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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lucky Escape, 15 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained (Paperback)
This is a very silly book. It appears there is a price to be paid for entering the contemporary art world. You have to leave your brains at the door.

Not all modern and contemporary art elicits the response, `My child could do that'. This may be an understandable reaction to some artists, but in general Ms Hodge seems to be attacking a straw man. Her counter-arguments to this criticism are stilted and unnecessary.

Most of the work featured in the book is of questionable value. Nevertheless, it has to be defended. So the writer simply makes up reasons for valuing it. A lot of the work is presented as intellectually significant, but there is absolutely no evidence for this. All we are given are various bizarre flights of fancy.

It's strange that someone who might complain about inadequate assembly instructions for IKEA furniture, and be annoyed by an inaccurate rail timetable, refuses to consider the way in which images (and objects) convey meaning. This is art, and it doesn't seem to matter; you just say what you want it to mean, and that's that. And if you can make it all up, why not make the most grandiose claims possible?

Take just one example, the Structure That Eats Salad on pages 28-29. This consists of a bollard of granite, and another smaller piece of granite, separated from the larger by a lettuce. The second piece of granite is suspended from the larger in such a way that the decomposing lettuce will cause the block to drop in to a pile of sawdust placed below.

Besides being a quirky distraction, there is no obvious meaning, whether literal or symbolic. If we are told that the artist is expressing an idea, we can only conclude that the artist has chosen the wrong means to convey it. We have no way of knowing whether his idea is worthwhile or not.

This does not dissuade Ms Hodge, who has probably found out from elsewhere what the artist thought he was saying. Or she has just made it all up from scratch.

We can see that the granite has weight, the supporting wire is in tension and that the work changes as the lettuce rots. This, apparently, demonstrates the artist's insight in to energy, gravity, tension and infinity (infinity?). Further, because it changes, the work illustrates his interest in `metamorphosis within organisms, governments and culture'; it `contrasts constancy and instability'. Notice the introduction of abstract terms to impress.

Does Ms Hodge really believe any of this? Except in the art world, where would it be taken seriously?

For anyone who finds much of contemporary art worthless, this book will do nothing to change their mind. It illustrates how far someone will go to defend this art, and the strange artspeak that has to be mastered. What we are given is not really argument at all, but a series of dodgy techniques meant to promote the work and demonstrate the critic's authority. The results are patently nonsensical, but this doesn't seem to matter.

I thought about going to art college, in the `60s, but went in to architecture instead. Thank God.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Aug 2013 15:16:37 BDT
Leif VE says:
Bang on target!
Those who have given this book more than one star needs to have their heads examined.
I'm afraid that the following diagnosis, if this would take place, will not give them much hope for the future. They could however be exhibited as modernist installations, crying out incoherent abstractions.
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