Is it art, or are they really making fun of the public?

Sending a “Bravo!” to Eric Felten (I’m a big fan of his in the first place), who writes in the WSJ,

Next week at the Chicago Cultural Center an artist named Jim Zimpel will present a work called “Angle.” He will take the stage with fishing rod, bait bucket and some fish in a barrel. He will fish. And as part of the “installation” he will let five people each Sunday take turns holding the rod. If any manage to catch a fish, they get to choose whether to release or eat it. Thus is angling transformed from an art into Art.

Feel free to roll your eyes.

…The art of the ordinary may well be art (as it would seem anything that claims to be “art” is by definition “art”), but that doesn’t mean it does anything for us. Is it too much to ask for art that is extraordinary?

…Why have so many of us watched the Olympics over the past couple of weeks? It isn’t for the maudlin tales of loss and hardship (stories all too ordinary, alas); it isn’t just to indulge in a little nationalistic medal counting; it isn’t because we’ve been dying to find out who will triumph in the women’s handball final. No, we watch to marvel at those who do things that most of us can’t do. We long to be astonished.

…A Bernini bust astounds us, not just because the likeness is so real we expect it to speak, but because we recognize it as a surpassing triumph of man over marble.

It is, as one would expect, a superb column from Mr. Felten about the “trend” of the ordinary becoming art, right down to one’s bathroom activities.

Having just finished Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word (aff), reading about this further degradation of art rather amused me. Things never do change, do they? Wolfe’s book is about Modern Art deviating from representational art (who needs Michelangelo, Copley, Rodin, Van Gogh, Raphael, Degas, Wyeth, Manet, Rockwell, Erté?) to…well, Modern Art. It seems borderline crazy to me, but then, I’m a documentary photographer interested in representing that which I photograph and that which I want to say to the viewer.

Now, I suppose that concept has been thrown out of the window in order to praise “the ordinary”—what Felton refers to as banal—and what, in some cases, I would have to categorize as downright crass and vulgar…But then, I’m very old-fashioned. What next, a bag full of an artist’s dog’s elimination or mud pies?

You see, sometimes I look at the goings-on in the art world and cannot help but think, “They’re making fun of the public.” Yes, I suspect they are mocking people, throwing our innate love for beauty and real accomplishment back in our faces with a derisive snort. Art critics and the like must, I suppose, side with the artists doing this, because after all, recognizing true beauty or real skill is so very pedestrian. So they snort and curl their lip at those in awe of David or admiring A Bar at the Folies-Bergère or Starry Night over the Rhone, then insist we praise their quickly puddling ice carving of the planet.

Well, let them have at it, I say. There are lovelier and more marvellous ways to celebrate the ordinary than we are now offered.

Go on, read the whole article!




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