Is it 'art'...or it is just plain rubbish?

First published in Opinion The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

CALL me a philistine - and I know I’m about to divide the room - but my opinion on art is this: if I could have done it myself, it doesn’t count.

That still allows for quite a lot, I hasten to add.

I can barely colour between the lines, wouldn’t know a paintbrush from a blusher brush and have never even dot-to-dotted without making a mistake.

Even applying make-up is beyond my creative limits so I barely wear more than a slick of lip gloss most days.

But to me, ‘conceptual’ art doesn’t look like art.

It looks like someone dropped something on the floor and forgot to pick it up.

How, for example, can a balloon tied to the leg of a table be ‘art’?

I saw this in a Manchester art gallery about 10 years ago and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been dragged into an elaborate joke.

I half expected a TV crew to jump out, cameras pointed in my dad’s desperately-trying-to-be-earnest face.

“Gotcha! But don’t worry Mr Clarke, you’re not the first middle-class idiot who’s fallen for this trick.”

Either that or the artist would be watching us on CCTV, rolling around in piles of cash and wiping away tears of disbelief.

If it had been a table painted with images from Greek mythology I’d have been impressed.

If it had been intricately carved or even covered with graffiti I’d have appreciated the skill and effort.

But it was just a plain, pine table. Probably an Ikea flat pack. With a balloon tied to one leg.

I’m not a total cultural heathen but please. Give me a van Gogh any day.

The reason for this rant is a conversation I had earlier this week with a colleague.

He told me he never makes his bed in the morning because if he did he’d be destroying a priceless ‘creation’ on a daily basis.

“Tracey Emin was considered an artist,” he said. “So why aren’t I?”

I had no response except to point him in the direction of that Manchester gallery.

I’m sure they’d love to exhibit his work.

Comments (3)

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11:50am Sun 29 Jun 14

West er says...

By Anna's own definition, a balloon tied to a chair leg COULD be art, because she didn't and couldn't think it up! It would be interesting to know what she really thinks IS art. She mentions Van Gogh, whose work puzzled many people and was heavily criticised in his own day. Nowadays people go into a gallery a nod to his work in passing as to an old friend; they rarely stop and wonder what makes it art and (possibly) wonderful.
I'm not an apologist for conceptual art but I am passionate about work that makes the viewer stop and think, put in a bit of effort, react in some way. And some conceptual art does just that, as does some (but certainly not all) more traditional painting and sculpture. Just like good journalism, it requires and deserves some intellectual effort on the part of the viewer/reader.
By Anna's own definition, a balloon tied to a chair leg COULD be art, because she didn't and couldn't think it up! It would be interesting to know what she really thinks IS art. She mentions Van Gogh, whose work puzzled many people and was heavily criticised in his own day. Nowadays people go into a gallery a nod to his work in passing as to an old friend; they rarely stop and wonder what makes it art and (possibly) wonderful. I'm not an apologist for conceptual art but I am passionate about work that makes the viewer stop and think, put in a bit of effort, react in some way. And some conceptual art does just that, as does some (but certainly not all) more traditional painting and sculpture. Just like good journalism, it requires and deserves some intellectual effort on the part of the viewer/reader. West er
  • Score: 1

2:27pm Mon 30 Jun 14

jazzactivist says...

I agree with West er. Art isn't meant to be just decorative. What makes something a piece of Art is that it works from a number of different perspectives - intention of the artist, the idea or concept, the skill involved, use of colour, its positioning etc but, most of all, that the piece makes you think about it, and question what its meaning is, why the person created it, who benefits from interacting with it, what it's social value will be in the future etc.

A good piece of Art should make the viewer feel slightly uncomfortable. So, in fact, the balloon tied to the table leg did it's job as a piece of Art as it made Anna feel uncomfortable about it, question whether or not it is Art, and stayed on her mind so that she even wrote about it weeks later!
I agree with West er. Art isn't meant to be just decorative. What makes something a piece of Art is that it works from a number of different perspectives - intention of the artist, the idea or concept, the skill involved, use of colour, its positioning etc but, most of all, that the piece makes you think about it, and question what its meaning is, why the person created it, who benefits from interacting with it, what it's social value will be in the future etc. A good piece of Art should make the viewer feel slightly uncomfortable. So, in fact, the balloon tied to the table leg did it's job as a piece of Art as it made Anna feel uncomfortable about it, question whether or not it is Art, and stayed on her mind so that she even wrote about it weeks later! jazzactivist
  • Score: -6

8:07pm Mon 30 Jun 14

PropMeUpWithTeabags says...

The dictionary's defines art as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
A balloon tied to a chair is rubbish. Van Gogh is art. Tracy Emins unmade bed is rubbish, what makes it expensive rubbish is being bought by The Saatchi gallery.
Most artsy types have to be told things are art. Damien Hirst is not an artist he is a storyteller and a showman. We will look at the last 20 years of modern art in the future like the way we now look at faith healers, or pyramid schemes. Everyone wanted a piece of it but it was all just a money making fraud.
The dictionary's defines art as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. A balloon tied to a chair is rubbish. Van Gogh is art. Tracy Emins unmade bed is rubbish, what makes it expensive rubbish is being bought by The Saatchi gallery. Most artsy types have to be told things are art. Damien Hirst is not an artist he is a storyteller and a showman. We will look at the last 20 years of modern art in the future like the way we now look at faith healers, or pyramid schemes. Everyone wanted a piece of it but it was all just a money making fraud. PropMeUpWithTeabags
  • Score: 11

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