Back in 10th grade, my world history teacher, Dr. Klug (also a philosophy teacher), proposed this question to the class:
What is art?
I didn't really think that much of that question until I hit college when I took my first real art course. I was exposed to some things that are called art that would not be accepted by mainstream society, yet, are hailed as among the top creative works in the world of art.
One of the field trips I took with the foundations class last year (in fact, it was the FIRST ONE) was to PS1 during its "Into Me/Out of me" exhibition. For those not familiar with the show, it mainly involved every single way you can interact with the human body, from food consumption to rape to self mutilation (a lot of self mutilation, in fact). The term phrase scarred for life does not do justice to what I felt that day. My artistic cherry was popped and it felt like a little bit of me died that day. Was THIS art?
One of the culprits that contributed to one of my inner children's death was Vito Acconci. One of his video pieces was being screened. I won't divulge the full details, but it involves him, a bathtub full of blood, a knife, and an oblong object dangling in his hands. I can't find that video (not that I would want to), but this is but a sample of the stuff Vito's done (caution: mature subject matter)
So this is art?
To me, this is a class of art I call Conceptual Art, I can't just call it Art because, to me, art is something that looks like it takes actual skill to produce. Art is something that you spend years learning how to make
Anyways, back to Vito.
Vito recently visited UMass Amherst (last Thursday/Friday, in fact) and I opted to go to the free 10:00 PM informal grad student art critique. I wanted to tell him how much I HATE his video work and how any idiot with a camera could make it and that it takes absolutely no skill whatsoever to make what he made. I wanted to call him out as an artist, right then and there, in front of the 20 other people there.
But I couldn't.
If you've seen any of Vito's architectural work, you'll know how brilliant he really is. And when he spoke to critique the grad student's work, I got the sense that he really knew what he was talking about. Why does a design have to be this way? This thing feels more like a human parking garage, what's the function of it? He knew how to look beyond the aesthetics and to bare down on the CONCEPT and the REASON behind the work.
I went tog go shake his hand afterwards. This is Vito pulling out the mace:
None of my pictures came out that great that night. The lighting in the art studio was hideous (go figure).
I believe that ART is the result of a solid concept executed with an expert's talent. Yes, you can make a statement on the fragility of art by smashing in a window with a hammer, but ANYONE can do that. At the same time, you can make a photo-realistic charcoal drawing of a still life, but since it has no meaning, it's a one trick horse; you look at it once and it's done. But take those glass shards and arrange the Mona Lisa, or draw that still life 359 more times and post it all in a row around a room, and you'll have a piece of art. Art, in my opinion, must be both aesthetic as well as thought provoking.
And I can thank Vito for that enlightenment.
...Now can I burn your film/video reels and tape it as my own art piece?