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On Art & Bogunism

  • On Art & Bogunism

     

     (The meaning of the word "bogun" is embedded further down in the text.)

    An acquaintance recently sent me a series of YouTube clips - he called them rants - by Brian Holdsworth on the topic of art.
    He said he agreed with the views expressed.

    Considering that I was a sculptor and art teacher for twenty years -
    thoroughly educated and immersed in the systems of the arts industry -
    the YouTube clips triggered all my old buttons.

    I was never one to actually like the status quo,
    but I knew when the world at large had me beat before I'd begun,
    and I at least knew why.

    This was my reply, written in short line lengths because my acquaintance has a difficulty with his eyes; they can't read long lines.
    ~ ~ ~

    Fair's fair! A rant in return.

     

    I listened to the first of the YouTube clips 

    and didn't bother with the rest.

     

    Here's my response. 

    I don't wholly agree with Brian Holdsworth's views. 

    They are based on a massive ignorance of art. 

    He has obviously spent no time studying it - 

    or he would know that what he is saying 

    is over-generalised to the point of lies.

     

    What he says 

    about other graphic artists closely studying art is true. 

    Advertising steals from the latest developments 

    in art and computer programming all the time. 

    They can't be "original" without it. 

    They rely on the general public seeing it as new and startling 

    because they know the average person is a "bogan" - 

    Australian slang for a person with no interest in, 

    or experience or knowledge of 

    art and culture.

     

    It is true that great handcrafted technique fills us with wonder. 

    But it is not true that the perfection is the source of that wonder; 

    it's the imperfections. 

    Computerised calligraphy repeats the same letters exactly - 

    and we recognise it as mechanical, 

    reproduced without a mind or awareness. 

    The imperfections in hand-penned and illuminated calligraphy 

    reveal the processes of the artist's mind - 

    even if only intuited by someone 

    who has never learned to handle the tool.

     

    It is also true that the manifestations of inspiration in art and culture 

    can hit us with wonder. 

    But that too is really a myth. 

    It isn't "inspired." 

    The subject matter has been dictated by the patron. 

    In the case of the Sistine Chapel, 

    Michelangelo learned his technique as an apprentice, 

    and then evolved his own variation of style 

    in response to the tastes and trends of the time. 

    Italy was moving from the Renaissance towards Mannerism - 

    and Michelangelo was exemplifying what Mannerism stood for. 

    He was also homosexual, 

    so it pleased him to exaggerate the bulges of men's muscles. 

    He was "original", 

    but only in the same way that each person's signature is unique. 

    Inspired? Phewie! 

    No artist ever heard God whisper in his ear; 

    no Muse ever impaled herself on a poet's inflated phallus. 

    What comes to an artist's mind 

    is the result of well-cultivated lateral thinking - 

    now proven in psychology with double-blind and reliably replicable tests, 

    and well studied in living examples of the greats in all fields of creativity.

     

    Art's purpose is not beauty and never has been. 

    Rather, 

    beauty has been one of the methods traditionally used in art 

    to help transmit ideas - but not the only method. 

    If you take a wander 

    around any of the world's great museums of historical art - 

    such as the Louvre in Paris, 

    the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam,

    or the Uffizi in Florence - 

    you will see plenty of art that is unbelievably ugly. 

    The flaying alive of a saint - 

    so graphic that it made me fall to my knees and cry. 

    Micheangelo's giant sculptures of Hercules, 

    designed to flatter his Florentine patron - 

    monuments of cruelty, war, and brutish conflict of might over right, 

    all the tools of a tyrant.

     

    It is not true that Modernism is only about abstraction; 

    it contains within it a wide variety of styles, 

    including Hyper-Realism and the community arts movement.

     

    It is not true that all Modernist Art lacks craftsmanship

    or even most of it, 

    and nor is it true that Modern Art lacks inspiration,

    the same processes of lateral thinking operate in it 

    as in all other creative endeavours. 

     

    It is also one of the biggest myths ever invented and perpetrated, 

    that Modern Art is solely (or even at all) about self-expression

    It isn't, and never was. 

    The CIA literally commissioned 

    Alfred Barr of MOMA and Clement Greenberg of Soho, New York, 

    to write articles which promoted Modernism 

    as the ultimate in democratic freedom of expression - 

    but only if it was meaningless and incapable of interpretation -  

    a form of breaking the formal conventions of artistic technique 

    to challenge the definition of art.

    “If people see it as ugly, then it is because it is unfamiliar,

    which means it is truly original.”

    Which is just as much nonsense as the idea that art must be beautiful.

    Barr and Greenberg were already high ranking in their fields, 

    known for their intellects and treated as authorities on contemporary art - 

    so their "opinions" were widely read and trusted. 

    The CIA did this at the request of a Republican govt 

    when unionists went on strike in response to Diego Riviera's socialist mural - https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/10/03/indu-o03.html.

     

    The truth about the origin of Modernist Art, especially painting, 

    was that it began as a result of Theosophy,

    via the wealthy women members who commissioned the artists.  

    The Theosophists believed that spiritual matters 

    could not be represented in art via the portrayal of material reality; 

    instead, it could be represented through colour, geometry and symbolism. 

     

    Furthermore, Modernist art has been pretty much dead since 1980 

    when Derrida migrated from Paris, France  to Berkeley, California 

    and introduced French Post-Modernist philosophy to American intellectuals. 

    It spread like a wildfire across the English speaking world, and soon, 

    no serious artist would dare to try to produce any kind of Modernist work. 

    They hadn't a hope of earning a living or developing a positive reputation 

    unless they worked in Post-Modernist styles.

     

    Post-Modernist philosophy embraces and cross-fertilises 

    from a wide variety of academic and intellectual disciplines: 

    semiotics, linguistics, psychoanalytic theories, feminism, 

    anthropology, sociology, radical social analysis, 

    with all the weight and method of Western philosophy, 

    especially the more recent ones such as 

    Hegel, Neiztche, Sartre, Solzhenytsin and others.

     

    Post-Modernism itself is now almost dead; certainly it is dying. 

    It is being eclipsed by eco-writing, 

    and writing and thinking about social causes - 

    and this is again spreading through art and culture, 

    changing the way ideas are expressed, and changing the styles. 

    Meaning is now paramount. And easy to "read."

     

    Holdsworth's video is really nothing more than a clever ad 

    for his own graphic design business, 

    clever 

    because it is designed to flatter the ignorance of the average consumer. 

    The bogun says, "See! I know nothing about wine 

    (or art, or whatever you like) 

    but I know what I like!" 

    It relieves the bogun of the hidden suspicion 

    that maybe he has been missing out on something, 

    or of the self-egoic shame of admitting that he doesn't know something. 

    Yes, it's very clever; millions will agree with him. 

    He serves up exactly what people want to hear, 

    which is exactly what effective advertising strives to achieve.

    One can (almost) get away with this kind of assertion 

    of the unreal as real 

    in aesthetic matters, 

    but imagine if one tried to apply the same thinking to physics. 

    "I may not be an astronomer, but I know which stars I like. 

    The Sun, the Moon, Venus, and maybe the Southern Cross, 

    will do me just fine." 

    Thinking like that, no one would have walked on the moon; 

    Elon Musk could not be planning to mine minerals on Mars, 

    and no one would understand the relationship between 

    the Big Bang and the evolution of the first RNA. 

    There is so much more in this world 

    than what we each see in our miniscule patches of it.

     

    warmly,

    Manna

Comments

3 comments
  • Danilo_G and Just Asking like this

  • officegirl
    officegirl
    Thank you.  Not sure how one would determine a sufficient enough "status quo" in art to either like or dislike. And given any status quo would not their ne both things to like and to dislike in any status quo? 

    Nor would I see how you would want to claim the world at large "had me beat" only because you chose to no longer sculpt or to teach art.  Or to no longer be "immersed in the systems of the art industry". 

    Given that what we see can only be a small part of the world why would that be so negative or discouraging?  it seems to me even confined to what we see there will be so much there for us if we choose to work with it - enough to keep us going well and interestingly for all our lives.  Then of course if we choose we will be able to reach out to take in others' patches of the world and work with and enjoy them as well. 

    Though I am only somewhat knowledgeable in the academic history of art it makes sense to me there would always be fads and fancies.  As there would be in anything else. And we can think OK that is a great idea lets make use of it or we can say well I don't think its for me. 

    Inspiration has always meant to me feverish work that quite feeds and encourages itself and really requires no outside stimulus.  In art of in any other field. Can too be a state of mind and would not necessarily depend on any particular subject matter. 

    What is "ugly"  to us may well be "beautiful" to another.  In part because we become accustomed to whatever limited patches of the world we see.  And a work of art may be enjoyed either for its beauty or its ugliness.  Or for what it says to us or how it makes us feel or the way it makes us think. 

    And while it is no doubt very human to make ourselves feel superior (and thus more comfortable with what  we see as our own imperfections) by denigrating or patronizing the supposed lack of knowledge or background or understanding of others or the supposedly more crass motives of others -  I think it is always wise to consider what we have in common with those we choose to set ourselves above or part from as well as what we see as their supposed failings or short-sightedness. 

    After all both enjoyment and ignorance can lead to knowledge or understanding if that is what is sought and often even when it is not. 

    February 4 - 1 likes this

  • bookworm
    bookworm officegirl
    When young, it was my goal to become a professional artist.My first notion of that was formed by art history studies at school.The path laid out for modern artists, according to the text books, was to go to art school, and then to exhibit and sell.At art school one learned that the path to professionalism also required getting government grants and fellowships, winning competitions, being selected for major exhibitions, a gallery in each city representing and selling one's work and showing it at least once a year, critics praising the work (to encourage buyers), patrons and museums buying the work for permanent private and public collections, and governments and private corporations commisioning specific works.To achieve this one had to fit the mould of what was expected by these private and public patrons - and that was largely determined by whatever was the latest in the universities' cultural theories - which was then promoted by and via the critics.Yes for sure, there have always been little touristy "galleries" selling landscapes and pretty pictures and crafts and cartloads of kitsch (art which is instantly sensationalist but has no depth or meaning, also art which is widely considered in bad taste),and there have also been professional artists who make their living in specialities like portraiture.But there has never been any culture in the world in which any artist can earn their livelihood by making exactly the art that inspires them.Sure, they can create feverishly for a lifetime, but it rarely gives them a living. Most are dirt poor or below the poverty line. Most work as teachers of art, or in caf├ęs, kitchens, behind bars or cleaning - and that work takes up about 40 hours a week of their time. If they're lucky they might marry and have a spouse who supports them, but in general most people see artists as great lovers but far too irresponsible and selfish to make a good spouse.Another thing many would be professional artists desire is to get the work out where it can be seen. Expression is not really expressed when it's invisible and hidden away in attics or basements. It has to be seen, or no communication takes place.I can see your point of view, Officegirl, and of course it's as valid as anyone's - it just happens I don't agree.I was an artist and art teacher for twenty years. I did exhibit in galleries, was collected - all of it - but not nearly enough to survive.I taught at all levels, primary school aftercare, diasbled, highschool, undergraduate at university, adult art classes in the community, and private classes in my studio. It is emotionally demanding and draining work which earns very poor wages.I also served as a volunteer assistant behind the scenes in artists associations, and in art libraries as a cataloguer.I knew artists who did become highly successful professionals - and every one of them followed the status quo as set by govts, unis, critics and patrons. I never met a successful artist who didn't follow the status quo precisely, and give every impression of dong it sincerely (even when totally cynical about it in private.)
    February 14 - 2 like this

  • officegirl
    officegirl bookworm
    Yes that all makes sense. But in part my point is that the fact that you do not survive on your art does not in any way invalidate it.  Must we all play the "big game" and become successful at it or not play at all?  One of the artists whose paintings I have bought is the procurement officer of a nearby town. Another is a retired architect.  The former has come to do a lot of cow pictures because he has found there is quite a market for them.  Perhaps you are not aware how much your work is being enjoyed because you seem to view it only in terms of prestigious commissions.  And I guess publicity from the "status quo" who you write you never liked anyway.  Why would we expect that whatever we do the world is going to somehow beat a path to our door?  Much less criticize and label them "bogans" if they do not?   I looked that up and apparently it is "bogan" with an 'a'.  Meaning those of the lower socioeconomic order.  Who it is doubtful would be able to afford art anyway.  Most of us I would guess know nothing about any artistic "status quo" because we do not come in contact with it. We buy and read art books and enjoy reproductions and if we are fortunate we are able to purchase original works which hopefully we enjoy. 

    The notion that we all must "get our living by loving" (Henry Thoreau) seems to me wildly idealistic.  I am a corporate executive assistant which was nothing I ever planned to be nor studied to be but just worked out that way because I was at least comfortable with it and could do well at it. I quite envy and admire most creative people perhaps because I am not so inclined myself.  But I consider myself fortunate that I am able to own what art I do.  Which is sort of a consolation I guess. 

    February 17