Monday 9th July

July 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Art is selfish. *Wipes his brow of sweat having changed society’s perception of culture in one sentence*

I am of course not talking about good art. I am writing about the exception to the exception. That is, not the exception. The norm.

Ever since I was a small child, I either wanted to be an artist or Chinese. I was lucky enough to go to university, and with the freedom of my parents’ support, pursue one of these dreams. Five birthdays on from graduation, I look at everything that has happened with a strong feeling of pride. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends, things have happened. I have been busy, and tried my hands at everything from making work, to curation, journalism, and everything in between. I have skimmed the surface of art like a stone thrown from the beach, breaking the surface at choice moments before looping on to the next experiment.

It is with these experiences, as a young and tired artist that I can finally admit to myself that contemporary art, largely, has no purpose.

No matter how it is framed, largely, the same agendas remain behind cultural products as any business; almost certainly the needs of one (almost certainly white, middle-class) man. Though I am white and middle-class, and I studied art, please stick with me.

Often the most anti-social art is the art that claims to be outward facing. Artists today operate in a world where cultural boundaries are said to have dissolved. There is a trend currently of making artwork that is so unlike art, that you’d be excused for thinking it wasn’t art at all. People get together and have a drink, and it’s art. Someone else makes up a game, and it’s art. There’s a barbeque, and it’s art.

Artists aren’t good socialisers. That is often what makes kids artistic in the first place: a large amount of free time, away from other people. So in some ways you can excuse artists for dressing Fun up in a conceptual wig, and calling it Culture. It’s almost sweet. But it is exactly that kind of art that average people detest. Are we making art for everyone? Not necessarily, but surely if your audience is made up 100% of fellow artists, you have to ask what it’s for.

Perhaps this rant is actually a guilty admission, that MY art is selfish. I have wondered this before, but seeing what other people are capable of, how cold, and obtuse and prosaic contemporary art often is, you can almost excuse those artists who would call a meal Art, because at least there will be food there.

What constitutes an art “education” is a debate as old and long as a queue to a Cliff Richard concert. At university we were taught that an artist, above all else, must be bloody-minded, that is to say, a little selfish when required. You cannot fault lecturers for that- they have been through the grinder themselves, and seen the norm.


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