Today’s facebook repost was an article by Glen Coco, deriding the latest exhibition by Tracey Emin.
The article is pretty funny and I do get why people shared it, honestly I do, because it made me chuckle as well. Thing is – I also was left wondering: why is it cool to shout about your lack of knowledge and understanding? Is it supposed to make one look clever? Am I missing something here?
You see, it may not make me look clever and witty, but I kinda DO get it.
Emin’s work is very much about provoking the exact reaction in her audience that the article expresses – shock, confusion, ridicule. That’s the whole POINT! The work is banal, it’s immature…… Emin is well known for this style of art.
But here’s the thing….she’s not making art like that because SHE is banal and immature, she’s making it because, well, we are – and that’s what she’s pointing out.
People’s expectations of what art is meant to do (for the most part, look pretty) are severely at odds with what artists actually set out to do with their work: which is generally to react to, comment on and critique the world they live in.
The most common argument (it appears in this article too) is that art ‘used to be good’ but ‘now it’s rubbish’.
Her example is John Martin’s ‘The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah’ and she ponders how art went from that (a painting of two figures huddled in a fiery landscape) to a neon sign saying ‘My c*nt is wet with fear’ by Emin.
Thing is, do we care about Sodom and Gomorrah? Do we even really know the story? Because when that painting was created, people cared about it. A lot. Yes, sure, Martin shows some great painterly technique in the work and that’s worth admiring, too, but the subject matter is the main thing… and we don’t give a toss about bible stories these days. At the time he painted it, lots of people probably hated it and said ‘That’s not Art’ (well, he’s not the best example of that as he was pretty well accepted, but still, I bet lots of people hated his work).
Now the subject of Emin’s piece – those are a different matter. We care a lot about what’s between a woman’s legs, and what state of moisture it is in, and why. We care a lot about extreme emotions like fear and sexual arousal, we want to know what everyone is feeling (why do you think reality TV is so popular?). So I really can’t see why there’s a problem with somebody making a piece of art about the things which are actually relevant to the world we live in.
And let’s be brutally honest here. Art that comments on our society in an authentic way just has to be a bit tacky, a bit rubbish, a bit brash… because (in case you haven’t noticed) so is modern Western society, at least most of the time.
I’m not saying I’ve ever been a huge Emin fan, but to say ‘I don’t get it’ in a bid to look cool (it seems to have worked – ignorance is held as a high virtue these days) is frankly a bit lame. Especially when you haven’t exactly made any ground breaking art yourself.
Like Glen Coco, I don’t get the poncey individuals who stand and stroke their chins at art openings. I don’t get that art is valued only on how much it sells for. I don’t get that the media have no interest in art unless it has a swearword in it, or costs a packet so they can moan about how much it costs when schools are closing.
But most of all, I really don’t get why it’s seen as cool to act stupid about art and not even try to understand it. Because it’s not frikkin’ cool to be closed minded or ignorant, or to get your kicks by taking the piss out of somebody else. It just isn’t.
So, at the risk of being horribly uncool. Tracy Emin’s work – yeah, I get it.