Is Art useful?

This post stems from an argument I had with my sister. She starts college in September and is going to take art classes, more specifically, design classes. I’ve often teased her about it, that being an artiste she would always find a good meal at my place, seeing as she wouldn’t be able to afford one herself.

The argument in itself came from me commenting that modern art is pretty much garbage, that anyone can create this kind of “art”. As Dave Kellett points out (here and here) in his webcomic Sheldon (which you must read, it is extremely funny), “by the end of his life Picasso could’ve spit on a bar napkin and called it “art”. I agree with this sentiment exactly. And this is what I told my sister. This, inevitably, led to a discussion in which she tried to get me to define art, and I refused.

I refused because I don’t know what art is, but I know what art isn’t. Art isn’t a yellow line drawn in a white canvas, framed and put for sale for 20 000 USD as being a representation of “Happiness” (this is true by the way, I actually went to an art showing where they were trying to sell this thing). This isn’t art, as far as I am concerned. Neither is this, and I am sure that this isn’t either.

My sister retorts that we must look beyond the finished product and look at the process that the artist had to go trough in order to reach the final piece. I have to disagree with her once again. When I look at a painting or a sculpture, I don’t want to know, I don’t need to know, if the artist was a poor orphan who climbed his way to the top with his teeth or if he was a rich gazillionaire who had nothing better to do than to paint. I don’t want to know if the inspiration for this piece came from a flash of genius or from years and years of study. What I do want when I look at something is to see the beauty in it, to be inspired, confused, revolted, touched by it. When I look at modern art, all I fell is that some people have to much free time on their hands.

Most people, in regards to most subjects, react like so: “You don’t like * insert subject of choice here * ? Oh well, we can’t all like the same things, can we? Barkeep, another cold one for my friend here” And that’s the end of it. Sure they may try lure you to their side, but it is always in a friendly, semi-jokingly, manner. I love this kind of people.

However, there is one specific type of modern art lover (most people, I’m sure, are not like this, you get rotten apples in every bunch), who does not react this way. The moment you say you don’t like modern art, they look at you as though you were some kind of Neanderthal who had just unfrozen this morning. From their point of view, I must be stupid to not be able to enjoy this fine piece of art in front of me. Can’t I see the way the lines represent the modern struggle against mechanization? Or how the deconstruction of government oppression is achieved by the brilliant use of an all black canvas with a single white dot? I’m sorry, I can’t.

In conclusion, if you like modern art, excellent. More power to you and I honestly hope you enjoy it. But please don’t look at me like I’m an idiot if I don’t find anything interesting in it. Thank you.


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One Response to “Is Art useful?”

  1. The Barber of Civility Says:

    Actually, I think you did a fine job of defining what Art is! In your fourth paragraph, second-to-last sentence, is a rather eloquent definition.
    Some of what I consider art is created without intent. Some takes years, and some, such as that created by graffiti artists, is done in minutes.

    I just found your blog through Totally by accident. Someone told me my blog was listed there, and while looking at the information, I noted that you linked to my blog back in mid-July, in a post about Hancock. Thank you for that!

    If you don’t mind. email me and tell me how you found my blog back then.

    – Sid Plait

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