Different For Different’s Sake

I am not a big fan of being different because you can. I always want reasons and I want them to make sense. Consequently, it took me a long time to appreciate abstract art, although I finally did decide that I enjoy some of it very much, however I am still someone who loves an artist who can reach out through simple, even mundane, means and create something that is more than its parts. I am very found of folk art, things made from found objects and hand made crafts.

Yes, I know, John Cage once came out to do a piano recital and sat at the bench in total silence for 30 minutes and called his performance “Silence” (this may not be accurate, but it was something like that). Then he got up and left. It was his idea that music was anything you defined it to be. The same argument has been running around the art world for decades. A completely blank canvas, framed and hung in a gallery or museum entitled “Openness” is the same kind of thing.

I am the person to suggest that people are only interested in things that they react to emotionally. If a blob of dried dog poop sitting in the middle of a big white room with a child’s toy bike in the corner is at a museum and the artist calls this “installation” “Eternal Red”, some people will be very impressed and maybe even spend $50,000 to purchase the poop, the bike and some paint, to take it home, especially if the artist provides his or her “inner reflections”. The art shows that the purchasers have good taste, that they are “with it”, that they are open to being adventurous, to being collectors of the new and innovative. It speaks to them, they relate to its message, they are incredibly impressed by the genius artist’s great vision.

I am not one of those people. I imagine in my mind the discussion that goes on in the mind of the artist.

“I think the dog poop will be a grounding influence, something that represents the smelly grungy side of life. The bike, of course, represents the light heartedness of childhood and the freedom that kids feel when they play. The bike is in the corner because it is on the sidelines in life. You walk and run more than you ride. The room is white because white represents terror at the level of the soul — the blinding light that overwhelms you in life and ends up making you feel like you live in a box. This is the Eternal Redness of being alive. I think that will be very powerful.”

Take a look at this: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/a-mountain-of-ai-wei-weis-sunflower-seeds-sells-for-560000/?ref=arts. Half a million dollars is a lot of money. Wonder what it would have meant to starving children or people who need clean water.

My general reaction to this kind of stuff is always the same: Oh PULEEZE.

When someone comes out on a stage in front of the public who has paid money to be in the seats and who is offering the performer their time (something for which there is no value), I expect the person out there to have something of import to say or do. I am not interested in people wearing weird outfits because they can, because it will be “outrageous”, because it is over the top. I am interested in whether or not the person who is up there singing, can. I do not think it takes any talent to put on an ugly costume, stand up and make unremarkable sounds over four chords with loud amplification. Even if you have great musicians, if all you can do is stand up there and squawk in some outfit, why bother? The answer is because you can as long as you have enough money to do what you want. If you have convinced others of your “incredible talent” and your “vision” because you look weird and sound bad, but you have the nerve to stand up there oblivious to your own complete lack of capacity, I guess that makes you at the very least a good con. Some people would say that’s an art, perhaps even the greater one.

If the art consuming public is too ignorant to know when they are being played, then they are.

As you can imagine from all this, last night I was at a performance in which two people who should have stayed home and watched TV had the unbelievable gaul to get up in front of a large audience and try to sing. The music they were attempting to make was banal and their appearance was, in the case of the female, clown-ish, and in the case of the male, straight off the run-down farm. They were surrounded by more talented people who partially camouflaged this paltry lack of actual ability but it was still insulting to have to sit there, knowing how many individuals who have oodles of actual talent never get the opportunity to do something of scale or importance, such as this venue provided.

I saw Blythe Danner last week on a talk show discussing how her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, went into show business on her own because she wanted to. She said the fact that she and her husband were both huge stars in show business had nothing what so ever to do with Gwyneth’s rise as a star. I’ve heard that argument so many times. The sons and daughters of the rich and famous also becoming rich and famous and yet the parents have nothing to do with it. Especially at the start of their careers. If you believe that, there’s this bridge in Brooklyn that I could sell you. It has lots of artistic value and will look great in your backyard.

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