The Alternative Advent: Day 2
The object of art is to give life shape & something to chew over—
It also works the other way…
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship. Just as, imagination without skill gives us modern art. Tom Stoppard made that observation, no doubt with, The Prudence and the Pill in mind: Nothing unites the English like war. Nothing divides them like Picasso.
Modern Art, it’s true— is considered with derision by many and as absurd by most, typified by nothing better than The Turner Prize. It is greeted each year with anticipation and enthusiasm, but for all the wrong reasons. With a glint in their eyes and half-baked chuckles wrestling in their throats, our newsreaders announce the short-list and their creators’ achievements, knowing full well that that we: the unenlightened ones, will be hooting and cursing in equal portions wondering what on Earth it’s all about?
Rachel Whiteread won the award in 1993, with her creation “House”. You may remember it: a Victorian Terrace was filled with concrete then its outsides were taken away, and so astonishing was its impact, the local council waited an entire year before tearing it down.
More recently though we had my personal favourite: Simon Starling, who ingeniously turned a boat into a shed, then back into a boat. Imaginatively titled: Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No 2). It was supposed represent the, slowing of things down, and about trying to retard the incredible speed with which we live.
The only thing I could tell was being slowed however, was the boat’s ability to float.
But of course it did. It made perfect sense. It made as much of it as being described ‘eccentric’ did to Mr Starling— which wasn’t a great deal, in fact he took great umbrage at the description— an act I found more bewildering than his former dinghy.
There’s little wrong with ‘form’ of any kind going hand-in-hand with hand and head, but when hands and bloockls become inseparable, even indistinguishable from the bullshit and bafflement which surrounds it; perhaps it’s worth trying to take the intellectual out of the art, or better still, away from it altogether.
How about bringing a little accessibility back? How about something like:
I’d have galleries handing out different coloured gum upon entering, to be chewed; there’s a little ‘shaping’ for you right there, where it matters— on the building blocks. It’s contemporary, very pop; and like all art— not everyone’s cup of tea— so it’ll either be chewed over or not— with verbals or mandibles, it doesn’t matter…
Towards the end of the gallery I would have a canvas for the used gum and a bin for that which was not. I like the irony but none of the significance which could easily be spun— but it’s as close as I can imagine, art for art’s sake, becoming more than a spectator sport, at least indoors anyway; and the kids would love it…