Praise for the Country's Safety Net
I think the idea of a safety net for people who, through no fault of their own, come upon misfortune is a comforting idea. I think it is important to have a security in knowing that whatever happens, I will have a way to support myself financially. I must admit, it is also pleasant imagining filling my wallet by dutifully emptying my fridge. Thankfully, in this modern day and age, we have this system already in place. This system is Modern Art.
If I do happen to fail in my chosen career, I know I have this backup. After all, my fridge - when lazily neglected for too long - can occasionally harbor some exotic lifeforms. Instead of taking the conventional approach of disposing of the expired item, I shall take the offending product and smear it across the nearest kitchen appliance (or whatever is handy at the time). Although this approach may seem costly in kitchen wear, the benefits to an innovative artist can be significantly rewarding. My new bacterially-enhanced toaster is not simply a rather unhygienic way to cook breakfast, it is art!
The government has recognised the value of this safety net long ago. Through the public school system I have acquired the expert skill of spouting irrelevant (but surprisingly convincing) bullshit, which is required to convince potential customers what your mouldy toaster's deeper meaning is. Thus I make a bit of cash by selling my insightful masterpiece.
Although I am speaking in jest, do not think I exaggerate. Fellow Helengrad subjects might wish to look up at Te Papa next time they are walking along the waterfront. On a high ridge of the building stand four panels of glass which look like the agar plates from a 5th form science experiment. This "art" is a layer of bacteria sandwiched between two sheets of glass. This meaningful piece is on par with a painting I saw recently which contained eight red rectangles. Not even in any configuration resembling anything recognisable. And this was at in a national art exhibit. With this revelation I don't even need to suffer the inconvenience of eating untoasted bread! A few scribbles and squares printed off from the computer should suffice.
The reason I am scathing of this "art" is primarily not in how it looks (although I don't think a panel of fungi above the breakfast table is too appealing.) It is in what it represents, or more accurately, fails to represent. Someone's art should be an expression of themselves. It should reveal how they see the world, or the world as it should be. It should contain their values and personality. As a writer reveals themselves, or features of themselves, through characters in their books, an artist should show aspects of themself in the paintings they paint.
Art needs to reclaim an aspect of intelligence and expression, which is desperately lacking. Art galleries should be thought provoking and emotionally charged places, instead of today's lethargic halls where people try to fool each other that they understand what they are viewing. Once we see this begin to happen, we can know that nihilism is being defeated, and that thought is slowly creeping back into people's lives.
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