Art on Fire: a Naples tantrum

Do you care that art is being burnt in protest at cuts to arts funding in Italy?
Or are you thinking along my lines: so flamin’ what?

Art? Meh.

I’d have put myself down as totally opposed to any Bonfire of the Vanities, a storm-trooper of the ‘art is a necessity, not a luxury’ brigade, but I’m having to admit to a whole load of Couldn’t Care Less.
Here’s what approximately 75% of me is thinking.

A friend, Tony, recently suggested that the true creatives are the scientists, and you know what, as it stands, I think he’s right. They are the ones who have been and are changing our view of the world, not the artists. It’s quantum theory, evolutionary biology, the glory that is CERN and the like, which have, more than anything else, made us reassess who we are and what ‘is’ – you know, the Big Questions –  and all art has been able to do is follow dumbly, effetely, in their wake, resorting in the main to either banal ‘concept’ or whining neo-expressionism.
As if anyone gives a rat’s ass.

Beautiful Science

No-one, except artists and their promoters, cares if contemporary art goes up in flames or not for the simple reason that it has made itself irrelevant; to the vast majority of people it’s a joke: self-indulgent codswallop or over-intellectualised bullshit. The ridiculous prices attained by the Big Names only compounds this feeling that art is something’ other’, a luxury indeed, instead of being at the very centre of our lives where it belongs.
Meanwhile it is science that has really captured the public’s imagination: just look at the TV schedules.

Blessed Brian: way cooler than Hirst

Ironically, artists seem to be very fond of quoting Einstein. The undisputed favourite, and most misappropriated by the quoters, appears to be:

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”.

Who are they trying to convince? Me? Or themselves? Or is it just an attempt to legitimise their solipsistic faffing about as some kind of intellectually rigorous exercise?
How many artists are, like the scientists, asking new ‘imaginative’ questions? How many artists have anything to say about the world at large at all?

Not that many, from what I see.
We need to get back to understanding that art, if it is to be worthwhile, is difficult;  it requires knowledge, skill; it requires discipline; it requires thought and engagement, not just some cock-eyed version of ‘imagination’. It most certainly does not require indiscriminate tossing off of whatever half-formed notion happens to spring to mind and calling it ‘creative’.

So burn, baby, burn.
The Bonfire may actually do some good if it inspires debate about what ‘art’ is, what it can and should be: something for the many, not the few.
A necessity, without which we’d all feel the poorer.

____________________________

Katie Paterson, an artist who is interesting because she’s interested; more, please:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/apr/06/katie-paterson-cosmicomical-artist

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