The cow dung is washed off, but the stink remains

Imagine a time that is not now, not the second half of the twentieth century either. Imagine a person who gives a curious performance - he covers himself with thick layers of cow dung and then he washes it off. He expects us to appreciate him for it. He is trying to make a statement, to say something. Now imagine how he would be viewed. Perhaps as a fool , to be laughed off, perhaps somebody who is off the rockers, somebody escaped from can imagine the sound of the doors opening up to receive him, the doors of some sort of asylum.

Fast forward to now. Same performance - but that sound you hear is not the opening doors of an asylum, but of such elite institutions as the Tate gallery, the Metropolitan museum , the doors of fame, riches, fawning articles. How the times change.

From The Guardian, speaking of Subodh Gupta -

"Perhaps most striking to western eyes is his use of cow dung. The 42-year-old has made installations out of manure patties, kitchen fuel for millions of Indian country homes, and painted with dung à la Chris Ofili. In a nine-minute video, Pure, the artist stands covered in thick layer of bovine excreta that is slowly hosed off in a shower. Gupta says he wanted to play with meanings of "purity". "In Indian villages, cow shit is used for spiritual cleaning like an antiseptic. But this is not true of today's [Indian] cities. I wanted to show that." "

Do you get the feeling that contemporary art world is replete with smooth operators , who have a keen sense of the right things to say , the right gestures and the right postures that would convince and beguile the 'powers' of this strange world ?

The fields of Installation 'art' and Video 'art' are particularly crawling with these charmers and would-be charmers, since by their very nature these fields require not any kind of talent, skill or creativity (which without the first two is impossible ) but some sort of pseudo-intellectual-obscure justification for - well, for anything! Just do, make, present anything and call it art. Make-up (and I do mean make-up ) any pseudo-intellectual explanation , suitably obscure, don't forget to sprinkle it with the 'right' words - like 'parallel narratives' , 'oeuvre' , 'experimentation' , 'threads of connectivity' etc.- that will impress without meaning anything . In fact you don't even have to take that trouble - there are professionals who get paid to do just this - we call them art-critics , and there is great competition among them to 'discover' new 'artists', to pour forth ever more mumbo-jumbo in their relentless pursuit to enlighten, to explain, to justify - well, you know, anything. Like I said , just do anything and call it art. The witch-doctors, er, sorry , the art-critics, will assure the world of your greatness.

Have an uncontrollable urge to bathe in dung? Fine, just don't do it privately- do it in a gallery, or make a video out of it put it in an 'installation. Want to take out the garbage? Great! Go put it in a gallery. Feel like answering the call of nature? Great! Just do it in an empty can, take the can to a suitable art-gallery ( which encourages 'experimentation' and 'new forms' of creativity ), and you might sell it at a price higher than that of gold. Your shit is worth more than you know!

It is art. No, it is ART !

And it stinks.


Third Dan said…
D'accord! Read Hilton Kramer's new book, The Triumph of Modernism. He, too, has no patience with this sort of Bravo Sierra. The role of the artist is to glorify God and inspire his fellow man.
sunil said…
thanks for sharing this wonderful post
Jose A. said…
It seems to me that you are missing the point here. Sure, I agree that there is a lot of installations and video art out there that are questionable, but to say that the very nature of the medium allows for this " no talent" work to exist is a bit ridiculous and unwise. I can point out a million other awful drawings, paintings and charcoal drawings of the Taj Mahal that make me want to gauge my eyes out. It is a matter of preference, for me it is completely pointless to draw a picture of the taj mahal ( for example), there is nothing new there, you are just showing the world that you can draw and that is not enough. You talk about talent, and I have a feeling that you think being able to draw = talent. I think you are wrong.
Watch Roger Scruton's What is Beauty on You Tube...and you'll understand why this matters. Bravo for writing this article. Jose, perhaps you are the one who misses the point, my friend.
Anonymous said…
Yes a lot of installation and performance work is rubbish. But your judgement is like someone claiming that all painting is rubbish after looking at a lot of horrendous paintings.

I have seen roger scrouton's video and I think it is very valid. BUt all art that is representational is not by default beautiful.