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4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Art Without Qualities, 12 May 2013
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This review is from: What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye (Hardcover)
This is not an explanation of contemporary art, as the title suggests, but a compendium of the various unsuccessful justifications offered for it by someone in the current art establishment. What we need is a sociology and psychology of why artists produce this work, and why critics are inclined to defend it.

Art is never valuable simply because it is art. It is valuable because of its qualities. If art has no valuable qualities, it is worthless. This is true regardless of the definition of art.

If I ask why art is worthwhile, the answer can not be because it is art. I am asking for evidence, not an assertion.

Nevertheless, the artistic orthodoxy assumes that to call something art automatically brings something valuable in to being. Art, even without any discernible rewarding qualities, is somehow important. Sometimes, art without qualities is the purest, and the only true art. Everyday objects (and sometimes people) are `transfigured' by the will of the artist.

But of course, artists (and critics) assure us, as in this book, that contemporary art does have valuable qualities. We are told that art does very impressive things; a little reflection shows it can not possibly do what is claimed. Alternatively, we are told the truth about the work, but its triviality is disguised by the language used. Sometimes we are offered both of these tactics at the same time.

Artists demonstrate their worth by their difference. Profundity may seem foolish at first, we are told, but artists have a different sensibility. But foolishness may only be foolish, and we are not told what distinguishes foolishness from profundity. Even after years of contemplation, what at first seemed foolish may remain foolish.

At one time, religious fanatics regarded the impossibility of something as evidence of its truth. Now, artistic fanatics find the ludicrous compelling, and their acceptance of it as a proof of their status.

Take an unmade bed. Can it be art? Yes, if art is defined loosely enough. Does it become anything more than an unmade bed? No.

If an artist dresses in a long dress, sits still and controls her bowels, does this demonstrate her oracular powers? No, it merely reveals her megalomania and the credulousness of those who take her seriously.

Does the presentation of a dead animal reveal anything about `life and death'? Are we enlightened or even informed? No. Is it art? It doesn't matter.

It's encouraging that in a recent newspaper review of largely silly art, the reader response, in the comments section, was largely negative. Perhaps the pathology of contemporary art is limited to the art world itself, where reason appears to have been abandoned.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Sep 2013 08:40:47 BDT
A book about 150 years of art - and you concentrate on a small amount of artists, from one country?

That's me convinced.

I think I'll order it.
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