Note: from time to time I release older writing in the absence of new material. This will all be tagged under the ‘From the Vaults’ category and will be clearly titled as such.
This piece was written in early 2004 after a visit to the Tate Modern for the Media Arts portion of my degree. What I saw there so defied explanation I felt compelled to write it down and store it somewhere in case someone invented blogging (okay, that might be slightly anachronistic, but you get the idea).
I have always been cynical of modern art, so it was with great trepidation that I visited the Tate Modern. I wondered what I would come up against. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw.
A lobster on a telephone.
I kid you not.
A plastic lobster on top of a telephone. In a gallery like it took an artist the best part of a year to make.
And that, to me, is what is terribly wrong with modern art. What kind of person sits at home and thinks, “I know, I’ll put a plastic lobster on a telephone and call it art”? Someone who is clearly not right in the head.
This was not the only piece in the Tate Modern that was this stupid. One piece that caught my eye was a box of Brillo Pads. An empty box, behind glass as if it was valuable. Some hapless cleaner probably got confused and left it under there. What other explanation can there be?
And then there’s the Turner Prize. All of the entrants must have entered for a joke. A small blob of Blu-Tac. A light that switches on, then off, every three seconds. And one of this years entries, two inflatable dolls on a lilo. It defies explanation. It defies logic. It defies sanity. I don’t think the ‘artist’ who submitted this piece knows who really made it. He probably woke up one morning after a raucous party and found that one of his friends had left it floating in his swimming pool.
This isn’t the worst of it. There are other pieces that must defy anyone’s opinion of ‘art’.
One piece, which was untitled, was a video of a middle-aged man staring out of a window, unmoving. Naked. For eleven minutes. Why? What possessed the ‘artist’ to do such a piece? I maintain that he was playing a joke on his neighbour. “Just stand there,” he probably said, “and I’ll film it.”
Then there’s another piece, a piece that someone probably got a grant to do. Two television sets, one on top of the other. On the top screen, a man dressed as an elf jumping quickly on the spot. On the bottom, a similar elf although in different coloured clothes, also jumping on the spot. Upside down. With sound. What is this piece saying about humanity?
Another piece was made by burning sand and dirt into a pattern, depicting an aerial view of a city. There was barbed wire and copper cables stuck on it. Not a bad piece, but take away the cables and what you’re left with is an Art Attack.
What if I wanted to be a modern artist? Any jackass could take a box of Brillo Pads and call it art. It’s just that not everyone would succeed. Clearly the only ‘art’ involved is the art of persuading other people that what you’ve done is in fact art, and not just an unmade bed, a box you forgot to tidy away, or firm evidence of your inability to wire a light switch.
These pieces defy logic. They have no meaning. I was trying to make sense of them, and my brain said ‘sod this, I’m going home’, and it took a few days before I found it, at home, cowering in a corner.
The following quote I adapted from Douglas Adams. It was originally said about politicians, but I’ve changed a few words to make it relevant to my argument. “Nothing turns someone into a successful artist quicker than irreversible brain damage.”
Seems fitting, doesn’t it?