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For the final issue of the year, now is probably a good time to admit something—I don’t get it. Modern art, the local art “scene”, the lengthy convoluted descriptions and reviews—I don’t get any of it. I’ve really only been pretending to be interested in art for the free wine and cheese at openings. All the “profound” experiences of art I’ve had? Probably just indigestion.
The assemblage of the gallery experience—the high ceilings, its financial foundation and white walls make it far too easy to be fooled into thinking something should be revered because someone else has paid for it to be placed there. And yet people love being complicit in this charade—populous are the art reviews and artist statements praising something for its [insert four syllable word here] use of [another four syllable word] in a manner not dissimilar to [name drop here]. Gallery goers read these wanky drivels and feel obliged to nod, go “hmm, yes”, “I see it now”.
I urge you to not do this. The pretentious complicity of “creatives” is so boring and so excluding; do not feed into it. Ask yourself: do these two neon tubes actually stand for anything? Is this black-and-white photograph of a woman’s neck actually cool? Does this pile of dirt really stand as a metaphor for the human condition? Take a step back and ask, so what? A good piece of art feeds into you some sort of sensation because something about it is relevant—it is somehow significant, triggers something of the experience of being a modern human, whether political or emotional. It is important to admit that most pieces of art that we see aren’t able to do this!
Art should be able to make you smile, cry, puke, faint, laugh or scream without having to consult someone’s interpretation with a dictionary in hand. It doesn’t matter what someone wrote about it, it doesn’t matter if it was done by some apparently esteemed artist you’ve never heard of, and it doesn’t matter if it’s all about what it represents. If it makes you furrow your eyebrows, sigh, or look around the room to see how other people are reacting to it, accept that it’s just not very good before you pretend that you also “get it”.
There is good art out there, and it can enrich your life. But not all the art out there is good. Networking, money, privilege and a whole bunch of other non-artistic conditions have played a part of the piece’s journey to the gallery. Unfortunately there is no prerequisite for all paintings to be able to make someone cry before they can be displayed.
So from one confused art viewer to another, please question everything, do not fall victim to structural wankiness, and please be absolutely shameless in making the most of free food and alcohol at openings.