Friday, July 14, 2006

Un/Re/De-Categorizing Art

Warning: this one's a bit all over the place.

There's a trend (still, apparently, although I had thought it was ending, but that might reflect more about my short attention span than any change in the matter) among art institutions whereby collections are being rehung not by objective measures like media or movement or even time period, but rather by premise or sentiment or something more subjective. We saw it in 1999 at MoMA, when before they closed on 53rd street for renovations, they installed three exhibitions that "presented well-known masterworks in new contexts, juxtaposing the familiar with lesser-known and recently acquired works by world famous and emerging artists." The general groupings for these three exhibitions were people, places, and things. Shortly after that, the inaugural exhibtion at the new Tate Modern in London did the same, adding a fourth category: History/Memory/Society.

I got to thinking about how this has evolved while reading an article on
artinfo.com about the rehanging of the collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, which is an example of the next step in the evolution of thinking here. Precisely:
Different media once segregated by form sculpture, painting, decorative arts are being integrated in the same rooms as museums' once-rigid restrictions on displaying art are dissolved and curators look for ways to present easier-to-understand themes and attract new visitors.
It seems as if some punctuation is missing in that first sentence, but the point is that in addition to mixing and matching the fine art, museums are now adding in decorative arts pieces.
David Carrier, who authored Museum Skepticism, on the evolution of public art museums since the late 1700s, says the idea of mixing the high arts (painting and sculpture) with decorative arts (furniture, vases, etc.) can be jarring for some curators.

"It's a real reorientation in our way of thinking," he says.

Even those who champion the approach say there are limitations. Terrence Riley, director of the Miami Art Museum, who helped integrate objects during his 14 years at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, says it works best when dealing with art from a time when there was a great deal of creative fusion.
And although this is not the only example, a wonderful installation at John Connelley Presents recently, by Marco Boggio Sella, illustrates how such fusions are even being absorbed into artmaking itself. After travelling to Africa, where he introduced a remote population with little access to such images, photographs of the 1969 American moon landing, the artist presented a series of collaborative projects with the Africans in "a salon fashion that integrate[d] a new series of paintings made by Boggio Sella in New York with sculpture, batiks and bogolans (mudcloth), created by local artisans in Africa."

As much as I enjoyed the MoMA, Tate, and John Connelly exhibitions, though, I'm still somewhat hesitant about the notion that such juxtapositions reveal more than isolating works do. This so-called dialog between objects...this approach that Nelson curator Catherine Futter described by noting
"We said, 'Let's look at the art and let's look at how it's talking to each other and how it's communicating with each other and let's let it dictate what we should do,'" she says.
sends off some alarm bell in the back of my head (although I should note that the connection between an artist doing this and a curator is not to be drawn out too long...clearly an artist's project represents one accumlative vision being presented as "art" itself...I note Marco Boggio Sella's exhibiton only as point of interest).

But back to that alarm bell...what bothers me here is the notion that there's a significance to the dialog between objects brought together by what in one sense is chance (oh, I know a collection represents a unique vision too, but the variances between the work by an artist a museum really wanted and the one they got opens up a considerable chasm with regards to the importance of what that object "dictates we should do"). In other words, replace one Rembrandt with another, and your whole installation might change, so it's difficult to accept that this one installation represents anything more significant than the dialog of what was available to work with. Which, in turn, perhaps leads to choices that are a bit forced.

I mean if a curator had access to every work by every artist, and the curator was exceptionally bright, then I might buy that this approach was important, but even MoMA has gaps in its collection (don't ask me to name them, it's simply a statistical certainty), so such efforts represent at best an intersting sidebar discussion, not the main argument that could be made.

I'm not the only skeptic here:
While some galleries are taking this approach, many others reject it. David Sokol, who has been curator at several museums and consultant to numerous others, says it's dividing the art world.

"There's a part that says the traditional painting hanging on a wall with a little plaque next to it is not getting them through the door," says Sokol, who directs the museum studies program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "And there's a powerful, powerful curatorial lobby saying that's the only way to do it."
Perhaps it's precisely that motive---"getting them through the door"---that chaffs my neck here. Attendace is certainly a valid consideration for a museum, but if that's the major justification for this mix-and-match approach, I'm even less in favor of it. I'd like to read a more conceptually sound rationale for this trend...can anyone point to one?

37 Comments:

Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

ew -

"In other words, replace one Rembrandt with another, and your whole installation might change, so it's difficult to accept that this one installation represents anything more significant than the dialog of what was available to work with."

Couldn't this same criticism be applied to any show? Even a retrospective of Picasso only represents what was "available" to a given curator or institution. The fact that the entirety of world artistic production is not available doesn't necessarily undermine the thematic/conceptual connections of a show. We all operate within constraints - using your standard it would seem no artist or curator could ever make anything other than an "intersting sidebar discussion" without total access to either collections or knowledge.

7/14/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Couldn't this same criticism be applied to any show? Even a retrospective of Picasso only represents what was "available" to a given curator or institution.

It's slightly, but importantly, different IMO. A curator seeking Picassos will at least attempt to get the ones that he/she wants from around the world. The museums engaged in this rehanging trend are juxtaposing works not orignally purchased because they were connected in the way they're suggesting they can be read (which is what I mean by the choices often seeming forced). The Picasso curator may be turned down on this or that request, but at least the research dictated the first choice, not the inventory.

7/14/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous bnonymous said...

"...a more conceptually sound rationale for this trend..."


I can think of three rationales. First, democracy. The idea being that throwing all this stuff together allows lesser works and decorative objects equal opportunity--to be judged on the objects' own merits rather than a patriarchal etc etc "autority." Second, realism. The idea here is that the objects an institution owns, just by the fact of being housed together, set up an inevitable dialogue. In this view, it's only responsible to allow the works to "speak" to one another. Third, novelty. I think this is the one you object to, Edward. The rationale is that people are turned off by the plodding, rational grade-school aproach of academics and that more people will be fascinated by the museums objects if they are presented in novel ways.

Those are three reasonable ideas, I think. My own opinion, unfortunately, is that if it works in a particular case, I don't much care about the rationale.

7/14/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the thoughtful responses (both DilettanteVentures and Bnonymous). My allergies are causing my sinuse to eat a hole through the front of my face today, so please excuse any crankiness that eeks through in my responses.

Bnon,

The rationale is that people are turned off by the plodding, rational grade-school aproach of academics and that more people will be fascinated by the museums objects if they are presented in novel ways.

The continual dumbing down of the population at large should NOT be encouraged though...that's why I object to this. One it's insulting to the people, and two it's insulting to the artists.

You're right that I object to the rationale of "novelty" because I don't see art as merely entertainment. I see it as educational and, yes, even spiritual. The dumbing down of it is virtually blasphemous.

I agree that some installations and, especially wall text, are off-putting, but that's a failure of imagination, not a failure of entertainment value. One can find better ways of communicating than appealing to the lowest common denominator. A compelling visual story will tell itself anyway...forced narratives by third parties may be what curating is all about, but I can't accept that higher attendance is a good enough reason to write out in crayon how to look at this or that piece.

The thing is that attendance at museums in New York is generally so freakin' high (at least when I can get to them) you're lucky if you can see the work through all the heads in front of you. Attendance in museums across the country reportedly dwarfs that at sporting events.

All of which suggests to me that this trend is being driven by greed and imperialist desires...not by anything curatorially or conceptually important.

Democracy is an interesting idea here, I'll admit, but why stop with decorative arts...why not throw in the macaroni drawings adorning refrigerators across the country...or the refrigerators themselves. Taken to its logical extremes, this democracy rationale argues that there's no need for museums at all..the world is your museum...everything in it is of equal value, so why single out this or that effort?

I don't know...I hope the trend fades...it seems forced, false, and more about the museum than its collection.

7/14/2006 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I know it's off topic, but the NY Times reviewed the show at Schroeder Romero today:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/14/arts/design/14gall.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

7/14/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

Apologies for the scattershot response.

"...everything in it is of equal value, so why single out this or that effort?"

We're radical populists, but you're a bit off here. It's not that everything is of equal value, but that it's worthy of equal consideration/contemplation to determine its value. Macaroni drawings, to use your example, can be quite compelling, speaking to an entire history of vernacular aesthetic practices. Of course they are often made by children and are probably not going to raise any "deep" conceptual issues, but might be as funny or beautiful as any "high" art work.

And as far as distinctions betweeen "decorative objects" and "art," most painting fits the former category for us (you know, paintings are those things in hotel lobbys and over couches), so perspective is always key no?

"The museums engaged in this rehanging trend are juxtaposing works not orignally purchased because they were connected in the way they're suggesting they can be read (which is what I mean by the choices often seeming forced)."

Work surely isn't locked into a certain narrative for eternity is it? Can we not find new threads, new connections that weren't immediately obvious at the time of acquisition? In fact, isn't an obligation to find new ways to consider art, to generate new possibilities?

7/14/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this trend is being driven by greed and imperialist desires

Ha, ha, very funny. As if massive museum institutions of plundered antiquities weren't founded on imperialist desires to put on knee-bending displays of wealth and power.

The practice of combining art objects with decorative objects is not necessarily the curatorial equivalent of dumbing down. In fact, like edward's post about challenging the power of art through undesirable context, these new types of shows present an interesting opportunity to see if an art object's preconceived elevated value can withstand a presentation lacking in the 'smoke and mirrors' techniques of cultural framing.

What really seems to be upsetting the poster here, and his apparent revulsion from a democratic aesthetics, is his determination to keep his high-art high and low-art low.

7/14/2006 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

traditional painting hanging on a wall with a little plaque next to it is not getting them through the door

Here are some ideas for getting more people into the museums (curators, feel free to use these at no charge):

a.) Let the people really get involved. Instead of having the curators make the decisions, invite the public in to choose and arrange the works themselves. Or better yet,

b.) encourage people to bring in their own favorite artworks or sentimentally valuable objects, and hang them next to bonafide masterpieces. There's also an income-generating opportunity here that you've probably already spotted. In addition to charging the person $20 to enter the building, have them pay a premium to hang their own art/object next to the masterpiece (rate based on popularity of the masterpiece), AND offer them a chance to purchase a souvenir photograph of their art/object hanging next to the masterpiece.

3.) and of course, mud wrestling! Don't even bother having the artists wrestle each other, have them wrestle the curators. Or the directors. Or the patrons! I can imagine some really interesting tag teams! Serious income-producing opportunities here, if you get the marketing department thinking about it. Museums could becomes as popular as ...Nacho Libre!

7/14/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

David -

"a" has already been done and it wasn't done in the sneering, snobbish way you hope for.

"b" "bonafide masterpieces?" What century are you living in?

"3" why the change from letters to numbers? Mud wrestling would be far more compelling than most drivel in Museums these days...

Anon -

"his determination to keep his high-art high and low-art low."

This is, of course, what is really at work here.

7/14/2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What really seems to be upsetting the poster here, and his apparent revulsion from a democratic aesthetics, is his determination to keep his high-art high and low-art low.

Perhaps...I'll give that some serious consideration before I dismiss it.

I'm sensing, more than able to verbalize it just yet, however, that this approach eventually turns everyone into an artist, though...which may be where we're headed, but I already see enough art that sucks...I want better art! I want artists who try hard, reach further, and really suprise me. In the search for truth and hopefully something sublime, this approach seems so DIY to me. Maybe there's value in that...I'm not sure.

7/14/2006 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

DV-
a.) I wasn't hoping for anything sneering or snobbish. Also, I didn't realize it had already been done. You're obviously much more up on things than I am.

b.) I often get confused about the century, but in terms of "bonafide masterpieces", I see that I should have put the term in quotes, or better yet used a smiley face ":)" to let everyone know I was making fun of the concept.

3.) What!? "3" doesn't come after "b"? You're probably in NYC and already starting to think about lunch. I'm on the west coast and waiting for the coffee to kick in. As soon as it does I'll get the editorial department right on it. Can I count on you to participate in the mud wrestling?

7/14/2006 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

David -

What were those Jackson 5 lyrics? A-B-3 easy as 1-2-C?

EW -

"..this approach eventually turns everyone into an artist..."

Continuing with the democracy metaphor...just because someone is a citizen doesn't mean they're a good one. Every citizen is allowed to vote, but it doesn't mean their vote is just or informed. These sorts of value judgments can still be made. The point, though is that by allowing broader "citizenship" in the realm of ideas/art we allow for people to be at least considered.

7/14/2006 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

What were those Jackson 5 lyrics?

Can't say I ever listened to them. We seem to have different taste in music. As far as my typo/error above, I noticed it right after I hit "Publish". I almost followed up w/ a correction, but then I thought, "that's silly, this is a blog, after all, with all kinds of typos and grammatical errors everywhere. Certainly nobody will be so petty as to make an issue about it." Who knew?

7/14/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

For me, "getting them through the door" is important in the sense that I'd like "them" to have a sense that art is relevant to their lives.

I'd like to see more relevant settings for artwork than "painting w/ note card", but the logistical issues seem staggering.

The "dialog between objects" can be revealing and even a lot of fun, but it can be incredibly demanding on whoever is hanging the gallery (if done correctly anyway) and it can be damned confusing if it's not done well. Imagine someone banging on a trash can next to your head during a violin solo.

My question for those who would mix all these objects up "to bring them through the door" is this: What do you plan to bring in once "they" are bored with the new set-up -- Fire-eaters? Balloon-folders? Open bar?

Ideally we'll develop highly relevant settings and forms.

7/14/2006 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the search for truth and hopefully something sublime,

Why not put an 's' at the end of that truth -- it would closer describe a realistic capacity for art that doesn't exclude, a priori, the DIY or any other aesthetic strategy ill-suited for the 'high art' system of galleries and museums.

What you're really hoping for is a truth absent a lowercase 't', but replaced with a very large capital 'T' (sometimes appearing with calligraphic embellishment). This Truth is otherwise known as the Grand Myth of the Unsolved Mystery of Humankind -- the aesthetic equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, and the atheist's switcheroo of Art for God.

Aren't we faced with enough mystery already, without assigning art the task of deepening it?

7/14/2006 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case it wasn't clear, my point (it relates to this discussion, really it does) was that if the purpose of art is to reveal truths, then a 'low art' object is just as capable as a 'high art' one. If, however, the grand, mythical, all-encompassing capital-T Truth is desired, then it's no wonder that you don't want your so-called 'low art' and 'high art' mixing together -- 'low art' is practical and useful. In such a case, better to examine what capital-T Truth really has to offer, and why so little value is placed on 'useful objects' in the context of the art system.

7/14/2006 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous priit said...

a-b-3 is a replay of the 'mixing high and low' theme of the article. 'a' and 'b' are high culture ideas while '3' is not. Intentional or not - quite smart, I think.

7/14/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger chrisjag said...

Edward,

As others have done before, I want to thank you for starting such interesting conversations. I have met very few dealers who care so much about really understanding things, about truth and beauty. During most of my studio visits, dealers ask no questions other than what they can sell paintings for. This has seriously jaded me. You give me hope.

7/14/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you all need to remember that the idea of presenting a piece of art all by itself isolated and without any context (an usually on a blank white wall) is a phenomenon that dates back only to the beginning of modernism about 100 years ago...This form of presentation was part of modern art's asssertion that art was about nothing more than art itself...e.g. painting didn't have to be anything nothing more just paint on canvas...

Now that modernism is over and we're into a new era, art is expanding beyond this 100 year old idea of art referring to nothing more than itself. So the art and museum worlds are in flux. I say this makes for an INTERESTING TIME. Yes, sometimes change makes us rue the passing of old familiar orthodoxies when some experiements with newness are not so perfectly executed. But how lucky we are to live in a time of newness!!

7/14/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Oof, everyone is overlooking what is really going on here. And that would be that curators are working hard to make themselves the primary object of admiration. The art is just a prop for their great idea. If we can mix it all up then the role of the artists in all of this is even further diminished, leaving the spotlight on the curator.

7/14/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Oof, everyone is overlooking what is really going on here. And that would be that curators are working hard to make themselves the primary object of admiration. The art is just a prop for their great idea. If we can mix it all up then the role of the artists in all of this is even further diminished, leaving the spotlight on the curator.

Ding...ding...ding

we have a winner folks

7/14/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I have to agree w/ Tim on this one. I was at a conference a number of years ago, and during the Q&A portion of a panel discussion a curator in the audience (I liked her but can't remember her name; someone from the Kemper Museum) actually brought that up. That the panelist (a curator too) was advocating so much curatorial "creativity" that there was no role left for the artists. So among curators, there seem to be two camps. Some that value the role of the artists, and some that think the curators themselves are the real artists.

7/14/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

PS - I'd still like to see that mud wrestling...

7/14/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

"leaving the spotlight on the curator."

Is there supposed to be something wrong with this? Why should artists be any more in the "spotlight" than curators? This leads to another question lurking behind the high/low insecurities expressed here - why should artists be privileged above anyone else?

And David, sorry if we seemed petty, the Jackson 5 comment was an (opaque or lame) attempt at humor...

7/14/2006 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Why should artists be any more in the "spotlight" than curators?

Probably because it's the curators that are holding the spotlights.

Also, except for a handful of art stars, very few artists could in any way be considered privileged. Many of them go without the comforts that most middle-class Americans take for granted in order to focus on their work. Not that I'm advocating sympathy, after all it's a choice, but "privileged" isn't a word that comes to mind.

BTW, no problem about the (obviously two-way) misunderstanding before. Both of our attempts at humor seem to have failed.

7/14/2006 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

why should artists be privileged above anyone else?

They shouldn't. It's about the Art, not the people who appreciate/criticize/buy/promote/curate the art...it's not even about the people who make the art. It's about the art. The person who makes the art, however, should be respected and listened to about it. As should the others involved, with regard to their professional involvement with the art. But in the end, the art's the thing the spotlight should be on.

7/14/2006 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Why should actually doing something be priveleged over talking about it? Why don't we say that this blog is the point of all this activity and conclude that talking about talking about something is as good as doing it.

It's the art that should be at center stage. If the artist manages to keep the ego in check something important has been accomplished, we celebrate such moments. It isn't an opportunity for another egomaniac to foul the air with good ideas or sunday school interpretations.

This sort of 'understanding' is over-rated. The curators job does mirror the artists. That job is to stay out of the f*ing way.

7/14/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Hey, it's been fun spending another day with all of you. Have a great weekend. Ed, hope you're feeling better.

7/14/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The person who makes the art, however, should be respected and listened to about it.

Yes, insofar as the artist's intentions for installation should be respected. It's interesting to contemplate how many works of art (most notably paintings) rely heavily on the context of the art institution for meaning. For instance, what is a Barnett Newman painting without the context of the pristine white cube? Would it carry the same meaning if it were shown on the wall of a dumpy trailer-home livingroom? Of course not, it would be engulfed by the aesthetic signifiers of the space and appear as decoration or worse (since it requires the institutional context to elevate its status as an autonomous art object).

In this way, the white-walled art space is as much a part of the content of (someone like) Newman's paintings as the paintings themselves, even though he took this for granted. In other words, Newman's paintings as we know them = painting + gallery space. But since Newman (only as an example of many) didn't bother to specifically contextualize how his work was to be exhibited, then I say curators should do whatever the fuck they want with it -- after all, they're only requirement is to follow the artist's efforts at contextualization. Hell, show it with motorcycles, put it next to some tapestries, or in a room full of 19th century Italian vases. See if it holds up, see how its meaning changes.

I like the fact that an Adrian Piper video would still generally retain its intended meaning if it were shown in an art gallery, coffee shop, or school lunch room. Stick it in a room full of so-called 'low-art' objects if you want, it won't be the lesser for it. But put an abstract painting somewhere other than a white room with other abstract paintings and suddenly you've got an object that looks a helluva lot like decoration -- an especially scary thought for collectors of rarified objects.

7/14/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger aurix said...

One of the best exhibitions I've been to recently is actually a theme-based one, "Big Bang: destruction and creation in 20th century art," at the Pompidou Center in Paris (http://www.cnac-gp.fr/Pompidou/Manifs.nsf/0/8D0EA2C4889E5B13C1256FDA004E5FE8?OpenDocument&sessionM=2.2.1&L=2&form=ActualiteCategorie), which I'm sure many of you have heard of/visited.

I think part of why it worked so well, at least for me, was that not only was the hanging based on a theme, like destruction, sex, violence, etc., but the show also had a narrative, a story that tells its version of art in the 20th century, which to me was an interesting and refreshing look at modern art. In fact, it was this show that really got me interested in modern art. It taught me to look at art from a different, non-textbook perspective. A typical survey show based on time period or artistic "style" wouldn't have done the trick for me back then, because I just didn't know enough of the art historical background to appreciate it.

So I think the argument that a theme-based show draws an audience makes sense to a certain extent. It worked in my case. Looking back now as an art history major, I'd say 'Big Bang' was a big part in why I decided to study art history. Without it I wouldn't have found (or would've, but at a much later time) a door into the sometimes puzzling world of modern art. So if an art exhibition can bring a viewer in and make him/her appreciate art and thirst for more art, more knowledge, that sounds good to me.

But of course I'm not saying that a museum should start organizing an exhibition just to please visitors or to "pander" to the popular taste. I agree that attendance should not be a major justification for any approach in particular. But I think the key here isn't about attendance but more about, say, accessability, or the different ways of teaching/communicating to the audience. And the mix-and-match approach can be quite effective (but not in every situation, of course).

7/15/2006 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger Susan Constanse said...

Taken as a general principle, this approach is not any different then the recent trends in art. Novelty and surprise far outweigh considered examination. Maybe a good way to discern how true art is would be to understand its truth in contexts that don't neccessarily reinforce a singular truth but compare it to similar truths.

As for a more populist approach, maybe this is a good thing. Everbody should have truth available to them. Masses of people don't dilute the impact of art. Really great art should be able to stand up to the scrutiny of many eyes and there should be enough truths to speak across cultural chasms.

7/15/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

There's a show at LACMA right now, a glass show, which illustrates the point: some is undiluted kitsch, some wonderful craft, some walks the edge between craft and art, and one artist, Judith Schaechter, does art which is made of glass. It's a bit of everything to make everyone who enters leave with a piece to love. Is this a bad thing or a good one? For a public museum, it's a good thing, I think. Group shows should be about expanding taste and opening up ideas. Solo shows should be about depth. Still, I do agree with Edward - I long for art which shakes my socks with its beauty, passion and intelligence.

And Edward, do consider the mud wrestling. Make sure you have it streamcasting live. Or maybe PS 1 should do it.

7/15/2006 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm new here and extremely gratified by the discussions- Thank you Edward and posters!

For your consideration(s):
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2006/07/12/bmmusic12.xml&sSheet=/arts/2006/07/12/ixartleft.html

7/16/2006 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Holy Freakin' Moly.

Thank you Anonymous!!!!

I feel like it's my birthday and Christmas combined. That's exactly what I've been feeling but unable to verbalize!

Folks, I cannot recommend that article strongly enough. Money quotes (all emphasis mine):

According to current wisdom, listening to music, reading poetry or contemplating a painting should not be thought of as work, least of all as hard work. Works of art that demand serious attention, time and effort are treated with suspicion because they might not appeal to a significant section of the population.

The official politics of culture of our time stigmatises such art for not being inclusive. Inclusive art is that which is readily accessible since it does not require much effort or understanding on the part of the public. From this standpoint, the engagement with art is not seen as a challenge but as an easily digestible act of consumption.[...]

The main merit of inclusive art is that it is, in principle, accessible to anyone. This emphasis on accessibility indicates that the priority of the politics of culture is engagement with the public rather than with the content of artistic and intellectual life. [...]

What is distinct about the access movement today is that it is entirely focused on the opening up of educational opportunities while being indifferent to the intellectual content of the experience. The access movement makes no pretence of aspiring to an intellectual ideal. Its pedagogy self-consciously eschews cultivating people's appreciation of humanity's cultural achievements.


Exactly!

This deserves its own post.

7/16/2006 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew I liked you.

7/16/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Ok, ok....

Very interesting thread.

Most of these ideas here have been discussed already on other blogs
(I remember a good thread on Simpleposie somwhere in the first 1000 questions
that were since erased).

They are a few topics here that get mixed together too rapidly:

1) the specifity of museum collections and museal context.

2) the castrative and misleading powers of curators

3) the wonders of the mundane and decoration versus high art


Let's move though:

1) I will totally drop the museum issue because I am one that do believe
in the urgency to take the Barnett Newman off the white wall and revalue it.
It is complete trash? Not exactly. But art should function on its own and
like someone else said I think we are ready to frame art with our minds
and shouldn't need the "laboratory" context of white wall or even
the exclusive rassemblement of art to be able to recognize it and its value.


2) The powers of curators: I do think there is a great danger for a curator
to bring al saort of loose things together but the main danger concerns
"hight art" amd when an artist's work is considered for reasons umpertinent
with the originals intentions of the artist. On this topic I always refrain that to me
the real value of a piece of art lies in its equation between interpretation and intention.
I don't believe that the sole intention of the audience to see art automatically create any
other art but their own and this is sometimes what I wish some curators would take caution with:
creating their own art with the art of others.

3) You all remember Duchamps' urinal, right? But what most people didn't get, apart from the poetic of the mundane and how

its meaning shifted through art, is that this piece is a darn well crafted piece of engineering made in ceramic. In a time when

skill, craft and even decoration have made their come-backs in contemporary arts under the light of post-conceptualism, I

think it is more than important to adress the mundane, because since conceptuality, contemporary art has lost all senses of

touch with the evolution of techniques and materials. I find myself that pieces of design from these days are far more

compelling than many works of art. I don't need to downsize their capacity to wonder because of their utility just like I don't

need to downsize an abstract work of art because it has no meaning and seems decorative. Why this downsizing of decor? I

can't think of any work of art that doesn't imply decor. We call that "aesthetic", thank you. And yes cold conceptual work like

throwing a crayon inside 4 white walls implies an aesthetic. There is not getting around it, people just prefer to discuss

meanings and intellectual references because aesthetics are always subjects to bias. The new trend are conceptual crafts,

when meaning is implied to your choice of material and methods of doing "decor", but then such value can be directed at

any works of design. It becomes interesting to wonder who someone picked these materials and forms over another, and

that include speaking about a san Diego Zoo Fridge Magnet. Do you know that in this world, they are cool san diego zoo

fridge magnets like they are boring san diego zoo fridge magnets? To be able to discuss why is a privilege of knowledge

and the kind of knowledge of which juxtaposition with high art can inform. Well ok, maybe that Koala logo is boring but given

context, the use of colourfield allover and the way it is engraved in plastic can perhaps dialogue well with a meeting of a

Lichtenstein and a Frank Stella. Why this now and then, and how? Why does a Frank Stella doesn't look as slick as that

slab of mandala plastic medal fridge magnet from San Diego zoo? I think it's important to not only confront the mundane with

their hypothetical values through the confrontation with high art, but also to acknowledge where high art failed when it meets

with the technicity of everyday objects. It is very wrong to undermine the qualities of entertainment because entertainment

works on merely one value: efficiency. If you want to sell your fridge magnet it's got to be efficient. It's got to look like the best

magnet in the world. I find that art sometimes suffer from this lack of pressure from efficiency. When you confront art with the

place of the everyday object, I find that you are directly able to measure, in respect of all contexts, the true efficiency of an

artist's work. Sometimes it's the other way around, but usually design is quite quick at recycling a cool art idea. We're not

speaking democracy here but a true re-evaluation of how we evaluate aesthetics and their sources. Ideas are not enough

anymore, let's critic the methods and solutions. The bottomline is that I see art as a form of entertainment, just like I see

philosophy as a form of entertainment, but regardless how seriously or not I am engaged by this passion, I don't think that

everyday efforts to make things more effective is any less serious. I dont think that science is any less serious and we're

nearly tagging at the ...call it post-design-era, science of making art..

And somewhere in this world there is a wallpaper that looks better than any other and even better than many works of art and

I think that is strongly worth discussing and bringing in a museum.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

7/20/2006 01:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

sorry for tons of typos and mistakes...

who = why...stuff like that.

Where's my secretaire dammit?

Cedric

7/20/2006 01:55:00 AM  

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