Tuesday 6 December 2011

Solving Slums With a Big Wall

I live in a small, cheap apartment in a nice suburb.
Across one road are a bunch of government flats where junkies dwell, and across another road is a primary school where they have chickens.

It may not immediately seem like it, but this is an absolute triumph of cultural understanding, and someone, somewhere deserves a high five.

You see, in all cities there are rich and poor people, and as the rich people don’t really like to hang around the poor people they get them to live in one area, which becomes a slum and a Mecca for crime (does the term 'Mecca for crime' seem a bit racist? I should look into that).  Even places with a relatively wealthy populace like Sydney, have the ‘Western Suburbs’ where you get a bunch of street crimes like drive by shootings.

Some places even have gated communities.  Apparently these people encountered the problem that when they looked out their windows they could see people living in abject poverty, so they came up with the obvious solution: Build a big wall around your house.

Solved forever.

In Canberra someone decided that the ‘wall’ solution may not have been getting to the crux of the problem, so they decided that all suburbs, whether they were relatively more or less expensive, would have a portion of government and cheap housing.  Furthermore these flats would be located as close as possible to primary schools and local shops.

It seems crazy putting your junkies right next to your children, but it actually fucking works!
One child in a dark alley is a liability, but if you add another 200 kids, suddenly the place is a carnival.

All cities have bad areas and nice areas, but by mixing them together the average level of the place actually goes up.

Remember that fact as it will come up later in the test.

Now, in my experience of cheap housing there are three distinct types of people.

First there are people of low socio-economic status with low levels of education, whom for the sake of clarity will hereafter be referred to as bogans.  These people make up most of the unemployed, alcoholic, drug –users and are generally unfriendly.

Then there are the university students, who are pretty nervous about all the bogans, but seem to enjoy having a place of their own.  This group includes me, and we pretty much just keep to ourselves.

The third group is people who have immigrated to Australia.  These people often have children who play outside in the gardens.  They are the only people who say ‘hello’ to you, and are generally about the nicest people around.

Now, it’s become apparent to me that a lot of (white) Australians are actually against immigration.


Okay, first things first:
Everyone immigrated to Australia.

Some people came here a very long time ago, but everyone else came here about 1 to 6 generations ago.
These people who are against immigration claim that the fact that they’ve been in Australia for multiple generations has absolved them of the sin of migration, but does that make any sense?

If I tell you that my family has six generations of paedophiles, does that make my becoming a paedophile all good?  Of course not! Either paedophilia is wrong or it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how long ago you established the practice into your life.
As such, either immigration is wrong or not, and the fact that everyone, especially those who’re against immigration ARE ACTUALLY IMMIGRANTS, it would have to be fine.

(btw, I’m not actually a paedophile.)

The fear of immigration seems to be rooted around the idea that immigrants will take jobs from natives.  I was going to have a good think about this and try to crack the issue, but instead I decided to google “immigration and unemployment”. 

I read the first 5 articles, all of which were discussing different statistical reports that unanimously stated no correlation could be found between increased immigration and native unemployment.

Well, that was pretty easy: immigration doesn’t take jobs from natives.  Next.

The other anti-immigration argument is that immigrants won’t integrate into the Australian culture and community.
Every society in history has experienced immigration of other cultures, and basically every time a group of different people have gotten together it has formed a stronger homogenous culture.
In fact all the most successful cultures have been based on integration. 
Look at Rome, the place was a crucible of all the cultures in the known world, and it formed one of the strongest empires in history.  It invented mainstream Christianity, for Christ's sake.
Look at American culture, which is now permeating the globe.  It’s the product of a myriad of customs and cultures coming together. 
American music is a trillion dollar industry and it all came from a bunch of African slaves with second hand instruments.

Plus don’t we like multiculturalism?

Don’t let the ‘uniquely rural and down-to-earth’ image of Australia fool you. 
75% of the work force is in the service sector, as compared to 3.6% in agriculture and 21% in Industry.

For every 1 person working on a farm there are about 21 people working in offices, schools and shops. This is the real Australian community; people living in cities.
And the culture of Australia is practically identical with every other 1st world, globalised city on earth.

Australian culture is you and me, the people who're interested in experiencing new culture.

So far all these arguments are just things that people who’re against immigration say, what they really feel is this:
Australia is a lot richer and nicer than most of the world, so if we throw our borders open and let anyone in, we’ll average out worse than before.

Perhaps this is true, but what did we learn from the city planning example?

Was it productive to keep the nice areas nice, and let the bad areas turn into slums?

Did that make for a good, safe place to live?

If we utilise the good areas to dilute the bad areas we can make a place where segregation becomes unnecessary.

Instead of building a big wall around our country, perhaps we should man up, and have the balls to lend a fucking hand.

You got that, dickhead?

Sunday 20 November 2011

Christ has a Great Deal of Mass

As most of you will already know, I’m currently a university student who is married.

During the course of my various adventures I often run into other university students who’re surprised by my marital status.

Some of them believe that marriage is an outdated and sexist institution.

Some of them ask me why I’m married.

Firstly, I like this question. 

There’s nothing more annoying than when someone obviously opposes your views, but won’t challenge them, so you don’t have an opportunity to argue your case. 
They just kind of look at you as though you’d just pooped your pants and say “That’s nice.”

This will often happen at art school when you say you’d like to write Science Fiction graphic novels.

Furthermore, even if you’re never going to change someone else’s opinion on a matter, it does get you thinking about your own perspectives and how best to communicate them. 
It doesn’t have to get personal, it’s simply a mental exercise.  In fact, if you feel angry it’s probably because deep down you’re unsure of your position, and need to think on it.
Remember, the Buddhist monk doesn’t lose his shit when someone can’t comprehend him.  Even in the face of great hipsterity.

So getting back, the answer that I’ve devised to “Why did you get married?” is this:

For the same reasons that we celebrate Christmas.

Some people believe that marriage is based on the outdated values of Christianity, and that anyone who gets married will immediately adopt sexism into their daily routine.
This is not true.

A wedding has nothing to do with religion because it is a social tradition, just like Christmas.

Christmas has got to be the most historically religious celebration of our culture, but does that mean that you must be Christian to celebrate it? That the only form of celebration is to sit in wooden pews and murmur to each other about how holy you are? Of course not.
This is proven a billion times over every year.

Just because the history of our culture is based in Christianity doesn’t mean that every tradition older than your Grandpa is restricted to those who still practice the religion.

People can celebrate however they want to.  Most of them get together with their family and use food and alcohol to grind away social walls until they can safely admit that they love each other.

A wedding is exactly the same. 
It’s about getting all your pals together and letting them know how much of a babe you find your partner to be.

Some feel that they shouldn’t have to pay money to the government to acknowledge the validity of their relationship, but again, surely Christmas is much more of a rip-off.

But who among us doesn’t enjoy buying and receiving a bunch of crap each year that we don’t really need.  It’s no secret that this consumer frenzy buoys the entire economy, but even the most cynical of new-wave hipster is unlikely to scoff at the chance to get both pissed and a new scarf.

A wedding ceremony does generally tend to include a bunch of vows and passages from the Christian persuasion, but again, so does Christmas.
I’ve been known to sing along to a ‘Hark the Herald Angel Sing’, but what I don’t do is stand on the table and shout
“Hey everyone, I think I can hear one of God’s messenger bird/humans telling me something!”

Why is this? Because some time in the intervening centuries, those words, just like the celebrations themselves, have been reappropriated as a social tradition.

So that’s a bunch of explaining and if you need more you can probably figure it out yourself, it’s not that difficult. 

Which brings me to the other issue of marriage.

It turns out that homosexuals want to be included in the human race all of a sudden.

Now we all know there’s plenty of evidence that if gay people were allowed to marry there’d be planes falling out of the sky, computers shooting children and rivers exploding.

Why? Well, because marriage is obviously owned by Christianity, and seeing as there’s new evidence that weddings are a lot like Christmas, I propose we don’t allow gay people to celebrate that either.

They can participate in Civil Seasons Celebrations if they must, but certainly not in the presence of the intelligent and attractive class of people we know as heterosexuals.

But seriously, what the fuck?

Sunday 13 November 2011

What's that art?!

There’s many things that have (theoretically) the same function of art in our society, so why aren’t they called art?  They should be. 

So in honour of this broadening of the definition of art, get ready to play...

What’s that art?

(Not to be confused with “What’s that, art?” a phrase often heard when viewing vomit in a Melbourne alley.  Nor “What’s that, Art?” a phrase often posed when trying to understand Art Gurfunkel.”)

This artwork was created by Felix Hoffman in 1897.  The public immediately found that experiencing the artwork caused them such a deep sense of love and euphoria, that once a person had experienced it a few times it started to become the only thing in the world that they cared about. 
Owing to the addictive quality of the artwork it was banned in 1914, however to this day many people still find ways to experience it.
When the composition of the artwork is altered even slightly, these alterations can cause a large number of serious problems for the audience, and many people today believe that these complications are inherent in the original artwork.  However this is not the case.  The original artwork remains banned solely on the basis of it causing such an incredible experience, that society could not function if it was given full access.

Even whilst banned there have been many works of visual, audio and cinematic art that pay tribute to Hoffman’s wonderful creation.

Surely this must be considered one of the most incredible works of art in history, so what is it?

That one might have been a bit easy, so hopefully this next one will bring out your snooty, inner art-historian.

This artwork was created in February of 2007, and sold for $1million USD, however the artist claimed to have not consented to the sale and after a lengthy lawsuit, the artist accepted a settlement of $5million USD. 
Displaying the artwork is currently banned, yet it remains one of the most popular and widely loved works of art of the decade.
There was a second artist involved in the creation of the work, however they have since fallen into obscurity.

Unlike Hoffman (the one-hit wonder) this artist has gone on to become one of the most popular practitioners of the arts of the 21st century, earning over $6million USD in 2010.
The artist usually works in an audio-visual medium, but also creates many sculpture pieces in which they always utilise found objects, rather than their own constructions.
Some of the artist’s works are purely based on an aromatic sensory experience.

The artist’s body of work can be described as one of the most blatant satires of the greed and ultra-consumption of Western Society. 

There have been a large number of references to the artist and their work, in recent times.
An impersonation of the artist was featured in an episode of Southpark, where they were accidentally killed by Butters, after he was erroneously given credit for writing the book “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”.

This last fact doesn’t have much reference to anything, but remains a very funny episode of Southpark.

So who is this artist and what is their first and most famous work?
Kim Kardashian and her sex-tape.

I probably would've had more info about the actual sex-tape if I wasn't afraid of googling it whilst at work; the only place where I'm bored enough to think about this crap.

Thanks for playing. 

If you guessed either of them then it’s probably because you’re a bad person.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

I Did Some Sums About Poverty.

As I understand it, most of us like to think of ourselves as a fairly intelligent, clear thinking, and reasonably charming kind of person.  However there tends to be a few traps or inconsistencies in our thinking that we can often overlook. 

One such trap is when we understand that on a given issues there’s a variety of possible perspectives, and that there’s nothing objectively more correct about our own perspective, yet we tend to feel that any half-wit should be able to see that our perspective is obviously the correct one.

I often prattle on to people about how the public school system is fundamentally a better system than private schooling, but if I actually went to private schools I’d probably be arguing just as fervently for the other side of the debate.

I also reputedly go on about how art is dumb, but of course, there can be no opposition to that perspective.

We tend to feel that the way we were brought up and the way that we choose to live is just the way that makes the most sense. This is a natural reaction, but it can lead us into a danger of irresponsibility.

I think we can all attest that there are some people with too much money in the world, and some people with not enough money.  For instance, if you’re in drought-striken Africa, witnessing your children starving to death, that’s a good indication that you don’t have enough money.
However, when it comes to how much money is “just getting by”, we tend to run into some inconsistency. 

Everyone feels as though they’re just getting by; that they don’t have money to spare.  But this is simply not true.

Even the poorest of us have absolutely everything we actually need.

When people start making sums that are obviously more than they require to live on, they start making even less-factual excuses, like “I work hard for this money, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices and I deserve it.”

How do those sacrifices match up against someone in Ethiopia who works 14 hours a day and can barely feed their family?

They just don’t.  I’m not being a jerk, this is a fact.  Deep down we know that we have more money than most people because we’re lucky.

But how would we feel telling a child who’s teeth are falling out from malnutrition, “Hey there, you’ll probably die soon, but I won’t, because I’m lucky and you are not.  This is the way the world works, so deal with it.”

I would feel pretty terrible saying those words, but in a lot of ways my ignorance says them for me.

So it’s true that in the grand scheme of things we probably do have a bit of money to spare, but it’s just a drop in the ocean, right? 

Well I was bored so I found some pretty fascinating statistics:

Firstly, let’s give the problem a number.

According to the UN, there are about 1.7 billion people living in poverty.
So you could probably buy them all a meal for $1.7billion, but what if you wanted to end poverty for good?
According to a fascinating website www.givewell.org it takes about $1000 Australian dollars to take a person in abject poverty and set them up with the necessary resources to end their poverty for good.
So that’s easy then, 1.7 billion people at $1000 each means $1.7trillion will effectively end poverty.

That’s a fair bit of money, I actually don’t make that much, so we’ll need some other people around the world helping out.

According to the data from the UN, if you take the 10 richest countries, and you isolate just the 500 million richest people from those countries, their average income is about $26 000 Australian.

So let’s say they each devoted 1% of their income to ending global poverty.

1% is $260.  Times that by 500 million and you get $130billion.

1.7 trillion divided by 130 billion is about 13. 

To recap, that means if the richest 500 million people on the planet (and that definitely includes you) each devoted 1% of their income to ending poverty it would take about 13 years. 

After which time, no one on the earth would be in danger of dying of starvation.

Holy fucking shit!

1 fucking percent!

If you make about $100 a day then that’s one fucking dollar. 
That’s the kind of money where if you accidentally drop it on the ground you find yourself really considering whether it’s worth the effort of picking it up again.

But everyone has living costs, right? Sometimes it’s hard to free up any money.

I didn’t want to toot my own horn, but then I realised I’ve been tooting that thing since I started this blog, so why stop now?
My household is two fulltime students who work part time and receive no government benefits.  We make less than the average Australian household income.  We give about 5% of our income to charity and it is piss-easy.  I personally, probably spend more money on cheese.

So what if we all gave 5%?

$130billion is 1%, so times that by 5 and you get $650billion. 
Instead of 13 years of poverty that’ll take it down to less than 3. 


And after that you can keep all your money because THERE WOULD BE NO MORE POVERTY ON EARTH.

I can understand that 5% of your gross income can be tough to free up, but what about half that?

Right now the horn of Africa is experiencing the greatest natural disaster of our age.  3 years of drought means that 13 million people are in danger of starving to death.  I did a bunch of reading and it does appear to be fairly dire.

But until the end of November any money that you donate the Australian Government will match, dollar for dollar.  http://www.ausaid.gov.au/country/africa/dollar-for-dollar.cfm

So what about 1%?
If you gave a 1-0ff of 1% you could easily write-off your charity obligations for the year. 

The average income in Australia is about $66 000.  And there’s probably about 20 million people of working age.  Let’s say 15 million, just to be safe.

$660 times 15 million is $9.9 billion.  When doubled, that would become $19.8 billion, which is about 8 times as much money as the UN is hoping to raise in order to avert this crisis.

Then you could spend the other 1% of your poverty-ending money pigging out on icecreams all year, and you'd still be a fabulously generous person!

But it’s not just about giving hungry people some food. 
Currently about 13% of people on earth have the potential opportunity to study at university.  If there was no more poverty we could probably get that number closer to %100, in terms of potential opportunity anyway.

It could be 8 times as likely that a random person with a natural genius for medical science, can actually wind up getting to make a real difference in the world.

I’m going to be old someday.  The more people devising ways of keeping me alive, the better.

So in closing, I’d like you to remember this catch-phrase I’ve devised:

“Give 1 percent, you stingy, butt-faced ass-head.”

Monday 10 October 2011

The Creative Process

I’ve always been puzzled as to why art is associated with creativity.

Even painting a landscape is generally considered a fairly creative sort of activity, but what about it is really creative?

All you’re doing is transferring a three dimensional scene onto a two dimensional picture-plane.  In reality it’s a very mechanical process, and the more you paint, and the more you practice the more mechanical it becomes.
There’s really nothing about the idea or the process that’s very unusual or that requires a lateral-thinking, problem-solving approach.

Of course you could say it’s creative because you create something, but by that reasoning a machine in a factory is likely to be much more creative than any human.

Contemporary art doesn’t restrict itself to landscapes though. 
Contemporary art flashes light bulbs, hangs paintings facing the wall and shoots paint out of its butt, so it must be more creative right?
I don’t think so.

Contemporary art is not all that different to boring old traditional art, it just adheres to a slightly different aesthetic. 
In the olden days the rule used to be: "Make your work seem beautiful."
Nowadays the rule is: “Make your work seem different.”

So artists sit down and think “How can I make my work seem like it’s different to other work.”
Then they decide to drip melted tinfoil onto a cheeseburger which is nailed to a dead cat, and they stick it in a big, white room and put a plaque next to it so that people can see how different it is from all the other different things in the room.  But is this creativity?

All they’ve done is methodically followed steps to produce something that adheres to the current fashion in art.  Just because this fashion is ultimately consumed by the idea of appearing new and original doesn’t mean that the process being followed hinges on any creative thought.

When I make a sandwich I adhere to a certain taste (and to a much lesser extent, nutritional) aesthetic.  Perhaps no one has ever before arranged their ham and cheese in exactly the same way as I have, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything creative about the process.

Is a random number generator creative?


Then why is a random art generator?

To me creativity is about trying to look at the world with a new perspective. 
‘How does this work?’
‘Why is it like that?’
‘Is there a better way to do it?’
‘Isn’t that interesting?’
‘Isn’t that funny?’
Creativity is what makes people look at the earth and question how we stick to it.

The funny thing is that what I like about the process of art is the way that it’s not creative. 
You don’t have to encompass the world of art in your brain and shift it 45 degrees every time you make something.  All you have to do is draw something every day and eventually you’ll get really good at it.  Then you can play and experiment and find ways to affect people.

You never have to make a big, original, creative step.  You can just make 4 million really tiny boring steps and you’ll find yourself somewhere fascinating.

So I guess art’s just like anything else, and in reality the artist who made the picture on your wall is not necessarily more creative than the guy who designed your water-bill. 

It might be just a matter of language but I think it’s good to keep in mind that there’s nothing inherently creative about randomly chucking a bunch of paint at a board.

Oh, and contemporary art sucks.  Did I mention that?

Sunday 25 September 2011

Abstract or Clintz Catalogue?


- Not much, just reading this blog you wrote.

Rightio, I better write it then.

- No, you better have written it.


When I look at art and I notice how boring it is, I often imagine that it has never been very interesting.

As I know you’ll all have fond memories of reading my previous posts where I denigrated the practice of using a historical perspective as a measure of how good an artwork is, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed that I’ve specifically fallen into the trap of breaking my own rule in reverse.

This is a bit like the time I tried to perform a back flip on a trampoline but ended up in a standing position, except upside down.  Apparently I looked like a complete jack-ass.

So anyhow, the problem with my aforementioned perspective is that art may very well have been more interesting in the past. 

Firstly, because back in the olden days there were far fewer visual images around, and when you’re not constantly inundated with pictures they’ll naturally appear very differently.

Secondly, because breaking the rules is more interesting at a time when you can remember what the rules apparently are.

And thirdly a lot of art was made in the days before actually interesting things like gameboys, internet porn and awesome blogs about trampolining mishaps.

When I was studying modernism I read about Kandinsky and the beginnings of abstract painting.  Kandinsky tried to convince me that when a person looks at a big, bright blob of pure yellow they will naturally feel uplifted.
I tried very hard to experience this effect, but when I looked at the big, bright colours in his painting they looked lurid and old, like a giant go-lo catalogue.

Now, Kandinsky lived and worked through the second world war.  This was not a time when a person would encounter a lot of big bright colours.  They didn’t have much colour printing, but they did have a lot of rubble, mud, and probably a fair few potatoes, each of which costed more than the combined annual earnings of the northern hemisphere.

If I imagine such a time, I can begin to understand why a person would feel uplifted by looking at a big bright blob of pure yellow. 
But these days we have artificial, bright colours bursting out at us from all angles. 
In the old days paints and dyes were expensive and must’ve looked very impressive, but these days they’re a hallmark of cheap, lurid, obnoxious design, and as a result they appear disgusting. 

It’s like looking into the eyes of a mad-man.

Kandinsky was wrong when he said that colours naturally affect people in certain ways. 
Colours are an example of the metaphysical concept of qualia, which means they can only be described by being referenced to other things. 

Think about it: If you woke up one morning and the colours red and green had switched; the grass was red and your blood was green, how would you know that this wasn’t the way that everyone else experienced the colours.  How can you even describe red without just listing things you associate with the colour, like heat, passion and blood. 

If blood and fire were green, green would feel hot.

So we know that the effect of colour on us is nothing more than a reference to other things we experience visually.  There is no inherent, objective value to colour.  If you look at Kandinsky and it feels cheap and gross, you know that it’s because you have a modern perspective on a historical artwork, and had you been born in the early 20th century, it’s likely it would appear differently to you.

Art people don’t seem to want to believe this.  They continue to use bright colours in the same way as the early modernists, and expect that the reception should be the same as it was 100 years ago.  They seem to believe that people are unaffected by their abstracts because of an epidemic in unrefined pallettes, but I fear that when we have to walk past 670 examples of colour printing just to make it into the gallery, the paintings inside may need more than the fact that they’re colourful to be of any interest.

My parting message is this:
When I graduated from preschool to kindergarten I realised that nose-picking just wasn’t as awesome as it had previously seemed.  This was an older crowd and they expected more from their comedy than a congealed piece of mucous. 
Instead of stoically sticking to the picking, and claiming that it was people’s own inferior taste that made them unable to appreciate a good booger, I adapted, and took up farting instead.

There’s a lesson in that.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Art and Artefact Facts

Today I’ll be attempting to support the allegation that "Not even the art world believes there’s any value in the experience of an artwork."

First up I've got some terms to define.
"Artwork" is a complicated term.  Artists tend to have their own definition, but here's one from the dictionary:
"The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principals, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."
The main contention here is the use of terms such as “beautiful” and “appealing”, however as these terms are completely subjective anyway, it doesn’t really matter.  What I want to do is compare that to the definition of artefact:
“An object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest.”

So as I understand it, if an object is significant due to its ‘aesthetic principles’ it is an artwork, if it is significant due to its ‘historical interest’ it is an artefact.

I also refer to the ‘content’ of an artwork.  By this I’m talking about the way that a book is made of pages and words, but the ‘content’ of the book is the story.  The content of a musical recording or performance is not the individual sounds; it’s the music. 
So the content of an artwork is the human reaction to the communication of the expression of the subject of the object. 

To me this is what separates art from artefact.  The subject of art is the content expressed by the object, whereas the subject of an artefact is the object itself.

I think this understanding is one shared by the general public, if you imagine an artwork you would be likely to think of a painting, or something from a gallery, designed to express emotion.  If you imagine an artefact it is more likely to be some kind of historical object housed in a museum.

With me so far? It really doesn’t get any more complicated.

My argument is this: What you find in galleries, by the above definitions, is not artworks, but artefacts.

Lets look at libraries.
Libraries are quite similar to galleries in a lot of ways.  A library is a place where you can go and experience books, while a gallery is a place where you can go and experience artworks.
But there is one very major difference between the two which is this:
You don’t go to a library to read an original manuscript, you go there to read a copy of a book.  It doesn’t matter how many copies there are or how rare they are, because the value of a novel is not in its status as an artefact; the value of a novel is in the content of its story.

Galleries do not house copies of artworks.  Why is this?

In the 1980s (or something) the Australian Government paid something like $2m for a Jackson Pollock painting which is on display in the National Gallery.  Why didn’t they purchase an exact replica of the painting? For $2m they could’ve paid for the materials to reproduce every single Jackson Pollock painting plus a couple of DeKoonings thrown in.
If the value of the painting was in the experience of standing there and looking at the picture, then why not copy it thousands of times!  We could have one in every city in the world!  Everyone on earth could have access to this amazingly valuable visual experience!
After all, if I want to check out a book by Dickens I don’t have to fly to England and peer at the book through a protective screen, I just grab a copy from my local library, or pay $10 for my own copy and read that.  So why don’t galleries do the same?

It’s not like we can’t accurately print a three-dimensional surface, and if it was actually marketable the technology for this would’ve been available for decades.

So the question is, if it works for books, why doesn’t it work for paintings?
The answer is pretty obvious.  The value of the Jackson Pollock painting wasn’t in the visual experience of its content, it was in its historical value as a significant artefact. 

Interestingly this valueless-replica phenomena happened before modern printing technology.
In the 1940s (or thereabouts) a guy called Jean Fautrier, and his wife Janine Aeply, worked for a year hand-making replicas of famous paintings.  They were so skilful at this that Braque commented that at first he was unable to tell their replica of one of his paintings, from his own original.  The idea was that each replica would be sold for the modern equivalent of about $40, however the venture was a huge financial failure.  People had no interest in owning a near perfect replica of a famous painting. 

All this evidence has not stopped galleries from pretending that the value of their artworks lie in their visual experience.

In the early 1920s when Kandinsky first coined the idea of an “abstract” artwork he claimed that it was his desire that by 1950, people would be able to experience the emotional communication of abstract art in the same way that we’re able to emotionally respond to the abstract medium of music.

Whether this was actually his goal is something I’m undecided on, however it is now evident that the goal of non-figurative art no longer has anything to do with communicating emotion.  If it did the reproductions would have just as much value as the originals.

Therefore, without having to trudge through a pointless discussion of aesthetics, we can say that whatever latest squiggle is hanging on the walls of the Guggenheim, whether it’s a flickering light-bulb, or a guy shooting paint out of his asshole, we can reasonably say that the point of the work does not lie in the experience of its content, but in the historical significance of the object, and that it should therefore not be referred to as an artwork, but as an artefact.

Of course I don’t want to insult actual historical artefacts. 
Most things found in museums are there because they’re significant to the history of the earth and the history of humanity.  The artefacts found in galleries only have significance to the history of art.  This is the equivalent of paying someone exorbitant amounts of money to stand in the corner and talk about how interesting they are.

So does this entire argument just boil down to a discussion of terms?
Well, not really.  All forms of art have artefacts.  I’m sure you could actually go to a museum somewhere and check out the manuscript of a Charles Dickens novel, but the point is that this experience isn’t what the art form is about. 

Novels are about being enthralled by a story. 

So personally I feel that the artefacts of visual art shouldn’t be considered the point of visual art.  Instead, just like with books, the artefacts should be nothing more than a quirky supplement to add some cultural interest to a field with huge potential for powerful, emotional communication.

Imagine a world where people would buy visual art because they like to look at it!

Sunday 19 June 2011

Wow, I suck at drawing. Okay then.

I’ve just noticed that the cultural leaders responsible for shaping the art world may not actually be reading my blog.

I know! I couldn’t believe it either!

But in any case I might take the opportunity to stop preaching my nihilistic propaganda and just chat about crap that may or may not have anything to do with art.

 I think one of the funniest things about being a kid who likes drawing is the way that people react to your work.  90% of the time someone sees your drawing they will tell you all about how bad they are at drawing. 

“I can’t even draw stick figures.”
This is a phrase that you will hear many times.

Do these people walk up to mathematicians and tell them about how they’ve always been crap at sums?

“I see you scored well on this IQ test, as for me I’m a complete moron.”

Doesn’t happen.

I don’t mean to make fun of this reaction, because these people are obviously paying a compliment, and that’s real nice.  But the question is... 

what do you reply to this with?

The thing is, you can’t agree with them because that’s rude: “Yeah, you totally suck at drawing.” 

You can’t disagree with them because in all likelihood they are correct: “No way, you rule at drawing!”

You can’t change the subject because they’ve just opened it: “Really?  What’s for dinner?”

Often you’ll find yourself spending the next five minutes trying to think up tactful ways of consoling someone about the fact that they do not excel in a field they have no interest in.

I think the only answer is to follow these people around and the next time they read something, jump out from behind a bush and say;
“Wow, you just read that sentence!  I tried reading once, but for some reason I didn't automatically know all the letters, so I quit forever.  Boy, I sure do suck at reading! Why is that????”

Then swiftly run away, cackling like a mad-man.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Fran Fine Quantifies the Quality of Experience

Sometimes the foibles of art can be hard to discern at a casual glance.  To most people it can be like trying to find a needle in a giant pile of needles.

Unfortunately pointing out the defects of art can be like scorning an ad on TV; no matter how valid your rebuke is, you will always lose the exchange because you’re the one who’s talking to a TV.

The art world seems to have conjured up an all encompassing response to criticism, that if you don’t like something the problem is not the art, but your own inability to appreciate it.  However, with a bit of perspective I think some of the problems with art can become clearer.

Firstly, art doesn’t like to be compared with anything outside of itself.  It resorts to terms such as “priceless” to actively avoid having to deal with appropriate perspective.  

Art likes to think that to stand in the presence of a Kandinsky is an experience so incredibly transcendental that it cannot be compared with other experiences such as watching a TV show, reading a comic or buying a hat.
However this is incorrect, there is a perfectly legitimate way of comparing the value of the experience of a Kandinsky against the value of the experience of buying a hat, and you don’t even need to delve into the murky waters of aesthetics.

 We all have a certain amount of free time, and we allocate this time according to the value of the experiences of our options.  You can’t have an ulterior motive for allocating your time, because whatever that motive is, it still boils down to the value of the experience of that motive.

What does this mean in real terms?

It’s Saturday afternoon, you’ve got a couple of hours to spare and you can either crack open a copy of Shakespeare, or catch an episode of the Nanny.
Many people will attempt to believe that the value of the experience of Shakespeare is far greater than the value of the experience of an episode of the Nanny, but in most cases these same people will choose to watch that episode, rather than reading Shakespeare.

By choosing to watch the Nanny, in perfectly real, quantifiable terms you’ve proven that the experience has greater value in that situation. 
By choosing to go buy a hat rather than heading to the Kandinsky exhibition you’ve proven that to you, the experience of buying a hat is greater than the experience of the artworks of Kandinsky.  It doesn’t matter how many times a gallery curator uses words like transcendental, the experience of art is always going to be perfectly quantifiable, and in the vast majority of cases a person will decide that there are many other things to experience of much greater value.

Of course, I’m not saying that quality is quantifiable, or that if the majority of society believes something it makes it true.  If that were the case we’d all have to believe that Rebecca Black’s classic track “Friday” is of a higher quality than many of the works of Bach.  

I’m not saying that the Nanny is objectively greater than Shakespeare, or even that the Nanny doesn’t owe a great debt to Shakespeare.  I’m saying that we shouldn’t try fool ourselves into believing that the value of the experience of Shakespeare is greater than the value of the experience of “lower” art forms.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t feel good about being pretentious.  That would certainly cause me a lot of troubles.  By all means, believe that your ability to enjoy Matisse places you a cut above the commoners. Dissecting the reasons behind why you enjoy something is not likely to provide you with more enjoyment, but understanding and accepting your own system of values might.

The material point is to understand that when someone insinuates that there is something indescribably deeper and more meaningful about the time spent viewing an original artwork, take it with a grain of salt.

By which I mean take a large grain of salt and throw it at their eye, because they’re probably a very annoying person.

In the next post I will give evidence that not even the art world believes there is any value to the experience of an artwork.

It’ll be an awesomely transcendental experience.

Le Sime.