adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Lazy Art

A work of art must be able to stand on its own, with no reference to how or by whom it was created. It should have intrinsic meaning.


If I were to create a bit of ‘performance art’ by, say, throwing paint-filled condoms at a canvas, the art would all be in the performance. The painting I created would have to be of interest in and of itself to someone who had no knowledge of how it was created. Chances are it would be a very bad painting and very bad art.

Admittedly, it would also be a rather bad and cliched performance but that would describe much of what passes for fine art these days. The academic art world seems to love these hackneyed skits and meaningless installations.

If some future archaeologist dug up Duchamp’s urinal, would it be recognized as art? No, it would go in a collection with all the rest of the bathroom fixtures. The art was in the performance, the hanging of that urinal in a gallery a century ago. It was an innovative gesture at the time but these days we’ve ‘been there and done that.’ And yes, I realize it is ironic to poke fun at being ironic now, to point out that we HAVE been there and done that.

Yeah, yeah, how insightful. And how boring. Art may be ironic but irony, of itself, is not art — I want art that actually says something.

I still, in some degree, am in alignment with the Stuckist movement and its ideas. As a movement, it no longer moves, so to speak, but there are lessons to take from its manifesto and the whole remodernist concept. Art should be authentic, not merely clever.

And the art favored by today’s academy should certainly not claim to be cutting edge and subversive. It is like a bunch of fashion models dressing up as punk rockers.

But it doesn’t have the anger of those punk rockers. That is what their art is lacking — true emotion, true passion. One should be able to look at a piece of art and feel something, to know there is a meaning to it, to know the artist sought after an elusive reality. Art must be about discovery.

Instead, it has become about denying that anything is worth discovering. It has lost meaning in favor of concept, in favor of ‘take what you will’ from it. It has become lazy.

We need art that does not mistake being glib for actually having ideas. We need art that has meaning.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

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