I was watching good old Look North on the idiot box this evening, and had to stop myself getting all rock n roll and shoving the box out the window. What could have rattled my cage so?
Have you ever heard of the story of the Emperor's new clothes? Yes, this:
Of course you've heard of it. But just in case; two con men trick the Emperor into thinking he's bought some supernaturally awesome new clothes. In actual fact, they just mimed fitting him (is this where the term 'fitting someone up' comes from?) and sent him out stark bollock naked. But because the tricksters had so much front, everybody just went along with it... 'Ooh, look at the Emperor's lovely new clothes!' It took some cheeky, mouthy kid to point out the obvious: 'Wait a minute - He's starkers!'
People do tend to go along with things that are rather silly sometimes. And it can really gain momentum, with a whole culture and industry built around the fact that people just won't stand up and say, 'Hang on; this is bullshit!' Well, today, I'm going to be the cheeky mouthy kid, and point out the scam that we currently call 'art'.
So, getting back to Look
Angled blocks with large holes.
And (totally unrelated), here is a painting by an elephant:
Art has always been notoriously hard to define. And I'm not going to try to define it here. (Not that brave.) But I think I can safely say that it rather looks like people have given up trying for a definition. As a result, pretty much anything gets classed as art. Pile of bricks? Art, mate. Unmade bed? It's art, innit? Chop up a dead animal? Art, baby!
Meanwhile, here is some proper art:
Here's another one to have a think about:
Just look at the detail, the form, on this. This is an utterly splendid piece of sculptural art. See it a million times, and you'll still admire it. Bloody awesome is what it is.
Now, I accept that there are many different types of art, and not all of them will be of the classical variety. However, if we just accept ANYTHING as art, then it stands perfectly to reason and logic that the term art will lose all meaning. The very nature of art itself is being eroded by conmen selling us invisible clothes. And people outside the art world hierarchy are scared to say anything about it, because those lofty experts will just say we don't understand. I call bullshit. I say art should clothe the human experience brilliantly, not send us out stark bollock naked while claiming 'Ooh, suits you, sir!'
So-called 'art' of the Chatsworth Hepworth type is simply manufacturing. Emin's unmade bed is is an act of expression, for sure. And many of the industrial-type pieces of 'art' we see certainly have an element of craft to them. But it that really what we, as civilised cultured people, want to be our (capital A) Art?
I can't define art. I'm not sure anyone ever will, satisfactorily. But maybe we can make a start on ruling out what is not Art. Maybe, we could ask the question, 'Given time and materials, could this work be replicated by any ordinary person?' If the answer is yes (angled blocks with holes in), then the chances are, it ain't art, baby. If the answer is no (Sistine chapel ceiling, Rodin's Thinker), at least we are one step closer to something that might be Art.
I'm off to get dressed.
Words © Darren R. Scothern 2015