The Cutting Edge Is Dull

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Posted by panch from ( on Monday, July 22, 2002 at 9:47AM :

In the Arts we're living on borrowed time...feeding off the family heirlooms in the attic. We've about pushed and tweaked every image we ever had till there's nothing left to push any further...and tweaking a tweaked image wont do any longer either.

Beethoven can do a riff...any kind he feels like...your basic king of riff...who knows only riff...can never do a Beethoven. And there, boys and girls, you have the inevitable limitation of Modern Art. They just don't realize it yet.

Modern Art is at the same place we are. We have fed off of the past glories of our ancestors for so long, we have nowhere to go when the treasure ends. Modern Art has looked back from its didn't SAY that but that's what it was doing...playing with variations of images of days gone by...tweaking them, distorting them, seeing old things in "new ways". You can only do that for so long...only live off of your savings for so long. Comes the day your treasury is dry and you have to actually do something on your own.

Any thing a person makes can be "art" if she says it is. Who's going to argue...and on what basis? There's no acceptable cut off certificate you get anywhere declaring the piece to be "real" art. If it sells it 's successful art...if it doesn't sell, it's just art.

That's as it should be. In Michaelangelo's day too you had to get paid or there wasn't any made the difference back then also. Van Gogh was about the purest artist I can think of...without any reason to expect anyone would buy a single piece...he went on anyway at all costs...but then he was crazy and the rest of you are normnal. It doesn't pay to be crazy... the pay for being normal isn't all that hot either...and you don't have Sunflowers to show for it at the end of day.

Sculpture is in a dismal state. It has been for a long time. It doesn't inspire much passion. If it wasn't for the imaginative circumlocutions, fueled by Scotch, most art critics indulge one would know what to make of the stuff. You have to "talk" people into appreciating it...though they'll never admit it. About all it has going for it is that the viewer has a major role to play in making sense out of it.

Standing in front of a Titian or a Da one cared WHATyou thought about. The painting was there...and about all you could do was worship it...or at the very least marvel at what it took to make the damn thing at all. In Modern Art the painting or object isn't the point...the "meaning" comes from you...from what you make out of it. The viewer...the customer is of paramount concern for the Modern artist because the customer supplies the meaning (what can you make of a sculpture titled..."Untitled #67?...didn't the ARTIST know what he was doing?))...we have to get ecstatic all on our own...the damn painting sure as hell isn't going to do it for us by itself.

People SAY they stood transfixed in front of a painting the size of a wall done all in whites...they SAY it because they're too insecure to say, "what the hell is that supposed to be"? Instead they go into raptures, sounding like nothing more than patients in a ward. People NEED to believe they are "moved' by Art. They may well WANT to be. How embarrassing for an entire society to have to admit that it hasn't produced anything near to what could charitably called even a "little" genius in generations. That's why they keep dropping the standards in schools...they have to in order to escape the sinking feeling that our way of Life is not conducive to any kind of excellence at all...on the contrary most of our time is spent on trying to fluff out the mediocre...and get away with it.

I have no real beef with Modern sculpture...except that it calls itself sculpture. I resent its appropriation of that name. Sculpture has meant, for the longest time, depictions of the human and animal body with decorations allowed. 1000 years ago a bent pipe was a bent wasn't sculpture. Today a bent pipe is still a bent pipe...but just when did it become sculpture?

Let them get their own name...if they're so "cutting edge". Cut yourselves a new name while you're at it. There's no shame in what they do...why hide behind a venerable old name. A guitar is a wonderful, a lovely, a beautiful sounding instrument. The viola is another wonderful instrument, and the harp is older than all of them. yet the person who invented what we recognize as the modern guitar didn't feel the need to give his new-fangled instrument some class and legitimacy by calling it a violin, or a harp. Hell no...he knew he'd made a new thing, a thing that hadn't existed before, and he gave it its own name to set it off from what had existed before.

Let modern sculptors do the same. make what you want...present it as the latest and newest and sharpest cutting edge there ever was...just don't call it a violin. Call it "New Thing" it "My Thing" it anything you want to, but not sculpture. Don't be offended, don't feel bold and resolute in your "newness'...and get a new name.

Sculpture is of the huma, unlimited, world unto itself that has only been obscured from sight by this attempt to borrow the name of stick it onto a bent pipe.

-- panch
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