13 October, 2005

yes, but is it art?

Now, I'm a liberal sort of person (that's SMALL "L" liberal, thank you), both idealogically and aesthetically. But I must admit when it comes to most contemporary art - while I don't have any objection to it per se, I do usually find myself thinking: "What the fuck?!" Or, to be more accurate: "Why the fuck?!"

However, despite my personal reaction (usually bemusement and/or apathy), I do feel a quiver of excitement every time the Conservative Right gets its knickers in a twist over some pretentious, innocuous piece of contemporary twaddle. Who can forget the 1997 furore in Melbourne over Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ"?

Dr. George Pell (bless his pedarist-protecting poofter-bashing heart) kicked up a big fat stink over the not-particularly-interesting photograph, and when the courts found no reason to ban the piece, a couple of brainwashed teenagers took matters into their own hands, and attacked it with a hammer. Way to exponentially raise the profile of something you supposedly don't want people to see, dudes!

In a recent example, the Tate Modern in London has come into
controversy, when it decided against the exhibition of a piece by British artist John Latham. Consisting of chunks of the Bible, Koran and Talmud embedded in a large pane of glass, the work is entitled "God Is Great".

The world-renowned Tate removed it, fearing it might offend Muslims in the wake of the London bombings in July. May I add my voice to that of the artist, with a big fat "Huh?!". Latham has explained that the piece (which was created ten years ago) is intended as a message of unity between religions, showing that all faiths spring from the same source. Apparently the issue at hand is not the message or intention, but the physical fact that the Koran has been cut up. The strangest thing is, Muslims themselves seem to have no complaint about the work. "We have not received any complaints about this piece of artwork," The Muslim Council of Britain said in a statement to the BBC, "Sometimes presumptions are incorrectly made about what is unacceptable to Muslims and this can be counter-productive."

Personally, I would rather see everyone Chill The Fuck Out about who's offended by what, and allow each other to harmlessly express their opinions on religion or whatever else, in an artistic format of their choosing, without being subject to censorship or controversy. But I'm well aware that I'm living in a dreamland of magic pixies where diamond tiaras grow on trees and fairy-floss rains from the sky (hehe that tickles!).

If it was up to me, censorship would fall not on potentially-offensive or controversial material. Rather I would take my metaphorical hammer to the drivel spouted by so many "artists" in the guise of expresion, which is in fact: pure, unadulterated
WANK. Now, like I said, I'm open-minded about art. I'm a graduate of the School of Studies in Creative ARTS at the Victorian College of the ARTS for fuck's sake...

But when Martin Creed stages an "installation" piece called
The Lights Off - which consists of charging people good money to walk into an EMPTY gallery with its LIGHTS TURNED OFF - I get mad. That is not art. That is laziness and WANK. When interviewed by 3RRR radio, Creed was asked if it was important to understand the concept behind his work, before going to see it. His response was (I'm paraphrasing) "Oh, there is no concept. I just want to evoke an emotional response in the viewer". Like I mentioned, I went to Art School. And let me tell you from experience, the old "no concept - emotional response" chestnut is the standard response from talentless pseudo-intellectuals who go into Arts because they can't apply themselves to anything else. It roughly translates as "I have fuck-all to say about anything, but I like seeing my name in the paper!"

In conclusion:
The wonderful thing about art is that everyone has the right NOT to go and see it. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't ban or censor Martin Creed. If some gallery is dumb enough to put their name to The Lights Off, then so be it. We are lucky to live in a free society where no matter what you want to express, and no matter how you wish to express it, you are allowed to do so. And the people who want to listen, have the right to. And the people who find it offensive (or downright pretentious) have the right to sit at home and drink an extra-strong strawberry daquiri. Let us relish those rights, and never let anyone restrict our tastes in the expressing of ideas.


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