Art for Meanings Sake

Most modern contemporary art seems irresponsible to me. It seems irresponsible in a similar way to advocating for leaderless societies. Taking charge is hard; having and standing by a particular point of view or position is hard. These are things that draw ridicule, violence, and even death. But they are necessary in some form and someone has to do it, if we wish things to remain civilised. So when I say modern art seems irresponsible it is in part because I think many artists aiming to be, or being, held up by the establishment as representative of the foremost our era has to offer, are at best cowards, afraid of their own capacity and duty, and at worst simply shills. Either way, they appear to have made a virtue of the act of failing to say or do anything that could be useful to anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

Creating something meaningless means you don’t have to stand behind a meaning. Creating something useless means you don’t have to make something that’s supposed to actually do or say anything. When did it become the task of artists to say and do nothing of consequence? When we became more concerned with criticism than creation, and more concerned with making money than with making culture. Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian”, lauded as a recent great accomplishment in art, is a good example of this (for an excellent take on it see this post by Eric Wayne). A banana duct taped to a wall sold for $120,000 for saying nothing, doing nothing, and quickly amounting to nothing, except substantial amounts of money and smugness changing hands. A perfect example of the morally bankrupt, vulgar decadence at the top of our culture.

Which brings me to the main reason modern art seems irresponsible to me. We have stopped creating culture and instead begun, passively or actively, destroying it. Art should not be made to be a rotting joke on us all, nor should it be made to be stored in some Oligarch’s vault; great art has the capacity to make and shape epochs, for fucks sake. Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the grand cathedrals of the middle ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Neoclassicism of the Enlightenment.

But these are all mere “outcomes” and modern art does not care for those. Byzantium was ‘just an outcome’. Within the discourse of modern art we are told that only the “process” matters, because, I presume, if the outcome matters it can be criticised and is not so easy to sell. It seems our art world’s ego is now so emptily inflated by this notion that it is happier to watch our culture burn than risk having any actual point of view, or worse, happy to pour petrol on the flames for it’s own nihilistic amusement.

The media too, more than any other modern art, hides behind this conceit from the top that the process matters rather than the outcome, so that it may abdicate any responsibility for the consequences of its story manufacturing and propagandising. Galleries are filled with meaningless frivolous objects, similarly cinemas and shiny phone screens beam out meaningless frivolous “content”, and all the while the news tells us to BE OUTRAGED AND AFRAID OF EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME as our culture stagnates, fails to self-reflect and tears itself apart, without meanings or narratives to provide much in the way of hope or guidance. Here, have another pop song, another cop drama, another clever piece of nonsense, another “other” to hate. We’re not responsible for how people might react, we’re just mindlessly participating in a process. Just following orders.

Anyone who says art doesn’t matter knows nothing about history. Art nurtured and sustained every empire, every religion, and every major civilised step in the human story. The wonders of the human world, the meanings countless people have died for. But oh no, only the process matters.

Screw the process, its mindless masturbation in place of creation without thinking of the outcome. It’s time for this barren postmodern critical-bollocks mind-fuck to die. When we create responsibly and consciously we participate in the ages old, deeply human, act of seeking to know ourselves and our purpose, and to build and enrich our world. We have wallowed in absurd nihilistic meaninglessness long enough, it is time for us to decide what we want to do with our world and to get on with creating it. Without the tossers at the top and their useless bananas.

6 comments

  1. A banana on a wall….jeez😩
    I am perhaps a victim of my own bias towards illustration here, but in my mind if you have to explain a piece of art to someone to make it work then it probably didn’t. Work I mean.
    It’s like trying to explain why a joke is funny when the audience didn’t laugh😅

    I have to admit that I am not a fan of modern art and largely stay away from it. I don’t think it’s biggest crime is being meaningless or frivolous though🤔
    I resent it’s forced elitism. It’s ever deepening commitment that only the special ones can understand it, only the rich can afford to own it and that somehow it exists above the small machinations of the common folk.
    I get genuinely angry that in a world where art could finally be accessed by anyone and appreciated by anyone, the entire world of modern art recoiled in revulsion into a self pleasuring (I’m being polite😅) bubble of self importance desperate to avoid even the slightest hint of something as tasteless as mass appeal.

    I’m getting off topic😅

    You’ve written a really interesting blog once again and I love reading your views on art and the world around it. You are vastly better informed on the subject than I likely ever will be and there’s always something to learn😁

    • I tend to agree with you, both about having to explain the meaning showing the art is at fault, and about the elitism. There is a heavy class element to it, in my opinion. Anything functional or meaningful is for the poor, little people. Only the rich are so up themselves, er, I mean “sophisticated” enough, to understand the higher meanings of meaningless bollocks. It couldn’t possibly be that they are irresponsible spoiled brats with more money than sense. No, it must be that the common people just cannot grasp how special they are, and how much more intelligent. I think of it as Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome. The con artist’s fleecing these idiots are artist’s, in a way I could actually admire them for; just not artists like you and I, or people that should be having any degree of influence on culture.

      I’m glad you enjoy my blogs about this stuff, makes me feel a little less like I’m just ranting into the void 😅

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s