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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