On the critic: “Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art. ”
― Susan Sontag
On the artist: “All artists are willing to suffer for their work. But why are so few prepared
to learn to draw?”
On the art world: “First you do everything possible to make sure your world is antibourgeois, that it defies bourgeois tastes, that it mystifies the mob, the public, that it outdistances the insensible middle-class multitudes by light-years of subtlety and intellect—and then, having succeeded admirably, you ask with a sense of See-what-I-mean? outrage: look, they don’t even buy our products! (Usually referred to as “quality art.”)”
― Tom Wolfe,
I say that making art has become an act of the intellect achieved through language and illustrated in the designated art space.
Skill and any use of purely visual/physical expression has been denigrated until it is entirely secondary to, and in the service of, the intellectual scaffolding that would appear to hold it up by explaining its value.
I don’t want to make art. To set out to make art is to start at the wrong end. I believe that we express ourselves through everything we do in our lives. The idea that an artist can express herself more powerfully or meaningfully through art is to assume that cultural significance can be taken on like a mantle, or held like a talking stick. The miss-use of the “A” word makes art look silly. “Look I’m making very important Art!” And we can all tell it is Art because it fulfills some of the magic criteria that classifies Art.
Here are some of the attributes that can be used to identify something as “Art”:
- It is not functional.
- It is new and therefore avant-garde.
- It is hard to classify.
- It is very big.
- It is in a recognised Art Space.
- It is shocking.
- It breaks or blurs boundaries. (Free and elusive.)
- It gets in the way so must be an “installation”.
- It is reassuringly expensive.
Art does not have to cover all of these bases, after all it is free and elusive in quality. But if we are going to make some Art we should try to cover more than one because logically a work becomes more powerful with each attribute you can add from the list. To make new Art we must pick attributes from the list and find them in something that has been overlooked by the art world until now. New technology is a great area to find new ways of exploiting the Art formula. Exploitation in general is what it is about so we should exploit our audience to make the experience more real. Charge more money for our work and we will increase perceived value. We could design and deploy a dating app which will gather information on, and images of, our audience and then use it in an intrinsically shocking, hard to classify and boundary breaking way. It would be great Art. – But now we have had the idea, do we need to actually do it? and does anyone need to see it? *
Art critics are the interpreters of art who look at the puzzle that the artist throws into the Art Space. Their activity is a game in which they translate the raw artistic output into an intellectually coherent adjunct to their own work, the work of Art Theory. At first glance you might think they have little influence over a world that they merely commentate on. However as Art has become increasingly dependent on conceptual justification for its status, so the role of Art Theory has become central to the cultural validation of Art. That’s enough about them, suffice to say, they are parasites who have caused a gross distortion of our cultural life.
You can tell by now that I’m not happy about Art. You might think that I envy the Art world, that it is just sour grapes. This may be a bit true, but this is not fuelled by the envy of Art prices. I am very disillusioned with the Art world. Because I love visual art and making things, I am sad that visual expression has been devalued, made secondary to intellectual expression to the point where the generality of people feel they are not qualified to have an opinion on visual art. You don’t hesitate to say what sort of music you like but more likely than not preface anything you say about art with “I don’t know anything about Art but..”. Somehow we are visually disenfranchised by the Art world.
To sum up I think that the word “Art” should be reserved for the best quality work in any field. It should not be used to define an area of creative activity. When I use words to express myself I do not make something in clay to support my meaning. When I use clay to express myself I do not turn to words because my thoughts come through clay. If the word art was used to denote the highest quality rather than the type of work – then there would be room for craft to take on this true meaning, and the best works of craft would be art. – Not to mention the best of football, cinema, theatre and all other non-essential cultural activity.
I notice that I have not mentioned the role of the market place in all this. More on money, meaning, mediocrity and alliteration later…