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30.10.08

has conceptual art gone too far?





this was one of the headlines in last month's YEN magazine. being a bit of a conceptual art wanna be, i got all excited that the term was making an appearance again in more 'mainstream' media - well, yen's not exactly exclusive art/wank territory.

however the article, written by their new york editor, was such a pile of fucking shite that it put me in a bad mood. fortunately, or unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a copy online to link to but i'm still looking...

the premise for the article was to discuss art that pushes the boundaries of what audiences (and the mainstream media) can handle - citing two works which people were 'up in arms' about, both of which turned out to be unsubstantiated claims. the first, a work by a student at [some American University], in which she proposed to have artificially inseminated herself on a monthly basis, aborted/miscarried 9 foetuses, preserved them in flatwrap plastic bags, which were going to be displayed hanging from the ceiling. oh so damien hirst, but human foetus instead of dead lifestock and school gallery, not white cube.

the second absolutely shocking contemporary work she sited was the starving dog works, in which an emaciated dog was tied up in the gallery, with the words [something] spelled in dog biscuits on the wall. no gallery visitor chose to feed and/or try to release the dog, but made sure they complained to Animals America, especially after the dog 'disappeared' - apparently dying from malnutrition. They caused a big publicity hoo hah about it and then found out that the dog had actually been fed each day of the show, and taken back to its home.

for good measure, our trusty art journalist cited the animal rights 'sensation' caused by both Maurizio Cattelan Novecento - the 'hanging horse', and Mike Parr's video of a chicken being decapitated recently seen in the Sydney Biennale - her source, no doubt the same one i found through google - the trusty SMH, where the above pic is snaffled from, wrongly attributed to Attila Csorgo. And both works which have been in the public domain for, ooh, 10 years. Shocking.

and in terms of 'going too far', why didn't our indignant editor get up in arms about the intense and quite violent videos of Parr's, in which he stitches his own face up with thread and piercing needles? or his work in which he is dressed in the suit of guantanemo bay detainees and is willingly electrocuted by the audience? isn't that controversial? what about his pain and suffering? and the discomfort of the willing viewer? surely April O'Neill our reporter needs to stand up for the rights of the viewer! it's an outrage I tell you....


having made wild, eratic, finger-point gestures at some of the worlds most established artists, of course, our lovely editor mentions the whole debacle with Bill Henson (who isn't a conceptual artist at all - he's a fucking photographer) as some kind of evidence of conceptual art taking such extreme liberties with the innocence of unsuspecting gallery goers and paparazzi alike the public. will somebody please think of the children??

shocking. all of it.

and i don't mean the work cited. in fact, all the works that our investigative journalist-cum-fashionista used as proof that conceptual art is evil, were all works that were developed into a controversy by the media.

wow. who would have thought.

the foetus/dog works' complaints were false, the horse/chicken works are just proof that australia is 10 years behind the rest of the world - given that both works were made 10 years ago and for the most part, the controversy has passed. And the Henson? Well, like i said, he's a fucking photographer, not a conceptual artist. and if you're going to talk about the role of pornography/sexuality in art, etc, etc, talk about it. But probably not in a fashion mag that has 14-year olds with their tits out in a vice mag pose..



*i realise that this is the second time i've taken someone else's published article to task on this blog of late, but you'll just have to deal with it. sorry.

Labels: , ,

13 Comments:

At 31 October, 2008 09:04, Anonymous charlie gower said...

nice piece L
I'm not sure you're behind anyone over there we get similar articles here in the UK, and the dog piece was written up in the same way here...

A lot of this stuff does seem to be fake and there to provoke and as such I find myself questioning what it is actually saying.

 
At 31 October, 2008 10:23, Blogger lauren said...

thanks CG...
when you say 'this stuff seems to be fake' do you mean the artwork or the reportage?

and if you mean the artwork, don't forget art is all about 'artifice', in some form or another. and that for the most part, the 'disappointment' comes when a bigger, grander message is built up by the hyperbole..

and then sometimes people just don't have anything to say. not me, just some people. :)

 
At 23 November, 2008 04:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most of these " conceptual installations" are completely stupid, and have no business calling themselves artists when using animals for the sake of ART. They're not saying anything other that they're clean out of talent and just want to shock. I say grow up. By the way, I am an artist and I do enjoy GOOd conceptual work that is provocative, not stupid and wasteful

 
At 23 November, 2008 05:28, Blogger lauren said...

anonymous - good start, but please back-up emotive and charged phrases like "completely stupid" and "clean out of talent" with constructive evidence and rational discussion. i look forward to seeing the second draft.

 
At 21 July, 2009 06:34, Anonymous natasha said...

is the horse real? if its real then the creator should be killed.

 
At 21 July, 2009 13:29, Anonymous lauren said...

natasha - that kind of sensational language is dangerous and not really encouraged on this blog. firstly, define 'real' for me. do you mean - was it alive and healthy before it died? is your concern with the way it was killed? or that it might have been killed for the purpose of art?
or is your problem with the taxidermy process? or the use of an animal in art, as opposed to being buried or used for glue, lollies or dogfood?

if you're going to ejaculate all over my blog with that kind of rootin' tootin' language, the least you can do is to clarify yourself, ma'am.

especially because, as an animal-rights activist and vegetarian, i don't have a problem with this work. and the animal was a living, breathing horse before it became an artwork.

 
At 10 September, 2009 16:46, Blogger kim said...

hi lauren, I read your blog and I just want to say that when you say things as : who isn't a conceptual artist at all - he's a fucking photographer. please know that photographers can also be conceptual artists. (I'm not saying Bill Henson is an conceptual artist) but some photographers think of a good concept before making a picture and I think it's the same as any other kind of conceptual artist.

 
At 11 September, 2009 02:42, Blogger lauren said...

hi kim,

thanks for your comment, and i agree that a lot of photographers base their art around concepts as their main premise. and most conceptual art practice is viewed through photographic means. hell, i come from a photographic background.

but, as you know, bill henson isn't a conceptual artist. he grounds his practice very firmly in the photographic (and more pointedly, painting) ouvre and has always maintained the image is his main focus - not the process of choosing teenage models, etc, etc, etc.

which means that his practice is not relevant to arguments in the article about the 'shocking' nature of conceptual art. it was just used as a lazy segue to something mildly controversial. which is what made me so cross.

 
At 17 November, 2009 10:44, Blogger Marit said...

Well, we can debate on and on off course wether this is really art or not. But i personally feel it is more important to show the public by means of simple side information that no abuse of any kind has/is taken(ing) place concerning the animals in the artwork. That way we can also find out if the shocking responses of the viewers are the only aspect of these whole concepts that make it art. Im curious. Would is still be art without the shock? Would artists still be as interessted to make such an artwork? Or is the point simply to shock without purpose?

 
At 17 November, 2009 10:47, Blogger Marit said...

excuze my english its not too perfect:P

 
At 17 November, 2009 11:26, Anonymous lauren said...

thank you marit for presenting a valid point.

whilst i don't think the purpose of all art is to shock, i do believe in the power of shock and if anyone's going to be shocking, artists have been doing a good job of it so far. (through their skills in using allegory, metaphor, visual association and courage).

i think that artists such as these use animals for specific reasons - for the same reasons a lot of other artists use humans, children and nostalgia: to create a platform of empathy. and i think we can only be shocked, or moved by works that have established empathy in the first place. i personally don't think the reaction, or the experience of the viewer would be the same if the discomfort was taken out of it prior to viewing the work. i don't think it would be unfair to put some kind of disclaimer in the catalogue essay, or flyers, or whatever - and whose to say that there wasn't?

AND, going back to some of the questions i raised with natasha, is there a warning on every cheeseburger that a baby sheep was harmed in the process of making the work? what makes meat for consuming so much less shocking? i don't see a NY editor of YEN magazine splashing headlines around: pig killed for pork every 3 seconds!!

this is not to say that i endorse the abuse of animals for art. i don't. but so often aspersions are cast in all the wrong directions. and the wrong questions are always being asked for the sake of 'journalistic' shock and awe.

PS your english is great! way better than my dutch :)

 
At 11 February, 2010 06:17, Blogger New Ghost said...

Most people who write off conceptual art usually don't understand that 'art', (in all forms) is a reflection of society at the time. For example, Novocento, may be repulsive in the literal sense, but it just mirrors society as crucifing nature and "life" through means of profit, industrialization. We live in the profit and industrialization but are prevented from seeing the biproducts of our misdeeds.

Its the artist job to aquatint us with these original feelings. Maybe guilt should be one of them.

Maybe you should consider that art is just a mirror, not a literal message.

 
At 12 February, 2010 12:29, Anonymous lauren said...

beautifully said ms ghost. i also think that it's important to teach those who don't understand art (conceptual and otherwise) to not necessarily understand it for itself, but to appreciate it for what it does or doesn't say about us.

and, by the way i LOVE your site/work.

971...dubai? how is it these days? i'm stinging to go back sometime.

 

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