Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lucia Rubbish is not art

For those that want proof of a recent degeneration of culture, I offer the above as representative of this trend. This pile of rubbish won the Trust Waikato National Contemporary Art Award 2009. A number of people are naturally outraged.

For $15,000, I might try entering a half eaten bowl of mushroom soup next year and see if the judge of the competition is silly enough to award me first prize. The odds are probably better than winning Lotto.

Peter Cresswell has written a post on the apparent purpose of pretending rubbish is art. In summary, he believes that this type of art only exists to provoke reaction. Getting back to my bowl of mushroom soup, how about flooding art awards of this type with rubbish entries? Think of the reaction that would provoke ... and some lucky sod might come away with a sizeable prize.

I think the purpose is more sinister. Pretending rubbish is art is a way of degrading man, changing how we think of ourselves. If all we can do is produce rubbish rather than things of beauty, what good are we? We may as well be no more than animals, and in the communist mindset, to be disposed of as such when no longer necessary or in the way of progress.

Whenever art is discussed, I think back to Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists. In it he explains how creating art images God our creator.

[...] The opening page of the Bible presents God as a kind of exemplar of everyone who produces a work: the human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Creator. This relationship is particularly clear in the Polish language because of the lexical link between the words stwórca (creator) and twórca (craftsman).

What is the difference between “creator” and “craftsman”? The one who creates bestows being itself, he brings something out of nothing—ex nihilo sui et subiecti, as the Latin puts it—and this, in the strict sense, is a mode of operation which belongs to the Almighty alone. The craftsman, by contrast, uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning. This is the mode of operation peculiar to man as made in the image of God. In fact, after saying that God created man and woman “in his image” (cf. Gn 1:27), the Bible adds that he entrusted to them the task of dominating the earth (cf. Gn 1:28). This was the last day of creation (cf. Gn 1:28-31). On the previous days, marking as it were the rhythm of the birth of the cosmos, Yahweh had created the universe. Finally he created the human being, the noblest fruit of his design, to whom he subjected the visible world as a vast field in which human inventiveness might assert itself.

God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman's task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power. Obviously, this is a sharing which leaves intact the infinite distance between the Creator and the creature, as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa made clear: “Creative art, which it is the soul's good fortune to entertain, is not to be identified with that essential art which is God himself, but is only a communication of it and a share in it”.(1)
He talks about the special vocation of the artist:
In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history. In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth. Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.
After reading how a "work becomes a unique disclosure of [an artist's] being", I wonder about a person that would present rubbish as art. Is there nothing more than rubbish within that person, or do they think they are not capable of anything more?

Ultimately, I think that a society that produces rubbish as art, is not only trying to degrade man and destroy culture, but, is trying to separate man from God. Trying to make us forget that we have been called to eternal unity with the divine, through making us forget how to live that promise. In other words, this type of art calls human beings to death, not life.

Related Link: Is this award-winning creation art or trash? ~ NZ Herald

Side trip: ZenTiger - Why Define Art?

6 comment(s):

ZenTiger said...

The story is even worse at second glance. The "artist" emailed his instructions - dump some rubbish on the floor. So, some-one else did the work. Even that action says something about the gullibility of the judge.

It's also a huge insult to those that put their creative energy into the competition.

PS: I think you'd have a better chance of winning if you entitled your half eaten bowl of soup "Donation to the poor".

Lucia Maria said...


I'd probably have to put preservative in it so that it wouldn't succumb to mould and maybe spray it with something solid so no one tips it out by mistake!

I missed that part about the instructions to tip rubbish on the ground. At that rate, I could do the same. Ask them to preserve a half eaten bowl of soup from the cafeteria as my winning entry. I can see it now...

I.M Fletcher said...

Paul Henry did a big segment about this on Close Up last night, even questioning someone who awarded the prize. She tried to defend it with all this babble about the artist and his intent etc.

Later, Henry dumped his own wheelie bin of rubbish on the floor which actually ended up looking better than the "art" in question.

The whole thing is ridiculous.
If I were the other artists in the competition, I'd all band together and demand they take the money back.

MathewK said...

I couldn't believe it when i saw it. But that's the art world for you, plenty of useless parasites over there.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear Lucia! Conspiracy?
"We may as well be no more than animals, and in the communist mindset, to be disposed of as such when no longer necessary or in the way of progress."

"I think the purpose is more sinister. Pretending rubbish is art is a way of degrading man, ..."

One thing I do agree with you and Cresswell on, is the increasing use of 'shock marketing'. That is, the use of provocative or shocking events/displays/actions to get attention and draw the punters through curiousity, consequently keeping the cash register ringing. Truly repulsive marketing.

An early example in NZ was Te Papa - the national museum/gallery - with the 'Virgin in a condom' exhibition. Shock a sector of society (Christians, Muslims & Jews) and prove how cutting edge you are to those outside the targeted group, then collect the door sales...

A good guide is - if an artist cannot explain what they intended by an artwork, then it ain't art! This doesn't mean the artist has to explain the art prior to or concurrent to it's display, just that at some stage they should be able to say what they wanted to convey. Real artists should have no problem with this (especially after display), in my view. Sorts out the poseurs who just say 'what does it mean to you?'

Anonymous said...

P.S. Let your half-eaten bowl of mushroom soup with the 'Donation to the poor' sign go mouldy - it will reveal the heartlessness of the capitalist donor (judges hiss - they only give *mouldy* food to the poor...). Surefire winner then ;) hehe

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