Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Use Your Imagination

I’m in the wrong job. Why? Because quite frankly, I feel that I could be a contemporary artist.

Don’t laugh – it’s true.

I was in London at the weekend, visiting friends and on Sunday afternoon, we strolled along the south bank of the Thames, enjoying the atmosphere. We came to the Tate Modern, a museum full of contemporary art. Against my initial better judgement, we decided to pop in and have a look.

The first thing that I saw was an incredible piece of art called How It Is by a Polish artist called Miroslaw Balka. Basically is a huge steel box measuring 30 metres long, 10 metres wide and 13 metres deep. Why is it incredible? Because you can go inside the box and there is absolutely no light in there whatsoever.

It is slightly disconcerting as you step inside because you see people on their way out and they are almost completely in shadow. The further you get, the more eerie it becomes because, as you approach the back wall, you see absolutely nothing and eventually stumble into the wall, thankfully covered in a soft felt-type material. As you leave, you see others coming in and that too is strange, mainly because they are groping ahead and are unsure of what they are seeing ahead of them.

You can see and read about it here.

I enjoyed it - in a weird kind of way.

From what you have read so far, you may think that I am a fan of contemporary art; you are wrong.

How it is was a novel experience and I was mildly amused by it, which meant that Mrs PM and our friends didn’t have to listen to me ranting about how useless it was.

However, I soon degenerated into my old self as we explored one of the upper floors of the Tate Modern.

I have never seen such a load of old codswallop in my entire life. As we strolled through the galleries on one of the floors, I marvelled at the audacity of the artists who, somehow, managed to convince art critics and pseudo-intellectuals that the crap hanging up was worthy of even a passing glimpse. I honestly feel that I could have done a much better job.

Basically, the bulk of the “work” was abstract daubs of paint, presumably created when the artist was high on glue or so leathered on absinthe that he was out of his tiny mind.

“I just don’t get it,” I complained to Mrs PM, keeping my voice down so that others couldn’t hear. “If you gave me a blank canvas and a tin of red paint, I could paint something exactly like that,” I said, pointing to what can only be described as a large mess on the wall.

One painting I saw was a bright red canvas with a very thin brown line at the end. That was it. A child could have produced it. I was stunned by some of the bilge I saw.

Of course, the crowd admiring the rot on the walls was mixed; some, like me, walked around with looks of pure confusion on their faces, as if they walked into a world were insane people were suddenly sane; others pretended to admire the works; the final group, the eccentrics, actually discussed the works using bizarre language. One guy was wearing a pair of drainpipe jeans that were about six inches too short, and a grey jacket with a vivid pink feather attached to his lapel. His hair was wild and he gawked at the paintings with the look of a child in a sweet factory. He was pursued by an odd looking female with a permanent grin on her face.

In one room, full of abstract oil paintings, a European tour guide was attempting to explain the paintings. Out of sheer curiosity I stood nearby to listen to what he was saying. It went something like this:

The artist has resolved to forego the concept of creating a reproduction of an object in favour of the abstract. The paradigm behind these spectacular works of art is to compel the viewer to form an idea in his head and to extrapolate that idea until it stands out and announces itself to him. Different people will obviously see different things; that is why it is a work of pure genius. Every single human being on the planet will perceive a distinct and unique entity or idea as they study the painting and become part of it. The viewer will step across the barrier into a world that only he can conceive; a world that speaks only to him; a world that is disturbing, yet at the same time exciting; a world that is unique and like no other place in the imagination of any other human being. It is a concept of humanity, yet a uniquely individual creation. Magnificent isn’t it?

I wanted to go up to the guy and say:

“It’s SHIT!!! It is absolutely dreadful. Give me a single day and a ton of oil paints and I can produce something like that. What are you talking about anyway? I’ve never heard such claptrap in my entire life.”

Of course, I said nothing.

However, one brave woman did challenge him with the simple words:

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

His reply:

Yes, it can be confusing. To see a world that you alone can create in the vast cosmos of your imagination can be overwhelming. Let’s move on.

Fearing that she would look stupid, she didn’t press him further. He would have made more sense saying:

There is a planet in a distant galaxy where cats filter coffee and wash their carts with it. Did you know that stones are multicoloured in the imagination of a stag beetle? I know; I’ve been there and challenged slugs to play cricket against giant aliens on Sunday afternoons in January. The sun flies through our hearts trailing jelly behind it.

The final straw for me was a video display. As we approached the room I was intrigued by a sign that warned us about “sexually explicit images and violence”.

A voice in my head warned: DON’T GO IN DAVE! IT WILL BE UTTER BILGE!

I ignored the voice.

In the room I found five projectors playing five different films next to each other. The first film showed a naked person with a disturbing mask, jumping up and down over and over again. Next to that, a naked lady lay on a bed as a pair of hands smeared, what looked like sauce all over her naked form. In a third film, a semi-naked man, pounded objects, as if in a fit of rage. I couldn't bear to watch the other two films.

I wanted to cry out in despair. It was possibly the worst thing I had ever seen. It was tasteless and pointless. If that was art then I am a jellyfish. It was dreadful. It was awful. It was rubbish. It was garbage. It was meaningless twaddle. It was totally useless. It was painful. It was a complete waste of the two minutes it took for me to endure it. It was the most pointless two minutes of my entire life. It was shit. It was a waste of a room. It was a waste of electricity. There was no talent there whatsoever. It was devoid of aptitude. Genius it was not. I hated it. I despised it. I detested it.

Do you understand how I felt about it or am I being too subtle?

What particularly annoyed me about it, was the fact that the artist was probably absolutely loaded and had somehow convinced somebody somewhere to allow him to display this tacky piece of nonsense for people like me to see.

I felt cheated. I felt soiled.

I was bloody annoyed.

As we left, I ranted to Mrs PM and decided that I could (and possibly should) seek out a new career as a contemporary artist. If I can persuade some pseudo-intellectual idiot somewhere that my totally useless pieces of art are worthy of display in the Tate Modern, I can live the rest of my life laughing at those dumb enough to try to explain my worthless crap to people who are stupid enough to believe them.

I’ve made a start.

Below are two pieces of work that I think will challenge people, intellectually and physically.

The first, I have called Naughty Cat and, although it is not an abstract piece, I hope that it challenges you to explore the inner child within. As you contemplate the feline indiscretion, consider you own innocent childhood and the feeling of naughtiness as you knowingly misbehaved.

The second, I have called Plastic Man, which is a portrait and urges you to confront the repulsiveness of the human form. The pathetic creature portrayed in the piece is disturbing not only because the person in the picture is quite clearly plastic; he is also the human form of a baboon.

Yes – it is me! Don’t laugh!!

Do you think I should give up my day job?


Anonymous said...

Go for it Scrumps, it might be my juvenile mind at work (and it probably is!) but I think the cat one is pretty good!

Kath Lockett said...

My answer, dear PlasMan - or can I call you 'Dave' now that we're blog buddies? - is yes and no regarding your day job.

By all means quit and sell your venerable art works (because they are as good as any of the visual vomit hung on the walls of modern art galleries) but remember - it will be YOU that has to wear pink feathers, tight jeans (or are they 'meggings') 6 inches too short, perhaps some ill-applied eye-liner and a t-shirt that says, "God is in the eye of the beer holder". Plus, you'll need to take Robbie Williams' volume of drugs so that you actually like what you see and can talk about it without wanting to shove chopsticks of shame up your nostrils.

So, the answer can also be 'no', don't quit your day job and just content yourself with the fact that you have as much artistic talent as any of the clowns in the Tate Modern or even your own cat, should she ever be given a paint brush.

Are we clear now? OH and how's this for a weird but ironic word verification thingy - retry!

Finally, you're tagged for that food meme I just did.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Scrimsy,

That's what Mrs PM said about the cat picture.


Maybe I'm onto something ...



Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

Of course you can call me Dave.

Strangely, I was considering giving the two cats a tin of paint and a paint brush just to see what they could do.

I'll attack the food meme in due course.




River said...

Once you've discovered how to sell your artworks, and who to, please let the rest of us know. Then we too can have our art displayed in those wonderful galleries. Heck maybe we could even put our own price on our most special works and make enough money to at least keep us in paint and canvas.
I really hate some of that modern "art", it just seems like a waste of paint. On the other hand, (you have five more fingers), I wish now that I'd kept my kids earliest scribblings, I could frame them now and have a garage sale. People would snap them up hoping they'd found an unknown work by some genius not yet discovered or some such claptrap.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I will let you know if I have any success. If I do, I will have to adopt another blog persona because the Plastic Mancunian will become dedicated to my art (and therefore full of absolute bullshit!)




Elizabeth Barrette said...

"If I can persuade some pseudo-intellectual idiot somewhere that my totally useless pieces of art are worthy of display in the Tate Modern, I can live the rest of my life laughing at those dumb enough to try to explain my worthless crap to people who are stupid enough to believe them."

Sadly, you're missing a crucial piece: succeeding in the modern art world requires a high tolerance for nonsense and supreme skill at ass-kissing and admiring the inane. Since you have your head on straight, you wouldn't last five minutes.

Does the art now make more sense, if you view it as a series of ass-kissing awards and well-cast illusions?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for clearing that up and, yes, I think you are right. But I would love to tell them all what I think. Please let me present the Turner Prize before I pop my clogs.





Buzzing J said...

There's a reason the word "con" is featured predominately in the name of this art form. And Of course, timing is everything. You do have to catch your targeted customers in their period of brief insanity to be successful.


Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi BJ,

Aha - maybe I should spike THEIR drinks with hallucinogenic drugs.