A rant on contemporary art
13 Mar 2017
So, I’ve come across a few videos criticizing “Modern” art/Conceptual art today. The thing is, I agree with the basic premise of these videos. Yes, especially after photography became “a thing”, art has gotten weirder and weirder, more and more abstract and this phenomenon has culminated today to a point where we can call this thing “being so far up their own arse so that they literally paint with shit”. But, I have a few disagreements to tell about this thing.
First of all, and there seems to be a pattern about this, I seem to agree on basic terms with someone who would be considered a right-wing extremist. Be it views on the social justice warrior community, some stuff about free speech, some stuff about the whole immigration/assimilation debacle (I’m going to make this clear here, I think assimilation - to a degree - is a necessary thing for a sustainable society whrere immigration is an acceptable thing), and now, this. Yes, the art community nowadays just produces random shit that they assign meaning to. And I also mostly attribute this to the elitism of the art community as well. But, the problem is that, what’s with all the anger and didactism? I tell this to both right and left wing people with relatively non-mainstream views; to both the SJW and anti-SJW crowd, to some people who call themselves “PC gaming master race” (Didn’t really see a console equivalent of that), to some militant atheists as well (But not to radical Islamists, they have so little rational things that actively reject rationality), that they have some good ideas, some that make sense, but it just seems to get lost in all that spewing hate and that huge disdain to anyone that might oppose their viewpoint. They (OK, we. I’m not going to ignore that I might come out as hateful or overlyy didactic as well.) consider anyone not agreeing with the viewpoint as ignorant plebs/cucks/çomars/whatevers that need to be educated. And that dilutes the message to a point where your whole stance on everything can be understood in a couple of sentences. So, most of the rants I saw were people who were what you would consider to be on the right wing of the fence (Either hardline conservative or hardline libertarian), and frequently went on lengthy little-related tangents about everything you’d expect from them. If I had to suggest a video about this topic that’s not what I just described; Lindybeige’s “Modern art insults me” is a fairly watchable thing. 1
Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930, Piet Mondrian
My next point is that, I kind of get the art community’s thing. Yes, some shit like the invention of photography happened in the 19th century, and a significant part of the art community (namely, painting and sculpture-related stuff) were threatened to be replaced by technology, and they went to a point where they were no longer threatened. A similar, but less extreme thing happened to the theatre and music communities when they were hugely disrupted (not threatened to go extinct, only to go nearly-extinct) but they survived in one form or the other without going the totally-abstract route. Literature didn’t really experience such a cataclysmic event, though (Not to say it wasn’t affected by anything, but it was somewhat less shaken). So, the art community has always been an elitist one, where they have been among the educated stratum of the society for centuries before this thing. I’m not going to claim in any way that Da Vinci, Michelangelo, or say, Rembrandt wasn’t part of the highly educated/trained elite in any fashion (maybe Van Gogh wasn’t though, there has to be a few anomalies). But the whole community was threatened to be extinct at the turn of the century, and considering how they were elitists and how the times were elitist, they went to the most obvious path, the abstract one, where anyone didn’t try to replicate their work. And then they cemented this with what basically is a century long process where they took away any meaning that might be coming from people outside of the community, silencing any disent within the community and made the “value” (be it monetary value or perceived beauty) of art pieces an entirely subjective thing. At that point, guessing the “value” of an art piece has become just a game of luck. Wanna place your bets on the next piece you’ll see?
So, the intentions of the art community is what I get. The insistence of them on the early 20th century ways is what I don’t get. Get over it, folks. Fascism is dead 2. You can’t just silence critics, try to limit the number of people commenting, calling disagreers names and hope to get away with that. Nope. Nada. We’re living in 2017, everybody’s work is being threatened by technology, it’s been a century, get over it. And if you just say that it’s part of your culture and you can’t change, don’t really expect people to respect you. Try actually doing something that people likes. The slowly disappearing interest of people in your art might hopefully be a good enough sign that you need to.
The last thing I’ll mention is something even the video I’ve suggested does. The distinction Modern Art and Contemporary Art. Seems like that every critic fails to make this distinction. Modern Art is art from the modern era. We don’t live in the modern era. It’s past, and long past at that. Contemporary art is art from today, and hopefully this meaning doesn’t change and we don’t end up with a weird situation like we are in today with Modern Art. Modern Art is Picasso, Dali, Mondrian etc. It’s the transitional period where what they were painting was somewhat abstract, but still understandable to some extent (Yes, even Mondrian). Contemporary Art is what all these rants are about. Now, where’s the cutoff line between Modern and Contemporary? There isn’t a solid cutoff line, but it seems to be somewhere around the end of WWII. I’d put it on 1950, but the example I remember is that Centre Pompidou in Paris puts the line at 1960.
So what can we do about it? I’m not sure about it. Forcefully trying to restrict the art community is just way too repressive for my tastes. Infiltrating them and trying to force a change from the inside might just be too much work for, well, anyone. Trying to reason with them and get a significant portion to change their views might be the most applicable and acceptable solution we have. I believe that down inside that they are somewhat reasonable people, I at least respect the education they received (Otherwise, how can you be such elitists without being elites first?). If you just can’t do that, do what I’m not doing. Give them the good old internet troll treatment. Ignore them.
So, in the end you don’t get a real conclusion. You can try to find closure by listening to When will the bass drop? sketch from SNL.