Undoubtedly, you've heard about the two "art" exhibits that made headlines over the past couple weeks, In case you haven't, though, let me refresh your memory.
First, there was Aliza Shvarts, the Yale art major whose final project was a combined media installation. The premise behind her exhibition was to make a documentary of her 9-month experience with self-impregnation followed by repeated abortions. Shvarts filmed every resulting miscarriage and her installation was a looped video showing the documentary along with preserved specimens of the blood from the abortions.
Then, we had Guillermo Vargas, a Nicaraguan artist who paid two local children to trap a stray dog. Vargas then tied the dog up inside a gallery, just out of reach of dog food arranged to say, "You are what you read." The pooch starved to death over the course of several days, but not before several portraits were taken, several featuring the legs of anonymous viewers who looked, but did not help the "exhibit."
Thankfully, after the stories hit the public eye and some background investigation happened, it appears that both are likely hoaxes. Neither babies nor dogs were harmed in the process. The only victim, it would seem, is art itself.
Perhaps no blog post - or blog itself for that matter - is long enough to successfully and comprehensively debate the "What is art?" question. And maybe I'll be accused of using the Supreme Court's definition of pornography ("I'll know it when I see it."), but so be it.
Neither exhibit was art.
What happened to the times when art served a purpose? When a painting was supposed to thrill and inspire you? When the beauty of nature was celebrated in galleries and on canvases? When the best in mankind could be found in the monumental works of the great masters? Have we really come so far as to think that videotaped abortions and starving puppies are great works of art?
On a base level, you might say, art is supposed to get a reaction out of the viewer. Both of those pieces did that. However, I would only agree to a point - more than one simple reaction (in this case, disgust) is necessary. Art should drive us to experience the thrill of having our higher senses tantalized, not make appeals solely to the basest of instincts.
Let me put it more simply. If you and I were in a quiet, well-lit room, surrounded by squares of color on the walls and I punched you in the face, that would not be art, no matter how much of a reaction I got out of you. But apparently, it's okay to do the same thing with aborted fetuses and dead dogs? Bollocks.
Post-post-post-modernism, or whatever you want to call it, has gone too far. Shock value has replaced emotional connection. Irony has supplemented true communication. It makes me sick and I'm sick of it.
I'm no artist, so I can't create something beautiful as a reaction to all the ugliness I see around me. But what I can do is use the power of the almighty dollar and not patronize that crap. I hope those around me with more artistic talent, and more money, will do the same.
I'm Mike Nagel and I approved this message.