Friday 16 August 2013

The appeal of bad art, poetry, music


I used to be fascinated, and quite powerfully attracted, by successful fake art - art which was bad yet prestigious - especially art where I could see how it was done.

I think this may be a much more general phenomenon than just a personal idiosyncrasy, because so many people purport to value as art what is obviously bad art or not-art-at-all - I the reason is not far to seek (in my case).

It is the hope that if they can get away with it, then so might I.


So, by supporting bad art, I was supporting a situation in which I might myself become recognized as a high status artist - and get access to what seemed like a very pleasant lifestyle of doing whatever I wanted to do then other people saying it was intresting (and paying me for it) simply because it was I who had done it.


An example would be Joseph Beuys whose work I first saw in a reverential display at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol - an almost painfully stylish setting.

When I say reverential, I should note that not only were the man's 'legendary' hat and boots on display, but also (I kid you not) his toenail clippings.

Essentially, the idea behind this exhibition (and the general idea of those who revered Beuys) was that Beuys was not so much an artist, but that art was whatever Beuys did - or, if he didn't do anything, then it was the man himself - or descriptions, photographs or movies of him.

So although Beuys never produced any art at all, let alone art of good quality, he was guaranteed status, income and goodness knows what else, merely by being.

This sounded to me like a good life!


So, to a substantial extent, I bought-into the world of conceptual/ happening/ performance art; in which the accolade of artist was bestowed apparently at random, and where (in fantasy at least) anyone could be made an artist; at which point, they would be 'made'.

For similar reasons I wasted a silly amount of time and attention on poetry and music and prose which I knew was bad, but of a kind whose manufacture I felt myself capable.

In other words, I preferred fake creativity to real creativity because - as a reasonably intelligent person - I realized that fake creativity was within the grasp of anyone of reasonable intelligence who was reasonably knowledgeable about the field in question.

Looking around, I think the same kind of thing must be going on on a large scale.



Luqman said...

At this point in your life, were you invested in art of substance? Whether or not you realized this was fake creativity, did you have a taste for the real thing? Did this follow after a rejection, however gradual, of the attitude put forward in this post or vice versa?

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - Oh yes, I appreciated real, good art from age about 13/14 - and had a pretty good knowledge and deep appreciation of literature and classical music especially.

It was later, in my twenties, when I became almost deliberately corrupted in this respect as in others - a consequence of staying single for too long, I think.

I knew better, but it happened anyway.

The Crow said...

I embarked upon a music career, many years ago, practicing up to twelve hours a day, every day, for years. Consequently I became very good at it, except for one thing...
It was always all about me. Purely ego-driven. An insatiable hunger for adulation and praise. Finally realizing this, I abandoned my career, completely, and have never revisited it.
No regrets. The big payoff was the realization of what a wanker I had been.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - Ha!

(I have relaxed my rule of no bad language on this blog, since you used it about yourself!)

Gottlieb said...

To be art preparation is necessary. But many of these abstract artists betting beyond amateurism in public, even in his super inflated ego and the victory of subjectivity in modern life.

The Crow said...

Adaptability is an attribute worth having. Besides, I was unable to come up with any synonym that said it even half as well.
Thanks, Bruce.

Wm Jas said...

I thought from the headline that you were going to try to explain the undeniable appeal of such artists as William Topaz McGonagall -- but no, you meant fake art, not bad art.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - It is a fair distinction. In this case I meant morally bad.