Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What is Art For?

The organizational moral of the story? When you shake up your organization, plan for a period of chaos before it reaches a new, relatively stable, emergent organizational form. That final form will be unpredictable based on what came before, and requires the continual input of energy to retain the new form. Otherwise, it will all just collapse into a goopy mess!
From Mark Federman's blog.

"I don't want them to agree with me. I want them to think." Marshall McCluhan

On the face of it, there is much here that I agree with, but it also the point at which Danto and I part company. As Danto saw it, with artists liberated from the burden of art history the road was clear for the critic to enjoy an infinitely protean role. Arthur and chums were now in the happy position of children given the run of the sweet shop. Ruling nothing out as art, the critic becomes supreme; the form or material, the existence or non-existence of the art work is completely irrelevant. Whatever it is, present or absent – and the contemporary critic is never happier than when writing about ‘absence’, it’s all the same to the equally liberated critic.

As far as the discourse of establishment art is concerned, for a hundred years the artist and the critic have been in an increasingly symbiotic relationship, with the power steadily moving into the hands of the critic/curator/theorist. That discourse is now neatly bifurcated : rubbish, often literally, is offered as art; the museums congratulate themselves on attracting the general public to gawp at junk in high places; then the theorizers philosophise together. Two birds with one curatorial stone: fob off the public with spectacle: beds, boxes, mirrors, naughty videos and then tickle each others fancy with ‘scholarship’.

From Blunt Edge introduction May 2006 issue by RO.

"See, too, the recent outpourings of John Carey, Oxford Professor of English Literature and, nowadays, ubiquitous highbrow critic (in What Good Are the Arts? London, 2005). According to Carey art is simply ‘anything that anyone has ever considered to be a work of art, though it may be a work of art only for that one person’. Art is no good, and does no good, except in so far as someone – anyone – likes it, or thinks of it as art. There is no distinction between high art and low art. There are no judgements about art or discriminations of quality which are not purely subjective.

Less stylish than Warhol, what we have here is the Warhol agenda in threadbare academic hand-me–downs. Carey appears untroubled by the consequence of his position, that if there are no genuine judgements of quality in art, then the whole phenomenon of art, including his own field of literary criticism, is reduced to the exercise of power relations. The artists who count, like the celebrities which count, are those who have most power over the media and the critical elite, and who are most powerfully promoted by the most powerful promoters and publicists. Artists indeed are celebrities and, if we follow the example of Warhol, as perhaps we should, we might say that celebrities are artists. Celebrity is all.

As an empirical fact, this may be true of Warhol himself and of the art world post-Warhol. Nonentities, pumped up by impenetrable pseudo-academic drivel and demonstrating over and over again that indeed anything can now be an artwork, become, for a time, the darlings of the promoters and critics."
Anthony O HearBlunt Edge.

"Some people think artists must be some kind of painting monkey" Philip Guston.

"I love art. Who doesn't? But you're totally right: it's no longer for the masses. And what fun is that. Look at van Gogh. He couldn't pay his fucking rent. He gave his landlord paintings. He would have sold them for next to nothing in order to buy some booze or a meal. He was struggling. He was an artist. Artists today seem not to want to struggle. They want that one piece they might sell this year to keep them in rent for the whole year. It's ridiculous. Grrr. " Asterisk

6 comments:

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Candy Minx said...

Cash Advance...? Payday loans? Diet pills?

You're starting to look pretty good yourself baby!

Pim said...

Hey Candy, Your post here sounds ALOT like what a three hour crit sounds like in my painting class.
Artists, (and I do believe there are different types) who are creating because they are compelled by a source deep inside them selves, and to not create in some manor would mean death, do not strive for that 'One' piece that’s going to make the big bucks. Sure, we might think about it, think about how it might feel to be so recognized and validated by our peers but then the fear sets in. The constant nagging in the back of our minds that we suck ass, that we have no clue what we're doing and that our parents were right.. This is a vicious circle. The way John Carey writes I have seen in smaller artist circles such as the clay sculptures and the way they treat the painters, or the graphic designers and the theatre folks. Each saying their art is the higher one. It is a difficult subject. We loved to sit around and rip on Thomas Kinkade though... lol. I wrote a paper on Van Gogh last year after reading two conflicting articles about what they thought he was trying to be/do. I'll have to find that again.

P.S. Thanks for the props... that made me feel really good :) (Need that once and a while)

Mark said...

"Art is anything you can get away with." Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Massage)

"The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present." Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media)

Wandering Coyote said...

Candy: the spammers are back, obviously. HMPH.

I still recall our little discussion on Mr. A's blog about art and the meaning of it. I must confess I still don't "get" art, but at least I'm looking at it a little more closely now, especially after you told me I could interpret it any way I felt I needed to. Even if that meant not understanding what the artist was doing. That alone as freed me in a way.

Tim said...

I am struggling to find the perfect painting in my own work. Perfect being subjective, I guess I just want to do art that looks really good but simultaneously be challenging. So it is a struggle between making a mess, finding new techniques and completing the piece with satisfaction.