Mister_A at 9:26 AM on May 2, 2008


This is Art.
posted by inigo2 at 9:26 AM on May 2, 2008




If I inflate a balloon and let it go -- whoooosh -- without tying off the neck, is that rocket science? Why yes, it is! But it won't get me to the moon.
posted by binturong at 9:30 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's my master work, up for stealing, because I'm way too lazy to do it.

First, get one person from every country in the world. Put them all in a large red barn in northern Saskatchewan that has exactly 4 1/2" of sheep shit on the floor. Shingle the outside of the barn with old Fifth Dimension LP's (available in every parent's front hall closet, just behind the overcoat that Dad never wears anymore). Dig a moat, 27" wide by 4.2 miles deep, around the barn. Fill it with the coalesced DNA of 427 trillion ridge backed voles. Hire a cloud seeder to produce a single large cerrocumulus that will hover directly over the barn for the duration of the performance. Now you are ready to begin.

All the people in the barn begin screaming the phrase "Silence is molding!", each in their own language, while digging frantically through the sheep shit as though searching for something. When the person from Tunisia reaches the floor underneath the shit, all the other people run out of the barn screaming and dive into the moat.

the end
posted by crazylegs at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


When the person from Tunisia reaches the floor underneath the shit...

...he/she exclaims in Arabic: "There must be a pony in here somewhere!"
posted by ericb at 9:37 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


ويجب ان يكون هناك المهر هنا في مكان ما
posted by ericb at 9:38 AM on May 2, 2008


Metafilter: the worst aspect of this project is all the nit-picking it inspires
posted by Wonderwoman at 9:38 AM on May 2, 2008


I'm not bothered by their claim that this is art; I'm bothered by the fact that every bizarre performance piece of this sort since Duchamp's "Fountain" is (in my opinion) essentially doing exactly the same thing.

When Duchamp did it, he was dropping a bomb. These folks? Well, sure, they're dropping a bomb, too, but they're dropping it on a landscape that is cratered with past explosions. They get some attention for themselves, sure, but what are they asking that hasn't been asked before? What are they contributing to the discussion that is different from any previous odd piece of this nature?

There is a scene in Tim Robbins' movie Cradle Will Rock where the elite rich discuss the danger posed by political art, in particular Diego Rivera. They conclude that they are going to deliberately invest their money in art that values form over content and that this will ultimately de-fang the work of artists like Rivera.

Many artists, for their part, have only been to happy to bask in glorified self-indulgence, creating pieces that have some empty publicity value but little else.

Whether years of wealthy folk supporting content-free art has accomplished this or not, certainly in the United States art has been largely stripped of any social use. Not just painting - many actively speak out against artists exercising a political voice in their work (be they actors, musicians, or what have you). Furthermore, the market does not support work that has any deeper meaning than "look! I have lice!"

Work with social content, in essence, doesn't sell and doesn't attract the kind of attention that Stunt Art attracts. In 2008, Americans, at least, don't want to see it or hear it.

I'm not making a case that all art should have some sort of social content or purpose, but you're not going to see the equivalent of Man at the Crossroads or Guernica getting a whole lot of attention in 2008. Especially when "Lice Heads" and Paris Hilton Autopsy are grabbing the headlines.

Also, kids, stay out of my fucking yard, all right?
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:43 AM on May 2, 2008 [4 favorites]




I get it. Lice are parasites. And Art Students are parasites.
posted by binturong at 9:56 AM on May 2, 2008



I highly recommend The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe, wherein he dissects the history of 20th century art with his thesis that theory and commerce came to trump artistic skills.
posted by binturong at 10:02 AM on May 2, 2008


On a somewhat related not, in her book, Provoking Democracy: Why We Need the Arts, Carolin Levne argues that artists and their work are key to a strong, free society. In an interview on New Hampshire Public Radio last summer, she explained that avante-garde and contoversial work may be the most important kind.
posted by radiofreewalsh at 10:19 AM on May 2, 2008


sigh

OK, whatever, it's art, or not, I don't care. Do whatever you want, you little hucksters, write a pretentious and overwrought statement, bleed and itch and blah blah blah. I can't even get worked up about it anymore. It's art, it's so earnest and Controversial and so very, very boring.

At least they won't have to worry about anybody touching it.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2008


In my experience if people are arguing about whether or not something is art, it usually is.
posted by hellphish at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2008


Carolin Levne argues that artists and their work are key to a strong, free society.

So by corollary shouldn't the art be strong and challenge freedom? Not just greasy infested Germans slumming it in a museum?
posted by ao4047 at 11:13 AM on May 2, 2008


Is our Germans learning?
posted by Mister_A at 11:21 AM on May 2, 2008


Uther Bentrazor writes "Andy Kaufmann was brilliant not for his comedy (he was never funny), but the fact that he sold it so well."

Well, he was fully committed to whatever he was doing at the time, even to the point of getting death threats. But I beg to differ very strongly on the idea that he was never funny. I always found him hysterical, in the perfect sort of agent provocateur way. I guess it depends on your sense of humor.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2008


Kaufman was very funny. His humor was the humor of discomfort, of the awkward social situation, of the inappropriate.
posted by Mister_A at 11:41 AM on May 2, 2008


Also, while I'm on a rant...

Hey Art World! You know how you ever drive on a long trip with your kids while they ask "are we there yet?" over and over again?

Yes?

That's what the last 80 years of you asking "What is art?" "What is art?" "What is art?" has been like.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:42 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


...and for the record, I really dig most modern art, especially the Dadaist....
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:44 AM on May 2, 2008


The school nurse sent home a letter in my son's backpack a few weeks ago - one of the kids in his class had been discovered to have art in his or her hair. We were supposed to check our kid for art and if he turned out to have art in his hair, to apply an appropriate shampoo and comb carefully.
posted by Lucinda at 11:56 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


At its most basic definition, "art" is simply "artifice": an intrusion of some thing some where it's not supposed to go. A child getting lice at school is not art because getting lice from all those jumbled up hats and coats and recess dogpiles at school, in childhood, is part of the natural order of growing up, it's where the parasite finds its most vulnurable victims.

Grown people who deliberately infect themselves with a common parasite and then take to living someplace you're not supposed to live, especially infected, is an artificial construct. So then there's all these questions--what does it mean? is it beautiful? is it valuable? is accessible or elitist or skillful? does this change humanity or my world view or how me or some other group of people are going to live their lives?

The answers to those questions matter, but the answers don't make it art or not make it art. If the questions are being asked some artifice has already intruded. It seems there is a bit of a media microscope this spring on artists whose constructions are deliberately controversial, or maybe even deliberatly, cavilerly without a lot of focus on foresight--but I'm ok with the media tromping around reporting on art when it opens up these temporary worldwide salons with all the "but my kid can do thats" and "learn to draws" and "brilliant hegemonies"
posted by rumposinc at 12:27 PM on May 2, 2008


A child getting lice at school is not art because getting lice from all those jumbled up hats and coats and recess dogpiles at school, in childhood, is part of the natural order of growing up, it's where the parasite finds its most vulnurable victims.

so art is something 'unnatural', is that the idea rumposinc? according to whom and for what purpose? what about putting on my pants both legs at a time? is that art? what if i write an artist's statement before i do it?

i agree that art is 'artifice' in some sense--but to me, that's all it is. art is just a broad term for various classes of things people make and do. art isn't necessarily full of lofty ideas. it isn't even necessarily full of ideas--some of it is commercial or purely formal.

is deliberately getting lice and standing around in a museum art? sure. why not. if someone says so. so what? it's art. so is my coffee cup. i'd say my coffee cup is a much better work of art, IMO, because it unifies form and function. maybe it's even got a timely political message ('i hate mondays'). why aren't we talking about my coffee cup more? it's a damn fine coffee cup.

all the comments here on mefi are art. my shoes are art. off-color jokes at a party are art. dentistry is art. giving someone a haircut is art.

but art encompasses so many different things, it's just not a useful or meaningful way of categorizing things. it's so abstract, it's like a slightly more precise form of the word 'stuff.'

engineering, computer science, baseball, puppetry--all of these are arts in as legitimate a sense of the word as any other.

the debate about what is or isn't art is beside the point. art as an abstract isn't much of anything in the first place, so why should i or anyone else care what is or isn't art?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:54 PM on May 2, 2008


'art is a lie that exposes the truth' - picasso

'art is a truth that exposes the lie' - me

'art is the better half of aarrtt' - me

'art is 60% of heart, but 75% of fart' - me
posted by crazylegs at 1:07 PM on May 2, 2008


one of the kids in his class had been discovered to have art in his or her hair

So his or her parents sent the kid to Sotheby's to be auctioned.
posted by binturong at 1:11 PM on May 2, 2008


We don't want to be told by the artist or the art 'establishment' what is art and what isn't. I can decide that for myself. When I or anyone else in this thread declares "No, this isn't art" we're absolutely right. When you declare that it is, you're right too. There are no absolute truths here. Art is a subjective concept. I can define my own definition and nobody has authority to tell me I'm wrong. They can disagree, to be sure. It's like arguing over what is beautiful. It's pointless.

You, sir, are full of shit. And that is not an opinion, but a fact.
posted by c13 at 1:15 PM on May 2, 2008


You, sir, are full of shit. And that is not an opinion, but a fact.

Well said. And such an elegantly-reasoned argument, too.
posted by rocket88 at 2:09 PM on May 2, 2008


Art is like obscenity, you know it when you see it, and the lice ridden folks in the museum are not that.
posted by caddis at 2:42 PM on May 2, 2008


saulgoodman, I think my example did clunk-ify my idea, which is not so much that art is something unnatural, but that some thing, consciously done or constructed that creates cognitive dissonance and starts the whole discussion is different from the realm of the rest of already integrated parts of our lives. Artificial, artifice is not the exact antonym to natural in this case. And yes, if putting on your pants is constructed by you as a "happening," as something other than just clothing your bottom half, there will be folks interested in talking about it.

And I do think, as many other have said more gracefully before, that the "is THIS art?" question is not the useful one.
posted by rumposinc at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2008


And such an elegantly-reasoned argument, too.

If you want a longer version, the reason I'm saying you're full of shit is because both you and I know perfectly well that you can't "define your own definition", yet you insist that you can, but only when it suits your goals. For example, you haven't "defined your own definition" for any other word in your posts, and I'd be willing to bet that if you paid someone to build a house for you and they "defined their own definition" of the word "house" and built you a cardboard box, you would insist they stick to the definition of "house" that normal people use. Or, to take another example, neither you nor anyone else here most likely did not think of a possibility that I "defined my own definition" of "you're full of shit".
But for some reason you state that it's perfectly fine for some pretentious pricks lacking talent and skill to call their attempts at getting attention "art", and we should take their meaningless ramblings seriously. You really can't have it both ways.
posted by c13 at 3:04 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


> What's irritating about this kind of art is the lack of any real humor and the pious tone they insist on.

See? After all the changes, after all the metamorphoses, after everything that's gone down, it's still heilige Deutsche kunst.
posted by jfuller at 4:28 PM on May 2, 2008


Ziss aahrt iss ass boring ass being alive.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2008


ewkpates:
If the person eating is says it's their meal, ITS A FRICKIN MEAL.

It might not be a nutritious meal. It might not be tasty TO YOU. It might not be filling, even to them. But if that's what they say it is, then that's what it is.

IT'S ART. It's not to my taste, I doubt it will influence or inspire much, but hey, more power to them. It's a heck of alot more art than some people I know are doing.
I don't understand that last sentence. Prior to that, you seem to be saying that art is whatever someone who says he's an artist says is the art that he creates.

So I see how, by your definition, this is art. But I'm not sure how, by your definition, this particular art is "more art" than the art that I, as an artist, am engaged in right now, via my artistic work of procrastinating about changing my air conditioner's filter.

Is it merely "more art", by your definition, because the "some people you know" are simply not claiming that any of the trivial crap they're doing is "art"?
posted by Flunkie at 7:12 PM on May 2, 2008


It's art if someone other than the artist thinks it is.
OK. I think that everything is art.

Congratulations, you now believe that everything, with the possible exception of stuff created by me and me alone, is art.
posted by Flunkie at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2008


Thanks, crazylegs!
I realize it's late in this thread (long day at work) but if anyone would like to see Chris Burden's "danger piece" as the performance was apparently called, it can be found here along with a bunch of others.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 7:29 PM on May 2, 2008


One time I was screwing around on the computer late at night and made a silly ASCII drawing in Notepad of, I dunno, a helicopter or something. I thought it was pretty good, so naturally I submitted it to MoMA as an email attachment.

A woman got back to me the next day and told me that she was very sorry but MoMA didn't accept online submissions and would I please submit a hard copy. I was never quite sure whether that was a tactful way of breaking the bad news to me or an indication of the sad state of affairs in the modern art world.
posted by danb at 8:20 PM on May 2, 2008


I prefer Trader Joe's Cashew #4.
posted by lukemeister at 9:24 PM on May 2, 2008


I told you I was small.
posted by Dizzy at 5:45 AM on May 3, 2008


I wondered when I saw this post how far down before the obligatory reference to Piss Christ.

Piss Christ has shown its eternal value as a magnificent piece of art by being mentioned by every art-critic wannabe every time they see an artist doing something that they don't understand. Piss Christ is possibly the most important work of art in the 20th century.
posted by telstar at 1:23 PM on May 3, 2008


From now on, let's not discuss whether something is art. Let's use the same rules that apply to "a meal". Is mac and cheese "a meal?" Is a twinkey "a meal"? If the person eating is says it's their meal, ITS A FRICKIN MEAL.

Is a cup of water a meal? Is a paperclip a meal?

Last-ditch idea to save art: Artist's statements no longer allowed. Works are allowed an optional title of limited length. If you can't impart meaning, or beauty, or whatever is the goal of your art, without an essay or an interview explaining it, you've failed.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:34 PM on May 3, 2008


jeebus, people.

It's all about context. I know we all get tired of hearing that, but it's true. Framing, if you will, although some of the commenters sound as though they are unable to escape the literal definition of the word "frame" ("learn to draw, learn to draw, learn to draw?!").

If the stated context is "this is art", then one needs to look at the work in that context and then decide if the resulting artwork is successful or not. Think of viewing something as art as if you were showing up at a theater. The stage serves as the artificial context for something referred to as a "performance". The curtain opens and something eventually happens (or not, but that once ground-breaking work's been presented many times in the past).

You may experience whatever unfolds in a positive or negative way. You may feel that your time has been wasted or you've not been challenged or enlightened in any way. You might be bored or frustrated. You might question the need for the performance to have been created at all. You may think it's utterly stupid and poorly executed. You may think that whoever was responsible for wasting your time should be taken out back and shot. This does not mean that you did not experience a performance. It just means it sucked.

Apply this concept liberally to "art".
posted by stagewhisper at 3:33 PM on May 3, 2008


c13: we are not having a debate about whether the lice were really lice, or whether the word "the" means "the."

"Art," the word, is the subject of discussion precisely because that specific word is highly controversial in many contexts, and in and of itself is a highly subjective term. There are many words like these in every language.

Ask a kid (define "kid") what "art" is and they might cite specific examples like "paintings," "sculptures," and "music." What else might they imagine? Art seems to involve infinite means of expression and is judged by whether clusters of individuals (with money, ideally) decide that particular techniques performed by particular artists are more enjoyable to behold than others.

"House" has an obvious meaning, to be sure. And yet, if someone were to build a house for me I would have a very specific definition of what a "good house" is. Those who don't make their needs clear might be so unpleasantly surprised as to declare "this ain't no house! It's a hovel / shanty / shithole."

The debate is over semantics. I would personally prefer to say that anyone can certainly declare anything "art," but it is my right to decide whether it is "good art." If something particularly offends my sensibilities I might even declare that it is "not art" but do not fancy myself a high arbiter in this area.

For example, many people listen to "bad music" and declare it not to be music at all. I'm sure this technique has been used billions of times to denigrate every genre of music at one point or another.

The first time I went to an art museum around the age of twelve, I was shocked by some of the more casual pieces like a red-painted plain-jane bookshelf designated as a sculpture and a large painting of a piece of lined notebook paper; just some perfectly straight lines drawn across the canvas and some circles representing the mark of a three-hole-punch. I was not impressed but did not feel some sort of cognitive dissonance about what "art" meant or lack of belief in humanity simply because an museum found the pieces worthy of exhibition.
posted by lordaych at 8:20 AM on May 4, 2008


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