Posts Tagged ‘what is art?’

Close Your Eyes and Hope to Die

In 1, art on January 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm

The Raft of Medusa by Theodore Gericault, 1819

This painting seems melodramatic, and frankly not relevant to life today but as a poor substitute for an action movie. But NOT SO FAST buddy-oh, this painting has some conceptual undertones which can relate to some very contemporary issues.

The subject is a true story. A ship called ‘La Meduse’ crashed off the West coast of Africa, carrying some future French colonists. However, when it became clear that the ship would sink, the officers took the lifeboats and escaped, leaving 150 people to cast out on a raft. With only 15 of 150 people rescued, the French public were shocked by tales of cannibalism and gruesome conditions at sea.

It was the greatest tragedy after Napoleons escapades in Russia.

It also raised a few feathers among the public because it showed how the ‘little people’ got screwed over by the authorities. This post-revolution France who has seen a republic become an empire become a monarchy again. No authority was absolutely certain anymore, but this painting served as a sharp reminder that ancien régime hierarchies had not changed much at all.

Now where does that feature today? After a brief skim of the economist, it seems that the little people will be paying for the over-educated rich.

In the painting, there is a crescendo of hope, beginning with a father contemplating his dead son, and slowly rising to a figure standing and waving a flag. But there is no sign of a ship in the horizon. Is this false hope?

Are these people so desperate to survive that they will believe anything this self-appointed leader says?

Perhaps this could be a bit of a joke on Gericault’s part, the little people get screwed over once, only for it to happen again.


Where does Creed Lead?

In 1, art, Contemporary Art, Theatre on December 16, 2009 at 8:18 pm

On the ArtLive! conference today at the Dominion Theatre, hosting Germaine Greer, Quentin Blake, Martin Creed, and someone else whose name now escapes me.

The discussion title was “What is Art?”

A pretty useless question to ask, this kind of debate never gets anyone anywhere. But, my school organised it, and to be honest I was so excited to see Anthony Gormley speak!

But Anthony Gormley pulled out last-minute, to be replaced by someone whose name still escapes me.

A little birdy tells me that Anthony Gormley actually went on holiday, and not had unavoidable circumstances. I guess the call of the Maldives in that loud huh.

Martin Creed was so adorable! Words cannot describe his hesitancy, and let’s be honest, strangeness. He walks on stage, and mumbles something like “Um…. so. I don’t really know what I’m going to say… but I will tell you what I do… What I do is make things for people to look at really…”

A dancer joins him on stage, mimicking him every time he scrunched up his brow and did little jigs.

Everyone was holding back laughter, he said things like “Winning the Turner Prize [in 2001] was nice… it was like school again… and I hated school…”

Soon our Mr Creed opened for questions. A room full of 6th forms is lethal. It prompted

“How much crack did you take this morning?”

He replied in complete calm, “Oh you  know… average, a medium amount.”

In the midst of all his bumblings there were some very clear ideas. Is he acting? I don’t think so, I think he’s speaks near to a stream of conciousness, and doesn’t fully form ideas before he speaks them. Definitely something really interesting going on there.

Martin Creed’s definition of art is something which is called art by other people. Germaine Greer agreed with him, though managed to impart the same message about… 20 minutes quicker.

She was sharp, quick, concise. The majority of public art was dismissed as naff, shit, and even disturbing.

The most memorable thing that she said, is that Graffiti is art. That art is also about ‘tagging’ your name. That made me really want to go out and…

Hmm. Is it still vandalism if you draw an incredibly moving picture? What about a poem? I always get the temptation to write a poem on the back of club bathroom doors, give those stupid drunk girls a second thought other than ‘oooh! table!’.

Oops. Off topic.

Quentin Blake was really inspiring, he talked about his work for hospital bedrooms, and his move away from books. He is so positive. It was refreshing to see such unfazed positivity.

A mural-esque illustration for a children’s hospital in France. He said that many of the children had recently immigrated, and now had long-term physical or mental problems. He thought about their feeling of limbo by being dislocated from home, and how to assure them that they are safe in this hospital.