#804. 2019 resolution: make Art? I think not … ;)

#804. 2019 resolution: make Art? I think not … ;)

 

First of all, forget resolutions. 97% of diets fail. Those that don’t are largely medically assisted. Resolutions don’t work because they fight our nature and willpower is a limited resource. Once you’ve depleted yours, it’s gone. So those new year resolutions actually act as parasites for other important aspects of your life and make you feel like a failure when, in fact, you are just fine and lovable!

 

So. Resolving to make Art might jinx it for me, and mess up other areas of my year. That’s my first reason for not making this resolution for 2019.

 
 

The second is more dire 😉 I’m not really sure I want to anymore.

 

For a long time in my life, I wandered in museums, half elated, half depressed at not having chosen a more creative career path. It should have been obvious to my early teachers that my numbnuts school grades and my notebooks devoid of notes but covered with drawings hinted at a greater predisposition for art than academic accomplishment. Maybe I should have revolted, raged against the machine, as real artists did at the time. But I didn’t and let the system pound a computer science PhD into me instead.

 

Every visit to a gallery or art museum since has been an ambivalent return to the mothership, a reassuring trip to a warm and fuzzy place but also exposure to an invisible beast nibbling at that invisible, but painful, organ of regret located just below the heart.

 

 

Now? I’m not so sure. For the past few years, the Art World has started to feel like that abstract and impenetrable fortress aimed not at helping artists beam ideas or feelings to a receptive public, not at uniting through personal ways of expression, but at defining and maintaining an elite, excluding the vast majority of human beings along the way.

 

This was made particularly evident during a recent visit to the Tate Britain, which is hosting the 2018 Turner Prize exhibition. Now, the Turner Prize does severely restrict the pool of admissible artists to those born in Britain, but even so, the 4 nominees came as a shock : 4 video artists, 2 (and a bit) of which felt more like reportage than Art.

 

Are we supposed to understand that, out of all the artists of the British Isles, not one painter, not one sculptor, not one photographer, not one potter, not one knitter, not one gardener, not one maker of a tangible object is worthy of interest? And that beauty, laughter, uplift are all bad things that disqualify you for consideration in an Art prize? That a work of Art is pointless if people can understand it? That a human that’s not from a minority of social or political interest can’t be recognized as a great artist? Fuck that, if you’ll pardon my French. I’m outta here.

 
 

Instead of dreaming about doing Art, I guess I’ll be doing art. Joining the happy proles and the wonderful plebes silly enough to admire the decorative and enjoy the pretty. Holding hands with the hoi polloi that can still smile while looking at a funny photograph, cry in front of a great movie and drool when holding a beautiful vase.

 

It’s my understanding that the Art world is no longer interested in human beings. By building semantic and financial walls around its inner circle of self-defined cognoscenti, it is denying the urge buried deep down each and everyone of us to be artists. An urge that drove our ancestors to paint caverns even though the cold and brutal animals threatened every second of their short lives. An urge that has been visible in almost every child since … ever. An urge that many lose in their haste to fit in to climb a ladder or cover up, to their great loss and pain, but never disappears.

 

In doing so, the Art World is making itself more and more irrelevant, literally painting itself into a corner. I’ll let you browse some of the most amusing reactions to the show, below. Because yes, that’s what we do today. We erect barriers but invite feedback and engagement from the other side. Sheepish or cynical? Not sure, the jury is still out (of its mind ?)

 
 

Sadly, that’s probably more by design than mistake. Anointment by public disdain. Someone behind the mirror is probably laughing at the great unwashed that doesn’t get it. But that’s futile.

 

Because the criticism doesn’t mean the art in the exhibition (or in other Art World venues) isn’t great. The Forensic architecture exhibit was fascinating. Naeem Mohaiemen’s video on the Non Aligned countries also. Although both felt more like reportage than my naive conception of art. Charlotte Prodger’s Bridgit was a deep dive into very intimate and clever territory. To me the most mesmerizing and moving were Luke Willis Thompson’s silent films, both because of the subject and because of the scenography (second photo from the top). It’s not that the work isn’t brilliant, only that we can’t relate to or understand the selection process.

 

Thankfully, walls made out of urinals and video tend to be quite porous walls. We can still see inside. People still love art in spite of the oligarch-friendly barriers built around Art’s most famous representatives. And I’m pretty sure many inside the walls take regular sneak peeks outside for refreshment too.

 
 

So, no resolutions for 2019, but my plan is to make and enjoy more art, leaving Art to the big boys. As much as I’d love to buy a Sugimoto print, I’ll enjoy prints made by friends just as much. Expect more printing, more art talk and even more love of photography from me 😉

 

Because yes, to me, photography is one of the great enablers for budding artists. With today’s gear, photography removes all technical barriers to creation but enforces very strict rules on vision and self examination. Every photograph is a process of scene selection, the manifestation of a certain perception of the world, the embodiment of internal values and story. I can’t think of another hobby that removes external barriers so completely, enforcing internal ones quite as powerfully.

 
 

That’s it from me today. Let me wish you a very, very happy and creative 2019. I hope we can share more and more photographic thoughts and works and look forward to hearing from you all. Cheers.

 
 
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15 Comments

  1. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron January 01, 2019

    ROTFLMHAO – well you certainly found plenty of people who’d been to or near the exhibition and expressed similar views.
    Shortly I will send you the URL for an article about a lady photographer who had to battle the bullshit, to get herself established – until suddenly it dawned on her that she really didn’t need to take any notice of the critics, all she had to do was to satisfy the needs of her clients. And now that she realises their opinions have no relevance, she’s happy, productive and successful.
    Are you surprised that this struck a chord? – remember the fight between the Impressionists and the French Academy? – remember Van Gogh? On – and on – and on!
    Since forever, my solution has been the same as the lady photographer’s – I do as I please, and I share what I do with a very small and defined audience – because I flipped at the insensitive and ignorant criticisms I received when I was young (half a century ago, at least).
    Forgetting me entirely, because I refuse to be part of the competition, it’s when you reach this point that creativity starts. As long as you’re worrying about what other people think, don’t both to call yourself an artist – you’re just another victim – a piece of roadkill, beside life’s highway, with zillions of others zooming past you.
    If you choose to take the alternative path, the only limiting factors are your skill set and your enthusiasm.
    PS – Pascal, where is the bicycle? 🙂

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 01, 2019

      Yeah, but it’s shame to have to recoil. My goal is to foster a community of art-loving people who grow thanks to one another and share discoveries, personal work and techniques. No one should be bullied into a standardised view of creativity.

      I don’t do bicycles, that’s our good man Philippe 😉

      I agree that we should be immune to unfair criticism. We are what we are, though. As long as we learn a technical skill, we can hide behind our inexperience. It’s harder when we are fullly trained and can only blame our creative skills 😉 It must be harder still for a young professional artist with 200 grand training debt hanging round his neck.

  2. Avatar
    Kristian Wannebo January 01, 2019

    Yess!

    And I suppose Turner (apologies for the unavoidable pun) turns in his grave.

    But I guess the Establishment never really cared about art, only about Art!
    Yet once in a while some art was considered to be Art…

    ( [Real] artists never make Art, they attempt to make art!)

    What we have Now started, I believe, with the Readymades. Then came the Installations. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the so called Deconstruction helped along…

    ( Well, an Installation might be fantastic, but does that make it art?)
    – – –

    Pascal,
    I wish you a Happy New (art & photo) Year!

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 01, 2019

      Hi Kristian, the pun is pardoned, specially in the light of one of the paper comments (“I wish they Turnered the power off during the exhibition, it would have been better”) 😉

      At some point, cynicism seems to have set in (Warhol and co ?) and that’s a shame. But also, the Art World is a market. When a young kits leaves school with a degree in arts and six-figure debt, he/she is understandably in dire need to monetise that education. And the world that hinges around that follows the same Pareto rules as any other, I suppose. It’s normal, but really a shame that museums focus on such a small slice of the pie …

      Happy New Year to you too 🙂

      • Avatar
        Kristian Wannebo January 01, 2019

        > “..leaves school with a degree in arts..”

        A friend of mine who studied art towards the end of the -60s told me about an exam. They were given a *very* abstract painting and told to analyse it.
        My friend said she scratched her head a bit and then decided to really bite the bullet: she decided to “find” as many sexual symbols she ever could in the picture and wrote her essay accordingly.
        So?

        She got the highest mark!
        Now, does this reflect on the curriculum, the professor or the attitudes of the time?
        I think it shows a disorientation similar to what you described.

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy January 01, 2019

          I guess this is inevitable in a curriculum such as that. It takes bravery to pursue studies in arts. At the end of the day, I hope students are taught how to explore rather than given strict guidelines.

          I often think of stopping work for a year and starting a degree at an art school. I’ve always wanted to. But it scares me and, at the end of the day, I think we can learn just as much by exchanging ideas among one another.

  3. Avatar
    Dave January 01, 2019

    Hi Pascal
    I really enjoyed your article. Once again you have hit the nail on the head. Years ago I decided that the best News Years resolutation was no resolution. Wishing you and everyone a healthful and happy New Year.
    Best Dave

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 01, 2019

      Thanks a lot Dave. Yeah, resolutions are fun around a pint of beer but ultimately harmful. I’ll see if I can rig up an article on better alternatives.
      A very happy and fruitful year to you too 🙂

  4. Avatar
    philberphoto January 01, 2019

    Isaac Bashevis Singer was awarded the Nobel prize for Litterature. Most would agree that that qualifies his writings as Art. Here is what he thinks, rather differently, as expressed in his Acceptance Speech in 1975:
    “There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time I will mention only ten of them. Number 1) Children read books, not reviews. They don’t give a hoot about the critics. Number 2) Children don’t read to find their identity. Number 3) They don’t read to free themselves of guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. Number 4) They have no use for psychology. Number 5) They detest sociology. Number 6) They don’t try to understand Kafka or Finnegans Wake. Number 7) They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff. Number 8) They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides, or footnotes. Number 9) When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority. Number 10) They don’t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.”
    I don’t think I need to say more, and he certainly says it better…
    Fantastic post, too….

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron January 03, 2019

      ROTFLMHAO – gee this is fun! – twice in one posting, and it’s only just started!
      I was going to respond to Pascal’s comment that “. . . it’s shame to have to recoil. My goal is to foster a community of art-loving people who grow thanks to one another and share discoveries, personal work and techniques. No one should be bullied into a standardised view of creativity. . . I agree that we should be immune to unfair criticism.”
      But Philippe, yours is brilliant! I’ve only ever met one Nobel Laureate, and he was a doctor – thanks for introducing this one!
      Actually both of you have struck a chord, for me. I never had any time for “critics” – I think I’ve mentioned that B4 – they have always seemed hell bent on being destructive, and most of the time their views & mine were opposite anyway. Life is meant for living – and that’s where kids come in – they WANT to “live”! A lot of people lose that, as they grow older. It’s been said by someone a lot wiser than me, that “A person who is no longer learning has ceased to live”. I’ve never wanted to be like that. Frankly I don’t give a rat’s what criticisms are chucked my way – no that’s not quite true – what it HAS done to me, is make me far less likely to share anything artistic that I create, with anyone else. Which is possibly a “good thing” – or maybe “a shame”. But I know it’s happened to me, and I daresay it’s happened to countless others. Who – like me – are a bit/a lot shy or sensitive or something, and don’t appreciate boorishly rude and ill-bred people making offensive remarks about what they have created, so they simply withdraw – perhaps stop altogether – or perhaps simply keep going, but stay private and unnoticed, for the rest of time.
      And I’m quite sure that if this didn’t happen, the art world, in all its manifestations, would have been a much more glorious place than it has been.
      On the other hand perhaps the extra would have flooded the market and killed it all off. Humans are silly like that.

  5. Avatar
    Cliff Whittaker January 01, 2019

    Great article, Pascal. I am forever thankful that I didn’t give myself up to the academic world of photography at our local university. I have seen enough of the work of the professors and students exhibited in galleries to know that I would have been a misfit. Thank goodness I chose to enjoy the process of developing my technical skills and creative abilities in my own way rather than being pushed, crammed and prodded into the mold that shaped their work and the work of their graduates.
    I’m old and cynical and don’t give a rat’s ass about much of anything anymore, especially awards and recognition. Maybe I was always that way. I never kept award ribbons or certificates. I always attached them to the backs of the pictures and when the pictures sold the ribbons went with them.
    My only ambition is to occasionally create the quality of work that I can look at and say, “Wow, that’s good.” I’m on cruise control now and I’m having more fun with my photography than I’ve ever had in my life.
    One more thing that I plan do in the coming year is this: when (if) I produce a photograph that pleases me that much I’m going to give it to someone I like.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 02, 2019

      Hi Cliff. What if you’d found the ultimate Litmus test for evaluating the quality of our work? “when you like it enough that you want to give it to someone you like”. That sounds pretty powerful to me 🙂 Also very conducive to the personal approach you describe (developing my technical skills and creative abilities in my own way). Interesting, thanks 🙂

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron January 03, 2019

      ROTFLMHAO for the third time! – this is getting to be a bad habit! Cliff I should have read your comment, before I said anything in response to Philippe’s. You said it all for me – I could have kept my powder dry!

    • Avatar
      Johannes Hüttner January 06, 2019

      “(if) I produce a photograph that pleases me that much I’m going to give it to someone I like.”

      That sounds like a good plan for 2019. Anyway thank you all for the interesting and engaging articles and discussions in the past year. I’m trying to interact more with the community here and look forward to take part in the conversations in the comment section.

      A late happy new year to everyone.

      • Avatar
        pascaljappy January 06, 2019

        Thank you very much Johannes. We very much look forward to your interactions, too 🙂 All the best, Pascal

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