Friday, July 14, 2006

On art

I attended an opening at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria last night. I had never been to an opening before, and I expected to see a lot of pretentious people, but then I realized that pretension is not necessarily something you “see.” You'd never know that Frasier and Niles Crane ooze pretension unless you had heard them in conversation. So, since I didn’t talk to anyone except my girlfriend, I couldn’t tell you how many people in attendance were, in fact, pretentious.

(“Pretentious” is spelt with a “t” instead of an “s.” Now that’s pretentious.)

The exhibit is called “Safety Equipment for Small Animals.” Bill Burns created and built it with a small team of helpers. He’s mostly bald and wore an open black sweater over a closed red sweater which was tucked into his pants. He speaks with a weird accent, clears his throat frequently and leaves long pauses in the middle of his sentences. He lives in Toronto. I didn’t like his work very much.

Art galleries are strange. Whenever I’m at one, I analyze everything – not just the paintings and sculptures, but also the lighting, the stairways, the water fountains, everything. I know very little about art, since I’ve never read a book about it and don’t expect to in the near future, so I’m never quite sure if my reads are any good.

The main problem is that at an art gallery, I’m never sure what’s art and what’s not. The theory of postmodernism that says “anything can be art,” has created a sort of post-Warholian syndrome. “What’s bad is good!” “What’s ugly is beautiful!” “What’s mundane is fascinating!” So why shouldn’t I spend half an hour staring at the snack machine?

I guess it's a question of objectivity. If I know nothing about art and anything can be art, then how do I distinguish between what's good and bad? Can I make distinctions without the historical and cultural knowledge of the critics? Does my virginity as a critic make me a purer judge of what is good and what is not? Or does my ignorance as a critic render my opinion irrelevant?

6 Comments:

Blogger clifford d said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:14 AM  
Blogger clifford d said...

Don't you mean: "Bill Burns created and built it with a small team of hipsters."

11:15 AM  
Blogger Leaf said...

you're practically Victoria high society these days

6:07 PM  
Blogger snoop said...

matt and i went to taste some chardonnay in niagara and we had no idea what the guy was talking about the whole time, but we just kept nodding and smiling. upon leaving the store, we both turned to each other and said "what was he talking about?" we're going again to niagara this year, this time for a wine tour. hopefully we'll learn something this time.

3:36 PM  
Blogger snoop said...

"i always pretend to be pretentious by going to these high society things, but really sometimes i just enjoy a burger and a beer at a bar. like this one time, matt and i went to niagara...."
that was supposed to be the preamble in my previous comment :/

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:46 PM  

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