Abolish Bad Art
In Great Britain, dissenting artists claim the emperor of modern art is naked. What took them so long?
Back in 2016, gallery-goers at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gazed in awe at the latest in brain-melting art.
Placed against the wall beneath an official-looking piece of paper lay a pair of spectacles. Frenzied attendees clotted around the exhibit. Snap! Snap! Snap! went their cameras. How profound! Beret-topped patrons fainted into heaps.
On Twitter, the gallery compared the work to Marcel Duchamp, of urinal renown.
But all was not as it seemed. A pair of teenagers placed the spectacles on the floor for a prank.
The mesmerised recovered their faculties. Of course! Everyone was in on the joke. Nobody thought a pair of spectacles placed against the wall was really art. They were having a laugh at the philistines’ expense.
By saying nothing, by shrieking in ecstasy, and by taking photos, the cultured played their part in this playful little ruse. Like Stalin’s applause, they resisted the temptation to cease clapping first lest they find themselves in a proverbial cellar with steel pressed to their temple.
Doubtless, they were fans of the late composer, John Cage. An ‘experimental composer,’ Cage is best known for his 1952 composition, 4’33”, performed without deliberate sound.
During the performance, musicians do nothing but remain present for the four minutes and thirty-three seconds of its duration. The profundity? The ambient sounds, be they traffic wallowing, be they birds chirping, or if you’re in New York, a trucker screaming, ‘Hey, Asshole! I’m drivin’ here!’ are the music.
Last week in Great Britain, a spore of common sense escaped from the single glass vial in which it was frozen sometime in the 1970s.
In a pamphlet entitled, Abolish the Arts Council, two serious arts commentators argued that activists with a ‘left-wing, Woke agenda,’ had degraded Arts Council England—the national patron—into a political body ‘hostile to the taste and values of the majority population.’
Alexander Adams, an artist and art historian, and David Lee, editor of The Jackdaw magazine, said the council suffocated ‘art of real consequence,’ and had lavished funds on organisations that ‘promote anti-capitalism, racial grievance, bail funds for violent criminals, decolonisation, pornography, migration advocacy, sex in public, and religious sectarianism.’
“Abolition of ACE is a first step to reducing the surplus of creators who exist on public funds and contribute little excellent, memorable or serious physical culture,” they wrote.
No doubt, the authors refer to that brand of modern art impenetrable to anyone but the artist themselves. That brand of modern art which duct-tapes a dildo to the wall.
Perhaps the dissidents too read Arts Council England’s recently published ten-year plan, Let’s Create!
For a lavishly funded national body ostensibly dedicated to developing the arts, the arts council doesn’t seem to know or care what art is or what is an artist.
‘By 2030, we envisage a country transformed by its culture and at the same time constantly transforming it: a truly creative nation in which every one of us can play a part’, goes the manifesto.
According to ACE, the job of an arts council is not to develop the canon of great works, and not to develop the works of great artists; the job of the arts council is to ‘celebrate greatness of every kind.’
‘We do not believe that certain types or scales of creative activity are inherently better or of greater value than others: excellence can be found in village halls and concert halls, and in both the process of participation and the work that is produced.’
By that logic, I am a gifted pianist. When I, like the arrested child I often am, mash the keys of my girlfriend’s piano, the panic attack emitting from my fingers has the same ‘inherent value’ which convinces hundreds of people to pay good money to hear her play the piano.
Curiously, nobody is queuing up to hear my art of Adderall noise.
This modern delusion of everyday genius informs our kid-yourself culture. The same delusion informs the prevailing nonsense glorified as modern art.
In this nudist colony of naked emperors, everything is art, and everyone is an artist.
Such self-deceit is the work of those who’ve captured arts councils and the like. Such institutions now teem with envious mediocrities who loathe real art and real artists. Those who exist solely to strangle at birth real artists whose talents and whose works exceed their own. Nobody with talent will ever kid themselves that genius is universal.
Those who can, do. Those who can’t, stop others from doing.
Ah! They cry. Art is subjective. Such is the linguistic thimblerig of pseuds who seldom know what they’re talking about but like others to think that they know what they’re talking about. It’s like saying, ‘Speeding doesn’t kill. Stopping abruptly, kills.’
Defenders claim that duct-taping a dildo to the wall, (or a banana in this case,) is just art doing what art does. Yes, art evolves. But the Impressionists, (a term first spawned as an insult) adhered to recognised parameters and to recognised standards. They didn’t claim a duct-taped dildo represented fertility in the age of anxiety.
‘What is art?’ is another linguistic fire extinguisher. Well, we know what art is not.
Art is not the narcissistic delusion that every thought swimming around one’s skull is a profound statement upon the human condition.
And yet, such nonsense pervades.
Just recently, I witnessed a Christmas tree placed upside-down through a basketball hoop. Perhaps the exhibit represented the commercialisation of Christmas and basketball? See! Such sophistry took four seconds to make up.
Try it for yourself. In your head, if you so wish, create a work of modern art and in the comments tell me what you came up with. After all, genius is universal.
Here’s mine: I’ll nail a condom to the wall, and call it: Women’s Rights, 2022.
See! In this essay alone, I’ve created two works of modern art. Perhaps I should rename myself, ‘Topher X,’ and dye my hair green. No doubt, a New York gallery would declare my works a herald of a new ‘transgressive’ Avant-Garde. Show me the money.
On the off-chance that a budding artiste is reading this essay, help yourself to my genius creations.
I ask only one favour in return: Let me know where to head with my can of gasoline, my packet of matches, and my famously loose consideration for arson laws.
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Fantastic piece, Topher!
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