Monday, December 7, 2009

Art Theft

There are two imposters pretending to be art that invariably send me out the door screaming.

Both of these "forms are hustles and con jobs and it is always amazing how the glitterati continue to fall for these scams.

The first is anything that calls itself "Video Art."

I don't believe in such a critter.

Television came to our house with Ed Sullivan and the World Series when I was about 12.

It has changed and grown, but it is still what it has always been - an amusement box.

This morning as I surface the first 57 cable channels while waiting for Computer Boy to warm hisself up, I found 53 commercials and some other mindless odds-and-sods.

From this, you want to show me something clever sitting at the end of a room in an art gallery and call it art?

No. I don't think so.

The second Leopard with stripes in the Emperor's New Clothing World of Art is called "Installation Art."

My all-time favorite experience with this abortion happened a few years ago in the San Fransisco MOMA, or Museum of Modern Art.

Beautiful building, great cafe and some not bad art, scattered here and there.

At one point I entered a very spacious, round room filled with people.

Quiet people.

Silent people.

They were gathered in a circle and they were all staring I would say religiously, reverently at something in the middle of their circle.

The "something" of their devotion was a circle of poodles.

Black wool plush hand-made toy poodle dogs, each standing about two and a half feet tall.

The poodles were in circles themselves about 10 deep, all staring blank button-eyed at something special in the empty centre of the circle.

Lying on the floor in the middle of the room, in the centre of the many circles of toy poodle dogs and adoring guests was a very cheap, very ugly toy dolly.

She looked like she cost about $3.95.

I looked at this macabre scene for a moment, wondered briefly if the drones-disguised-as-human-beings had also been placed there for my special amusement and then...

Then, I burst out laughing shattering the observant silence like crystal.

I roared.

I laughed and laughed and then said very loudly on exit, "You folks have got to be kidding!"

I mention all of this because we here in Vancouver have now been blessed with a very pricey piece of public "installation art."

Here is the description taken from yesterday's Globe:

"Public art can be high-minded and it can simply be, well, high. Vancouver's newest work of public art - to be unveiled tomorrow - spans 16 floors of the not-yet-open Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, starting on the fifth floor (which is actually the fourth). Created by internationally renowned British artist Liam Gillick, the text-based work wraps around parts of the south and east-facing exterior, rising to the 22nd floor. On each floor the title of the work is spelled out in 60-centimetre-high stainless steel letters: Lying on top of a building the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street. There are no spaces between the words."

Now, why should you arr I care about this silliness?

Here's why we should care a lot:

"The $1-million installation is part of Vancouver's public-art program."

Dare we count the urgent needs that have been de-funded and underfunded and never funded at all here in this perfect of all worlds?

Do you understand that some very powerful and very obscure mandarin at City Hall has recommended this obscene waste of taxpayers' money and that some elected officials have bought into it?

Oh, yes.

Those of us who see through this sham will be hailed loudly as boors and philistines.

So be it.

This is a crime.

Can no one stop it or punish the guilty?


Jeff Taylor said...

David, seldom do I disagree with you, BUT this is one of those very rare times I do. Art is a lot like food. What one man thinks looks good and tastes even better, another will get physically ill at the thought of just tasting a thimble full.
Art is the same way. What turns someone's crank and maybe even inspires them, might make another turn and run the other way.
Living in Toronto, there really is a lack of 'public art'. When I was still living in Vancouver, I welcomed the increasing number of art installations and interesting building designs starting back when the Vancity Credit Union building at Main Street was built with the Skytrain running through it.
Do I support tax money going into artistic ventures ? Ho, not really, BUT with the giant list of ways our Gov't's waste our money, I see this as a lesser of many other evils.

Norman Farrell said...

David, you've never really appreciated fine art. Admit it. I'm thinking of fine work such as that done by artist Pat Paulsen. Searching the archives, I found an old review you wrote about Paulsen, back in the sixties:

Artist Pat Paulsen isn’t one of those artists who can’t face his work. To the contrary, Paulsen, 35, plunged into his art with gusto, beard, nose and hair. Using his head, the San Franciscan eschews more traditional means of applying pigment to canvas. And, an exhibition of his “cranial painting” is now on display at a local gallery.

Paulsen begins by spreading a blank canvas on the floor and placing several mounds of brightly covered pigments on the canvas. He then dips his beard into the primary “soul” color and he’s ready.

The first stroke is a sensual curving jaw swirl, then the freeform motion of a deftly maneuvered ear, then the sharp visual staccato of the nose daub, a cheek-jaw swirl, an elevated nose daub and a forceful jaw sweep.

With a rope from an overhead tripod, he then lashes one foot and hoists himself upside-down.

Hovering over the canvas, he dips his head into the color, spins, swings and dances, climaxing the masterpiece.

Says one reviewer, “Pat Paulsen is not a great painter, but he is a good paintbrush.”

Scotland Yard said...

Art is more than food, much more. Were what we see as so called important art was food, we would starve to death.

This installation art polarizes and is ultimately destructive. TV Soap operas are as good as Shakespeare, Radiohead as good as Brahms, with nothing better than anything, except a void. I think not.

Duchamp's joke was at best amusing but it's over. Please let it be over.

pageextent said...

Total agreement on this one! If they had added the words 'Rogers Cellular' to the end of this 'installation' the city would have RECEIVED 1 million dollars and my son could still go to the animal farm at Stanley Park and I could take my uncle to the observatory.

Don't get me wrong, I love art, and I am all for art - a sad day was the day they removed 'The Device to Root out Evil', but a price tag this high to install a sign that most people can't read is ridiculous. Only the rich and elite will be able to see this from the inside, while you and I, as per usual, paid the bill.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Mr. Berner on this one.

Public art is suppose to LOOK GOOD and INSPIRE.

Frankly, my four year old son could do better art than what passes for "art" purchased by Vancouver.

I know there are a bunch of pretentious art snobs who think that I just don't "appreciate" the junk they admire so much - WHATEVER!!

If the art snobs like the crap so much - PURCHASE IT ON YOUR OWN DIME!

Adam Nowek said...

Art is not "suppose[d] to LOOK GOOD and INSPIRE": it is a form of human expression. That's all. It doesn't matter if you appreciate a particular piece of art or not.

If you're looking for something that consistently looks good and is inspiring, then you're talking about interior decorating, not art.

Scotland yard said...

Well we should all just order our Warhol "Brillo" boxes and feel uninspired and look banal. There is a tremendous confusion between art and entertainment. This installation is at best dull entertainment. Oops there goes that judgment thing again.
Forget about art. Most people have since they overlook it all the time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pretentious definition Adam...

You guy pay for (out of your OWN pocket) for pieces of human excretion (oops - "expression").

I don't want this crap being purchased with my tax dollars!!

Adam Nowek said...

Just because you don't like it doesn't mean there isn't value in it. We are all human beings and experience the world differently. Liam Gillick is as entitled to install a sentence on a hotel as you are to spray-paint a sign in protest, or to write your civic representative a letter in complaint.

Anonymous: I would suggest using a dictionary before using words that you do not understand. My definition came from a dictionary, and is, therefore, not "making an unjustified claim." If you don't want your tax dollars paying for public art, then I would suggest you either inform the politicians that represent where you live, or move somewhere where a vibrant artistic community is nonexistent.

Adrian Livesley said...

Adam, you're simply wrong. This "one man may like it-another may not" is nonsensical relativism. If what you say is true then there is no point in having art schools or art education. Yes--art is supposed to look good and inspire, just as a good meal in a restaurant is supposed to taste good and inspire. (I'm not saying art and food are the same, but the principles of taste are similar)