Monday, October 03, 2005

I know it when I see it

Nerdygirl's post of 9/27 (the part about art) obligates me to educate the world with the following post, not all of which is original:

First of all, I'd like to say I like Nerdygirl's approach -- just concentrate on the stuff that seems interesting or meaningful to you -- life is too short to
a) try to understand every piece of nonsense museums display under the name of art, or
b) feel inadequate because a certain piece of "art" doesn't resonate with you.

I understand it was Chekov who said "art is infection" -- the metaphor (paraphrased) being that the artist has an idea, a message, an emotion, whatever. The artist uses art to infect you with that feeling/etc. If that process takes place, then it's art -- if not, it's mental masturbation.

I've heard a lot of stupid stuff said by art apologists, much of it intended to make people feel stupid just because they didn't appreciate some piece of ca-ca someone decided should be called art.

Example: Are you outraged, shocked, annoyed? Congratulations, you're experiencing art!
Which is baloney, of course. Just because I'm annoyed doesn't mean you showed me art. I can shock and outrage you by peeing on your couch -- doesn't mean I'm an artist, does it?

Example: Responding to the question "What does it mean?" Someone sneeringly replied, It doens't MEAN anything -- art isn't ABOUT anything. Art just IS.
Again, baloney. If you want to pile your boogers into the shape of the Notre Dame cathedral (or paint an entire canvas blue), well more power to ya. But don't try to say it's art if it's meaningless to everyone else on the planet.

And of course, we've probably all heard the stories: the janitor who cleaned up an installation that looked to him like a bunch of detritus left over from a conversation around a coffee table (empty paper cups, cigarettes, etc). Because, guess what? That's what it WAS -- trash, not art.
Or the painting that was wrapped in burlap, and mistakenly displayed with only the corner showing where the museum had lifted the burlap to identify the painting. The only-a-corner-showing approach elicited much admiration ("innovative", "courageous", etc) from bozos who think the emperor's *supposed* to be naked.

Okay, now your understanding of this issue is on a par with mine. You're welcome.

Oh, and PS:
For funny stuff about art pretension, see one of David Sedaris's books (I think it was in Me Talk Pretty One Day) -- there's a chapter in there about his time at college, taking lots of drugs and pretending that all manner of moronic activity was artistic expression.


At Mon Oct 03, 11:49:00 AM PDT, Blogger jay are said...

great topic, great comments. Nerdygirl's blog on this was excellent as well. It's always a relief to realize that what seemed like "ca-ca" and nonsense up on the wall actually IS nonsense to other people too. Whew! On the few occasions that I've gone to any MOMA, it never fails that there's a clustered group oo-ing and ah-ing over the canvas all red with a small yellow blob in the corner that my young kids could've done in no time flat. And I look at the group and think, You've got to be kidding me. I, too, have thought of the emperor's clothes and realized---none of us wants to appear the Dumb One. That's why it's a relief to realize other people only saw blue canvas too. I think the artist is hovering in the corner, laughing his head off.

At Mon Oct 03, 11:51:00 AM PDT, Blogger jay are said...

One other thing: 3:17 a.m.????

At Mon Oct 03, 03:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

I agree Bryan. I feel the same way when happen to see some famous fashion designer show off his newest line clothes. The runway models look like they are wearing bad Halloween costumes. After the show everybody stands up and claps and pretends like they love the clothes. After all he is a famous designer and you don’t want to look like you are out of touch with the fashion world.

I would take some exception with the boogers in the shape of the Notre Dame cathedral. I might have to give that a look-see. At least its something that took some time and effort and is not easy to do. Not that I have tried or anything.

Plus the artist might have a positive spin on it by naming it. “Boogie down to church or your local place of worship”.

At Thu Oct 06, 10:31:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

Yeah, JR, 3:17am -- I was prepping for a trip to Texas, and I was up past 2am doing bills/invoicing/etc. Since I had to get up at 3:30am anyway for a 6:20am flight, I didn't feel much desperation about getting that 1:15 of sleep (after which I'd feel wretched anyway) so I just stayed up the whole night doing non-essential stuff like checking email, blogging, etc.

At Fri Oct 07, 08:33:00 AM PDT, Blogger unca said...

I add one comment to this cathartic posting: I may have to concede that visual art can be meaningless and still be art (maybe even good art). I only say this because I know that music can be beautiful and still meaningless. Music certainly doesn't have to "mean" anything and yet it moves us. Perhaps this is true of visual art as well. It certainly is true that just because something IS meaningless, it doesn't make it art but there may be abstract art out there that is truly "meaningfull" without "meaning" anything. Not for me so far but maybe for somebody.

At Fri Oct 07, 12:23:00 PM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

good point, unca. i don't actually think art has to have a specific message in order to be art. i should have said that non-art is stuff that is both meaning-free and fails to resonate on any level with anyone else.
lots of art (music being a great example) is about how it makes you feel rather than about actual message/meaning -- and to me, invoking a feeling is squarely within Chekov's idea of art as infection...


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