Monday, December 20, 2004

Confusion is important

I went to an opening and Xmas party at the Govett- Brewster Art Gallery over the weekend.

I have always been keen on art, particularly as a means of expression for young people. The Govett- Brewster, situated in provincial New Zealand, has been developed as ‘cutting edge’ gallery and as such has had its share of controversy. The galleries policy is to show the latest of world art wide thinking.

I go along hoping to be surprised but more often than not leave confused.

The ‘messages’ of the artists are usually extremely personal but I don’t always seem to be able to comprehend what is they are saying. Well I don’t understand Einstein’s theory of relativity so I don’t get too concerned. I do wonder though if I am alone because everyone else seems to be suitably impressed – perhaps it is a case of the Emperors clothes! If you open your mouth you might be seen as a Philistine. As well it is a concern when the art elite (curators and friends) talk with authority and admiration amongst themselves as if they ‘own’ a secret language.

The controversial mayor of the nearby city Wanganui Michael Laws, who has a reputation of indifference to the views of the elite, has happily stepped into the debate saying it is time, ‘the elitist rubbish that parades itself as installation art was exposed for the nonsense it is.’ He made the point he was not criticizing art per se but ‘what the curatorial elite…. tell us is important’.

He went on to say that the arts in the late twentieth century have become ‘an intensely inward journey. Insular and isolated from both popular and public sensibilities. Art should uplift all not just be for the few.’ Laws was making the valid point that just because the art curatorial elite say so there should not be an automatic presumption of an acceptance of their ideas.

Whether you agree with him or not he says it as he sees it. At the opening I kept wondering what those present were really thinking about what they were looking at.

It was interesting to read review of the opening in our local paper with the cliché ‘Art Gallery pushes the boundaries’ but went on to say little else.

I guess it all makes you think. Should we accept what 'experts' tell us or listen to our own voices? Confusion must be good for you.

Time will be the final judge for the art.


Keri said...

Good post. I love art and have been around it all my life, but I admit I often don't get much from art exhibitions, and the language of curation speak does nothing for me.

Art for me needs an element of the mythic in it, it is about connection to past and projections for the future. It is about the present moment when the art asks you to stay still thrust into heightened awareness. It is about feeling and aesthetics, thought and spirit, It is our inner feelings and love engaging with the exterior world.

Watching a child caught up in art you are aware of the level of engagement, there is something serious about this "play", it is a good thing if adults can bring this play into their lives art can do that for us.

Bruce said...

I am with you Keri