No longer as truthful as should be deserved, some names, places and events deliberately vague to protect identities that aren't mine

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

De Arte

So I checked my blog posts to see if I posted anything similar earlier but I don't think I have, apologies if I'm covering old ground though.

Also, this post is basically summed up by the following, and I believe it's an important message, in fact one of my favourite lines comes from it: "some artists try to do everything, which is impossible.  I think those people are brave."

Art is great, most people concede this on some level.  And it divides people.  In a totally great way.  By art here, I mean almost anything that can be considered art; architecture, performance, dance, sculpture, painting, installations, music, fashion; the entire world is art on some level.  I can talk a lot about wanky bullshit like composition, and concept, and form, because that's the world I exist in as a techie, and if you exist in an artistic and creative world, those words do actually have meaning.  Yes I still concede its wanky bullshit, and a lot of people (read: critics, read: failed artists) that still have a presence in the industry can really really talk some wanky bullshit using these kinds of phrases, but that doesn't mean they don't have a genuine and valid meaning in an artistic context.

A realization I came to a while ago, is that I'm a massive fan of installation art it seems.  I love the way it challenges expetations and preconceptions, of materials, of form, of structure; the way it reuses materials and gives them a completley different meaning, the way such simple, and bizarre ideas can inspire such strong and varying emotions in people. 

A few years back at SFMoMa there was an installation piece spread out over an entire floor of the building, it was largely composed of vaseline.  I had never seen vaseline used in that way.  I never would have considered using it at the basis for an installation sculpture.  And the extent of this piece was vast.  SFMoMa is not a small building, and it didn't take up one room in a gallery, it expanded over the entire floor; it forced you to move around it, to adjust to its presence, to examine the different facets and components of it as you moved between different rooms. 

Recently, the Unilever series installed a giant shipping container in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern.  Standing at the entrance, you stared into a black abyss, the darkness of which meant you couldn't fathom the depth of it.  Walking into it, you started off confident, excited and bemused, and as you knew you would eventually reach the other end, it turned to trepidation, your steps beome shallower, shorter, uncertain, you put your hands out, scared slightly of hitting the wall with your face because you can't see it coming.  And everyone coming into the container did this.  At the back its so dark, even once your eyes adjust, even me, who has pretty good night vision compared to most people, could only make out silhouettes, and when you look back towards the entrance, the giant windows at the end of the turbine hall, the dilation of your pupils in the dark light, means the entrance turns into a blinding square of light, the picture perfect light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  All this, from letting people wander round a shipping container painted black on the inside.

A lot of people criticize modern art on the basis that its rubbish, that its pointless, that its just someone shoving a load of junk together, that they could have done that and made a mint of it.  But they didn't.  They didn't have that vision.  And they don't appreciate what an artist has done, because they don't look and see.  This point is driven home by the recent play Red, that was on at the Donmar Warehouse, and has now transferred to New York.  I saw it here in London and have tickets to see it in NYC as it has changed from a thrust 250 seater staging, to a pros arch 804 seater venue, so the techie geek in me is eager to see the shift in staging.  Red is about the works of Mark Rothko, he does those paintings of square blocks of colour within each other, rather famous, and rather infamous for people going "a child could have done that".  I've seen my fair share of Rothko showings, and all of them happen in very dim light, so dim its almost hard to make out the painting.  You're usually very close to the murals, which are massive pieces generally, so it's hard to see 'the bigger picture'.  There is one scene in Red, where the importance of this is finally driven home to the audience, many of whom are staunch Rothko fans, but had never before appreciated this point, just as I hadn't.  Rothko, in a fit of rage, finally allows the overhead strip lights to be turned on.  The venue becomes ablaze with stark white light.  And the Rothko mural on the stage breaks down.  Its presence and effect completely disappears.  It is, in fact, something a child could do, it has no meaning, and inspires no emotion, aside from the feeling of loss and regret, because 20 seconds ago, when the play was still in a dimly lit studio, it had been beautiful, it had filled the room, absorbed the actors and the audience, it was unavoidable and imposing, and now, in the everyday light of a standard gallery, it's heartbreaking to see it as barely even a few shades of Red.  If you ever get to see this play, please, please go see it, becuase I honestly can't describe this feeling accurate enough.  In a theatre full of Rothko fans, the entire audience took a collective gasp and the same moment when this occured in the play, because what Rothko in the play says is true, their spell is broken, they are fraglie, they need to be protected, and they are truly meant to be seen up close and in dim light.

Now I accept, you might not like art, you especially might not like modern art, or installation art, or rothko, you might see it as pointless.  But does that make art such a crime?  Gaga makes generic pop music sure, but she makes damned good generic pop music, the woman knows what she is doing with it, and she completely embraces it, and goes over the top, and has her costumes, and her persona, and everything about 'Lady Gaga' is art.  And what are you doing?  Sitting in your 9-5 office job, wearing a suit, waiting for a promotion, bitching about how people subscribe to her shit.  She's paying the bills, and she's doing it more successfully than you seem to be.  She's achieving her dream, and using the talents she has, and people appreciate.  And what's so wrong about that?

Art is there to be hated, to be disagreed with, to be argued with, to be bought, to be critcized, to fall in and out of society's favour, but it's there for a reason, and the fact it brings out such strong emotions in people, even negative ones, says something about its effect.  And with art being so much of life, music, film, picture, adverts and marketing, fashion, architecture, everything, anybody who says they don't care for art, or they hate it, isn't thinking about things properly.  They might hate dance and theatre, but I bet you they still have a favourite musician.

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