Monday, November 14, 2011

Warning: Low Flying Expectations

Saw an ad for a lecture recently by a legend in the art world to whom I ascribe only the best of motives, and while I entirely understand the point of view this legend is coming from it struck me as a pity that we live in a time when he felt compelled to frame the invite this way:
A lecture on the current art scene and how to look at art without feeling inferior.
That seems an awfully low bar to set for viewing contemporary art (how to view it without feeling inferior). What ever happened to the idea that viewing art could/should exhilarate, inspire, emotionally overwhelm, or infuriate you? That it would spark an emotional or intellectual response that made you feel more alive? That it would make you gasp or cower or really want to lick its surface?

If the best one can hope for is not feeling inferior (to whom? the artist? the art world? the curators?), why on earth should anyone outside that realm give a flying f*ck about contemporary art?

Such low expectations only serve to fulfill the inevitable insularity of fine art if it can't reach a wider audience on its own terms. Yes, education is still part of that process. No one is asking artists to dumb down their work in order to reach the public at large, but the ultimate goal of reaching that public has to be to enrich them, not just leave them feeling unharmed.

Aim higher.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Ben Stansfield said...

YES, yes, yes.
I mean, I love my job, and I think I'm pretty special most days, but it doesn't serve me or my business at all to perpetuate the mystique and elitism cult.

I've considered cultivating more acceptable arty eccentricities, for about two minutes (most of my eccentricities are socially unacceptable, I'm not always sure why), before I realized I wasn't really motivated, and couldn't keep it up, in any case.

Twenty years ago, at least, this attitude toward the viewing public and contemporary art wasn't taught, but I felt it was encouraged, or at least not DIScouraged at both art schools I attended. I've heard similar things from architecture students about cultivating arrogance, and it sounds much the same thing here.

Not all art can be fun, but why does it seem as though having a great time making and viewing art is frowned on? I watch a lot of blogs that feature illustrators and comic and video game artists branching out into other forms and media, and they give me hope beyond the crushingly serious and inaccessible.

Thanks Edward! or is Ed okay?

11/14/2011 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mr.Art legend , I am ignorant not Inferior. If you were in my world you would be sweeping my shop floors and cleaning the bathrooms. You could never be as good at my trade as I am . But if I put the time in I would have your job!

11/14/2011 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

now, now...it only makes people stiffen their backs and defend their territory to talk like that.

11/14/2011 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with you, Ed, that in perfect world, the experience of viewing contemporary art should be about the art itself and nothing else, we all know that feeling. The art world is (famously) about as stratified as it gets and you're quickly put in your place (or are busy putting those below you in theirs), whether you are an artist, dealer, curator, collector...whatever. Only a disinterested observer wouldn't pick up on those clues, and most people who are disinterested in the art world don't participate anyway.

11/14/2011 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Without feeling inferior to what?

11/15/2011 06:56:00 AM  
Anonymous marc said...

I get it that the gallery world can intimidate folks. Still, museum attendance numbers, tell me that there is a broad appreciation/interest for art. I'm OK that I can drop into most commercial galleries and not encounter hordes of other visitors. I actually appreciate the chance to take in free shows and not get a salespreson's hard-pitch.

11/16/2011 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger findingfabulous said...

Not sure either the lecturer has a kinda Woody Allen sense of humor or if not... I feel the title is in fact supporting the tired attitude that appreciation of art must be learned. Not to say education and context is not incredibly valuable, but being lectured on how not to feel inferior is really quite belittling. Lecture on the art itself and maybe not the "art SCENE" and we may feel less inferior and more equipped.

11/18/2011 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Young Sun Han said...

Hi Edward - I follow your blog and have read many entries about the value of arts education. Have you heard of the SNAAP survey re: where art alumni stand in the real world of employment?

Thought you would enjoy reading the results:

http://jetlaglover.blogspot.com/2011/11/week-4-arts-education.html

Didn't find a general contact form to email you, so just posting here.

Cheers,
Young

11/18/2011 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger UpYoursGallery said...

Oh, my my. I stumbled across this blog looking for fire. Your subject makes me reflect on the separation between the viewer and artist that I so enjoyed making my art history professor beat his head against the wall over, and over. Simply I do think it impossible to create a piece of art for any predetermined purpose of inclining another individual to arrive at a specific feeling.

Diversity my friends. That is the word. That's the reason we thrive how we do. Every individual feels something incomparable to any one else from looking at the same thing. How beautiful and exciting. SO If we feel inferior when looking at anything it is because we felt inferior already, not because a piece of art wills us so through the grand power of the all mighty artist.

Which is why I love art so. It makes you reflect on what is thrashing around inside ourselves.

11/18/2011 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous ACDE said...

What ever happened to the idea that viewing art could/should exhilarate, inspire, emotionally overwhelm, or infuriate you? That it would spark an emotional or intellectual response that made you feel more alive? That it would make you gasp or cower or really want to lick its surface?

Contemptorary art.

12/07/2011 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Actually, plenty of contemporary art does that for me. Your results may vary.

12/08/2011 08:06:00 AM  

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