April 17th, 2007
why art sucks


I have spent the morning doing interviews, the first of many in the next while. Those of the email variety are very time consuming, I find i must limit the amount of them I do so I can get my own work done. while I enjoy doing them as it helps me articulate my process but I must admit I am not one for reading anything in ‘question and answer’ format. I am not sure why this is, never could read plays either. I will only do it if it’s someone I really want to know about. I think it’s because it’s a rather unnatural format, and the ones that are the most successful become conversation more than an interview. a back and forth dialogue.
I have come to understand that I cringe at the mention of the word “art”. what is it this thing that we keep talking about? Actually it’s more than cringing, there is a phyisical sensation combined with a realization that I want nothing to do with it whatsoever. It’s been like this for the last couple of years and I’m only now figuring out why through doing these interviews.
When we talk about art we are often referring to a finished product of sorts, a painting, a sculpture, a book, a documentation of something, the medium that the ‘artist’ has used to capture an experience. This is probably just a semantical issue, have we confused the medium with the message? It is my belief that it is actually the experience of life that inspires the work which is the art. All to often I think people focus too much on the medium, which in my opinion is kind of irrelevant. Not kind of, completely. The real question to me is, “what inspired someone to express themselves?” What is the idea? The artist needs to ask the question, “What moves me?” not “should i use red or blue?”
I am not saying that there is not work where the medium is integral to the expression, but only that it is not really the main focus for me in terms of communicating an idea. I am enjoying contemplating that idea that there is no such thing as a finished piece of “art”, this is just an illusion created by a world that connects it with commerce and turns it into a commodity. Can anyone ever sell an idea? or a process? is it possible?
i am more inclined to take thoreau’s perspective that “art” might be more about “painting the very atmosphere and medium through which we look” than a physical manifiestation.
for an installation piece i would like to see a large room with people engaged in really mundane acts. tying shoes, feeding a baby, eating chips, washing the floor.
or maybe that defeats my point. maybe better to just do those things and call them art.
or just go about living and not call it anything.
Art, then, is an increase of life, a sort of competition of surprises that stimulates our conciousness and keeps it from becoming somnolent.” ~Gaston Bachelard (fr. the poetics of space)

Apr 17 2007
11:56 am
Maile writes:

Thank you for that beautiful reminder, Keri. I’m going to go take a shower–call it what you will :)

Apr 17 2007
12:05 pm
JW writes:

Laugh out loud for no reason. Think of one later (if you want).

Apr 17 2007
12:31 pm
oh! & more writes:

To have lived a life of any amount or kind
is to have created art
If that life has been but one breath
it has uniquely been your own
the essence
the medium
the product.

Apr 17 2007
12:31 pm
oh! & more writes:

To have lived a life of any amount or kind
is to have created art
If that life has been but one breath
it has uniquely been your own
the essence
the medium
the product.

Apr 17 2007
1:26 pm
eb writes:

sometimes
the residue
the resultant container
allows for the dwelling
of a quality,
an essence
a small shrine
for a slightly larger
experience,
hope,
directive -
a finger pointing
remembering the moon.
xox – eb.

Apr 17 2007
2:05 pm
emily writes:

I want to engage with this honestly (i.e. I’m entering the conversation and not attacking). I find this view to be very Platonic, very anti-embodiment and anti-physicality, which is exactly the opposite of living life daily and physically. I do think the everyday objects of life and the everyday objects of art (which must be a discipline in itself if we are to respect the work that artists do and the energy and skill they develop – often on our behalf) are important. The choice of red or blue gives embodiment to that inspiration – it affirms the importance of the everyday objects of our lives, and indeed of our own bodies – it says that we do not just live in our minds or our spirits but in bodies and in a world of mediums and objects. It tells us that just as a color or a particular object is helpful to express an inspiration, it is also good in and of itself – string is good b/c it is string, and the artist can remind us of this (so can the cook or the laundry-washer, but they are a cook and laundry-washer and not an artist, and naming those things for what they are gives honor to those tasks as well, rather than calling them “art” which somehow says that doing the laundry is not good enough as it is – it has to be called something that is more palatable to us, something we consider important). This view you express about art, in its working out, seems the exact opposite of what you usually affirm and the opposite of the installation piece you mentioned. Anyhow, those are my thoughts on art these days – I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Thanks for your posts – they are good! I like what you’re doing.

Apr 17 2007
2:13 pm
JW writes:

To we of similar styles (as recognized through your podcast):
money is hard to use — barter can be easily spread;
SO non-linear–read Edward de Bono—yield “OH, now I get it (me)”;
a fervent request–seeking the author and titles of “the use of the one book” organizing method.My brain is crowded and loud, my journal (and notebook and calendar and sketchbook and other (many)journals are barely used,my eyes are glazed, etc. etc. Please help. (will barter for major organizing tip)

Apr 17 2007
3:15 pm
kerrip writes:

As usual with your observations, I found myself nodding – that the medium is at best secondary, to the experience and thoughts that inspire it. Is art then, the process, engaging us and inspiring us to interpret? Is the act of interpretation the actual art? the act rather than the product…
but then I came to your question…
“Can anyone ever sell and idea? or a process? is it possible?”
Perhaps I am taking these questions to literally, but isn’t that how we (and you) make our living??

Apr 17 2007
3:51 pm
kristine writes:

Wow! Great insight. I am really struck by what you have said here. What you have said here about “art” speaks stronger than any question I ever could have asked. You and my husband share some similar responses in this regard so I read this to him and watched him nod his head in agreement. I agree with you on many levels as well and I’m glad that the course of events in your life came about to cause you to write today’s post.

Apr 17 2007
4:16 pm
Megan writes:

This is why I read your blog. Bravo.

Apr 17 2007
4:24 pm
Mary writes:

Keri,
I’ve been reading for about 6 months now, but haven’t ever left a comment. As I see it, the post-modern move beyond the Platonic/Aristotelian dichotomy can leave either a feeling of emptiness (art is imitation and so is life) or of plenitude (art permeates life). Unfortunately, a glass can be half empty and half full. In any case, your reflections on the nature of art have left me with more things to think about. This is exactly why I’ve bestowed on you a thinking blogger award. You can read the post about it on my blog, which is mostly about cooking, a practice that is undeniably both art and everyday life. You can participate if you wish to and pass the award on to others, or just bask in your glory, for the award is yours to keep.
Mary
http://www.ceresandbacchus.com
P.S. Can I be the person who eats the potato chips for art’s sake?

Apr 17 2007
8:02 pm
patricia writes:

This is a fascinating topic, and I really do like your approach to the definition of art (or whatever you want to call it). There is a lot of ‘stuff’ that goes on in an artists head before it comes out in whatever form the artists choses. But how can we ever begin to capture or understand each creator’s process or inspiration?
I’m just curious where the kind of work I create would fit in this perspective. I draw cartoons and humorous illustrations, most of the time (because it is how I earn my living), a means to an end – there is a ‘product’ created at the end of my projects, be it a book, a comic strip or a spot illustration. The work I do is commercial, but I love it, and I must confess that I get really annoyed when ‘artistes’ turn their noses up at what I create, because it is commercial. As far as I am concerned, it is art. But now maybe it isn’t? I work usually very quickly, more of a gut reaction, very emotional, and I honestly can’t even begin to describe what goes on iside my head when I create a cartoon or an illustration. All I can really say is that this is who I am, and I feel most like myself when I am doing this, and that it feels so very, very good.
Anyway, you’ve got me thinking, and I like that. Thanks.

Apr 17 2007
8:02 pm
rosa writes:

I’ve had this discussion before of what we should consider “art” to be. I agree with you that art is more about the thought, the process, the idea, than about the outcome and if it’s “pretty” or well executed. And then there’s the people who say it’s all about the context, weather you see it in a museum, a magazine or on the street.
I’ve been leaving art out in the world once every week since last august, I was interested in the reaction it would get, to me here’s where the real “art” experience happens, when you see this “finished project” that hopefully wakes you up from the never ending routine. but it really is all about context. People don’t see. they navigate through their days, I attribute this lack of interest to the advertisements out there, these things that could be art, but have a private agenda. They are aboslutely everywhere, there’s too much visual noise, so it seems people need to be told what they are looking at and that it could be worth their time.
It did started a movement of sorts, but with other artists in the internet who joined the project. I’m still hopeful the pieces won’t end up all in the trash. A few of them haven’t, anyway.

Apr 17 2007
8:11 pm
ymke writes:

I do not agree with U that it is the art that sucks, but more the expectation of a person that is not involved in the process of creating it and also the whole fuzz around what ‘ART’ according the world should be. Yes, during the experience of living/creating there is often a ‘finished’ product; it only shows a small piece of the process,often the only thing left for the spectator while the creator is still continuing on the path. I think you are a good example of (partly) showing this/your process to the world through your writing and creating. It seems to me that you, yourself are gradually moving on the path of ‘selling’ processes and ideas, are you aware of that?
Thanks for the provoking post!

Apr 17 2007
8:42 pm
tricia writes:

keri, i’m a newbie to your blog and have really appreciated your take on life, but i think i’m with emily up there on this one. i think you’re equating art with beauty. life is beautiful, but it does not mean that it is art.

Apr 18 2007
2:10 am
jen writes:

Definitely the just “go about living and not call it anything” choice.

Apr 18 2007
3:59 am
kenya writes:

i once knew a lovely gal from Java who said that Balinese have many “words” for art … that it’s like Eskimos and snow, no one word will do as art is such a part of daily life.
that sounds gorgeous and life inclusive to me.
as a recovering marketeer, i have catalogued and categorized so much … buckets, we called them. why? to make projects evolve more efficiently. efficiency schmefficiency.
is separating “art” from “non-art” really the goal? perhaps just encouraging dirty hands, challenged minds and creative gravitas …
thanks for getting the wheels going!

Apr 18 2007
7:05 am
eb writes:

I come here almost every morning – I love this discussion and the frequent encounters with the unexpected – I can agree, disagree or wonder about it for awhile – good brain yoga – I have enjoyed this particular conundrum and the commentary that it has generated – thanks so much
now about a container for these feelings about Virginia Tech?
xox – eb.

Apr 18 2007
9:29 am
Marilyn writes:

This may or may not have a place in this discussion (who’s to tell?) but one of my personal pet peeves in the blogosphere is when people start labeling themselves “creative bloggers” (or something similar)…as if the ONLY creativity in the blogosphere is exhibited by those who share a delight in certain visually artistic pursuits (painting, collaging, scrapbooking, etc.) I appreciate what people create–I really do–I just get tired of feeling like so many have such a very narrow view of ‘creativity.’ That’s just one of the reasons I love your Wreck This Journal project so much. I find great beauty in some of the stuff I’ve seen there…and some really great art.

Apr 18 2007
10:06 am
Beth writes:

I also find it tedious to read ‘question and answer’ type interviews. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because it seems to me like a lazy way of writing for the author. It usually doesn’t allow for a lot of interesting turns of words. I hadn’t thought about this until I read it here in your blog.

Apr 18 2007
10:08 am
Beth writes:

I also find it tedious to read ‘question and answer’ type interviews. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because it seems to me like a lazy way of writing for the author. It usually doesn’t allow for a lot of interesting turns of words. I hadn’t thought about this until I read it here in your blog.

Apr 18 2007
9:17 pm
Stephanie writes:

Thoreau’s perspective on many things are a comfort to read. Leo Tolstoy, on the other hand, might have agreed wholeheartedly that art sucks, and he wrote a book arguing what he though art was and wasn’t (and how art and beauty do and don’t relate to each other.)
The book title: What Is Art? by Leo Tolstoy

Apr 22 2007
6:00 pm
Deb writes:

The way you feel about art is how I feel about exercise.
I always want my kids to believe EVERYTHING they do is ART…..important and a WORK OF ART, even if they or anyone else doesn’t think so. All their crafts or pictures or collections are important, I have a negative connotation with the word work. It seems like work is something we HAVE to do, not choose joyfully to partake in…..
is that what you mean?

Apr 25 2007
3:05 am
shelley Noble writes:

“It is my belief that it is actually the experience of life that inspires the work which is the art.”
Brilliant. I’ve had thoughts running in this direction but you put it most clearly. A valuable quote, Keri, thank you.
Love the quote later on the door too.


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