Thursday, August 10, 2006

Warning. There Are Two Pictures Of Boobs In This Post.

Did anyone see “King of the Hill” on Fox today?

While ‘King of the Hill’ is not usually what I’d call inspirational material, today’s episode kinda flicked a switch on something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

The basic story is Peggy makes a sculpture, which at first people like, then change their mind when they hear she’s not a ‘real’ artist.

So the question, ladies and gentlemen, is…what exactly is ‘Art’.

Now, to me, the real definition of art is the following:

Anything you enjoy looking at, reading or listening to…or at least something that makes you feel something when you view it.

A good painting, a nice piece of music, a good novel. Art doesn’t even have to actually be ‘enjoyable’ in the truest sense of the word. Art can make you cry, it can be disturbing or unsettling.

For example, I once saw a painting of an aged army veteran. He was standing with his hand on one of those ‘memorial walls’ (The ones that have the names of everyone who died in a particular war or battle). However, instead of his reflection on the shiny surface of the wall, there was a young soldier in full battle dress, touching his hand to the vet’s, with other soldiers standing around him. A picture of an old soldier remembering his dead friends.

Not exactly ‘enjoyable’ to look at, but it certainly evokes an emotion. That’s art.

However, I think today, the main definition of art is this:

Something very strange and weird that someone made up off the top of their head. Patently meaningless…but will be ‘appreciated’ anyway because no-one in the art business will admit to not ‘getting it’, in case everyone else says they get it and calls him stupid.

This is why unmade beds and half a pickled sheep with the Turner Prize.

My first experience of this was when I took a poetry course as part of my English degree.

I had no experience of poetry, outside of limericks, when I took the course… and if you’ll pardon the pun, poetry was a closed book to me.

The first poem I ever wrote for this class took me days. However, after I handed it in, it came back with a multitude of comments and corrections from my tutor. He didn’t like it one bit.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I arrived in class. My tutor said “Ok, everyone hand your poems in.”

Uh-oh. I hadn’t written anything… and this whole lesson was going to based around the poems we'd written. He'd look at them first, then hand them back...then everyone would read their poem aloud and get feedback from everyone else.

So I did what any honest, conscientious student would do. I put my writing pad under the desk and made something up off the top of my head in 15 seconds.

My tutor loved it. It went down a storm. In fact, if anyone ever finds themselves studying at Edge Hill University College in the UK…look at the old poetry magazines in the library. That poem is published in there somewhere.

Let’s just say I aced that course by writing regular prose about whatever subject we’d been given…then putting in stupid line breaks.

To give you an example, take the following:

“I’m sitting at my computer, writing a blog post and I’m trying to decide whether to go make a cup of coffee now, or wait until I’m finished. I’ll smoke a cigarette and see how I feel.”

Run it through the Paulius Brand Poetryfier, and it becomes:

I’m sitting
At my computer, writing

A blog
Post and I’m trying

To decide whether to
Go make a cup of


Or wait,




I’ll smoke a cigarette
And see

How I


Not great, but very ‘poemy’, in that it pretty much loses all meaning, lets people write essays on why I chose to leave the word ‘feel’ on it’s own, how the stanza 'Coffee Now', underlines the stress of the modern world, and why I chose that particular rhythmn.

No shit, that kinda thing got me an ‘A’ in poetry…although obviously I wrote about things like snowflakes, fire or rainbows for my coursework. The thing to get into your head about this was I actually wasn't cheating! This is what poetry is!

Of course, a few pretentious types might tell you otherwise, but it's true.

In fact, I once even handed in a poem that was simply a title. It was called “The Emperor’s New Poem”

My tutor knew I was taking the piss, but actually let it slide as it was a ‘commentary on human nature’. It was a 'stab at the establishment'. While being comedic, it gave an 'actual message' and the fact that people will study and talk about the message that there really is no message is both Zen and adds a good dose of irony.

...and to think, I just thought I was being a smartass. Zen irony!...Shit hot!

That course was also where I discovered that quite a well known and respected poet chose her titles by sticking a pin in horse racing forms. In her words: “Race horses are given names that are as vague as possible so they’ll mean as many different things to as many different people as possible and be taken as a ‘sign’…so I use them for my poems." Let’s take one and name the poem I’ve just written. Let’s call it “Lucky Boy.”

Yeah, that bullshit poem is starting to look authentic!

So really, the only thing to ‘get’ with poetry is that there really is nothing to get.

So, in my opinion, ‘art’ has just become something for rich people to waste their money on. That’s why a guy can paint a blue square on a white background with a red circle in the corner…and sell it for hundreds of thousands…because no-one at the gallery is going to say “That’s shit! A three year old could have done it!” because a room full of pretentious assholes will say “You sir, are an idiot. It’s obviously expressing the artist’s anger at the world! The futility of the human condition and that every woman secretly wants to be a man!”

Bollocks. It’s a device for getting cash out of rich fools.

However, even ‘real’ art has some very blurry and meaningless distinctions.

For example, if I hired a pretty young lady, dress her in lingerie and take a picture of her showing her boobs...that’s porn. At best it’s a ‘glamour shot’.

However, if I put a top-hat on her, make the picture black and white (preferable very grainy) it becomes ‘art’.

I think an object lesson is on order...

First we have porn (I’m keeping it tame because my mum reads this):

See, pretty young lady, lingerie, boobs out. Something you might find in the pages of a 'Men's Magazine."

However, run it through photoshop, convert it to grayscale and add a bit of flim grain…hey presto! Art!:

Of course, to give the true 'art' effect, I'd have to give her a weird bit of clothing, or at least light it to give very pronounced shadows and highlights. However, those pics weren't taken by me, and I didn't want to spend too long photoshopping it, in case I had to explain that picture to Sunny before I posted this.

When apparently art is anything that involves paint and canvas, random words and a page…and the difference between porn and art is removing the color from an image…can we really define art?

Not really.

In the end, what art actually ‘is’, is whatever the individual wants it to be. If you’re sane you’ll like the stuff you actually like…and not the stuff you like because everyone else tells you some psychobabble bollocks about the ‘human condition’.


Miz S said...

LOL- Okay, I don't usually question anything odd like this on our computer because I know you are on this art kick and to be perfectly honest- I'm not uptight about nude pics anyway- ...unless there is some weird stuff like ............oh, say, beastiality on them. Or if they were in a hidden file i would DEFINATELY wonder what was going on.

Both of those would worry me.

My belief is that Art and Poetry are wonderful things- to be enjoyed in all shapes and forms.

MC Etcher said...

Art seems to be whatever you can convice people it is - which is an art all its own.