19 Apr 2015

"Listen with your eyes"

'Relaxation - Good Memories- Enjoyment of Sadness, Extreme Happiness- Reflective Thinking- Energy Giving - Inspirational.
-Today's music more than any other 'art-form' provides the above desired human experiences, especially true when we stick in our ear plugs (or headphones) and cut ourselves off from the rest of humanity.
Do we regard music as an art-form? - well I certainly do.

Everyone on this rock (we call Earth), knows how to listen to music.
Some music is a slow burn, some is instantaneously embraced or dismissed. Some tunes can be listened to over and over without boredom setting in.
Some we judge as plain and awful or different or funny or as 'a new sound', or as classic or regard it imbued with universal appeal. Music can define a generation, a city, a country, even a continent. Music can be multi-lingual, highly political or just darn right provocative and purposefully profane and shocking.

Music can also be abused and used as a marketing tool to sell a product or a political party. Music is seconded to define and mobilize unhealthy nationalism in human nature or perhaps incite the fans of a football team to violence. Yet it remains the most powerful art form of this and perhaps the last five decades.

Music has replaced visual art as the peoples choice of cultural importance in our contemporary society, even though the 'known' visual artists try their best to encapsulate all the positions that 'audio art' dominates today. If you agree with that statement then this blog may point to a few of the reasons why that is the case.

The ruling powers of contemporary visual art have in the last fifty years castrated, denounced, exiled, intellectualized and over theorized visual art, all in the name of encouraging artists to be 'progressive'. They have idolized and promoted a 'chosen few' visual artists whilst ignoring a great many who have created work far more worthy than those chosen examples. The art theorists have de-authenticated visual art by elevating plagiarism as essential to the reconstruction of a 'new-art'.

"good artists copy, great artists steal"

The mantra above is taken as literal today, you can see it all over the internet as quote of the day. It was said by an artist that was allowed to say whatever he liked, and whatever he said was taken as seriously important. He was idolized by those in the powerful position of leading world art institutions.
Yet, was Picasso not allowed to play the court jester role (he did so enjoy his childlike pranks) simply because he proved he could draw? 

The resulting consequences of idolization are there for all to see - especially in the UK of the late 1990's - i.e Hirst, Ermin, Mahoney, et al, - all confessed stealers of other peoples art - and damn proud of it.
 All artists. throughout history have done the same thing...is the usual cover story provided by the art/entertainment writers in the media. I disagree, sure artists have been inspired by other artists, yet they 'created' a new form - not simply ripped the art off another artist simply because they were in a better position in the art circus to gain both kudos and financially from the theft. 


Visual art has been commoditized to the determent of it's other possibilities. It has been impounded, then cemented in Art Museums and Investment Bankers castles, which further elevates it to be a cultural milestone and marker of examples of great Art [of monetary value] for future generations.
I believe it's Art - which has it's foundations built on paper -[read money].

Musicians do the same theft, I hear you say - Maybe so, generally they are the ones who are nothing more than one hit wonders and drop from the 'charts' quickly, then forgotten, to be replaced by more sturdier creators - Institutional Visual Art has self imposed limited numbers of people to fill their best sellers charts, so they simply allow the chosen ones to take turns-each to be in the limelight periodically. The contemporary art system is greatly supported by a sophisticated resurrection policy. Old art is paraded to the public who flock to be near it. They take a 'selfie' next to the art on their smartphone and post to Facebook or Twitter stating their unfaltering love of Art, however brief that may be. Old Art is safe art- it's monetary value proves that it's important, [as does the contemporary stuff]. Old visual Art is familiar, it is understood by the majority- all that is left 'in it' as 'Art'- is history - the context is lost and many visitors lack of art history knowledge is filled nicely by providing an audio overplay to fill in the gaps.

The 'looking aspect' of the old art is restricted by the crowds and the desire to 'get-around' the show that one has paid good money to see - The value of old art is talking about this painter or that painter later, perhaps whilst having dinner with friends. Old Visual Art is like classic music- Good, palatable and authentic without one having to listen too hard, because of its familiarity. Today most contemporary visual art in that position too. Nothing is new anymore, simply repackaged and sold 'as good as new'.

Old Art (1888)
New Art (2015)
It's very trendy, more so in Europe's great Capital cities, to attend contemporary art exhibitions - many of the visitors are younger than say the ones who visit the National Art museums. The venue that one attends is important as it labels you as a progressive, which in our individualistic orientated society is vital to gain street cred. Music can also be seen doing this disservice to itself, however once again the acceptance of the old and the new is far more integrated and accepted if not applauded, unlike Visual Art that, on the face of it, insists on distancing itself with anything labelled 'Old Art' whilst surreptitiously being totally reliant on it.

For me the way for Visual Art to, at least, be as valuable to a modern 21st century society as music, is to start to *listen to Art with our eyes
and not our brain. To have the freedom to dismiss it or accept it for what it is. To have the freedom to really critic it and not be constantly politically correct - And without the real fear of being considered a cultural Ludite.

My next blog will delve into the situation on www...and try to discover if the internet community 'listen with their eyes' or not.

*credit: Norbert Lynton- Modern Art- edition #2 1992