Beating the Bounds – Grayson Perry

“…the quality most valued in the art world is seriousness.” 

An artist’s process, experience, knowledge, idea, technique, dedication, etc. are all things that I consider fall within this “seriousness”. I am very skeptical in believing that just anything is art, so instantly I find that I agree with Perry’s remark and his general perspective about art.

I think it is such a hard task to fully take a side in the battle between traditional art and contemporary art. Like Perry, I am much more attached to traditional art, but I find myself doubting whether it is more “real” just because I prefer it or if art and its definition are meant to evolve just as other things are evolving.

Perry discusses this almost limitless definition of what contemporary art is:

Does the artist say it is art? Artists use this as a way of creating controversy and surprise, such as Duchamp with his urinal, because they are showing the public something they were not expecting to see and it makes them appreciate something they wouldn’t normally have. I imagine that when these bold declarations where first being made, it created such a reaction in the public that the work immediately rose up to the status of art. I can understand why this tactic worked, but it is becoming so common that I now consider it a cheap trick.

Is it in a gallery? I’ve always thought that galleries exist as places that the public can rely on to enjoy curated art (I might compare it to libraries as places to find books). What is happening is the opposite; artists are taking advantage of galleries in order to give their work the label of art and make it worthy of the public’s attention. I don’t think this is either a good or bad thing, but it is definitely changing the meaning of galleries and museums.

Is it made by an artist? Gombrich said that “There is no such thing as art. Only artists.” I can understand where he comes from with this statement and I might, at a first glance, agree with it. However, I also believe that not everything an artist does is art and not every artwork has to have been made by what we define as an artist.

By far my favorite part of Perry’s podcast is the “rubbish dump” test. Basically, if you place an artwork in a pile of rubbish and still notice it and wonder why it’s there, then it’s not just part of the rubbish. I personally relate to this because while I was studying in art school, one student collected trash (broken furniture and sculptures, pieces of wood and scrap, discarded objects, etc.) painted it all white, piled it up, and appropriately named it “White Trash”. While I could admire the wit of the piece, I could never really bring myself to see it as art.

In conclusion, I think Perry’s lecture offers a lot to think about of our definition of contemporary art and the way that the who, what, where and how are able to make just anything an artwork.

Beating the Bounds – Grayson Perry: Playing to the Gallery: 2013

 

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