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Art Safari: Season 1

I highly recommend Ben Lewis’ Art Safari series. Its not all that new and so far I have just watched the first season but it got me thinking about how the art world seemed to be once again a little ahead of the curve and not necessarily in a good way.

This dovetailed nicely with a book I just finished – Digital Vertigo.

This is another one of the many books expressing concern about the unexamined embrace of new technology but a cut above most of them.

One of the themes in the book is that information is increasingly sought through social media rather than authoritative sites. While it is nice to be able to poll your peers about things it is also a recipe for diminishing the role of evidence in decision making and where there used to be reasoned debate the interchange is more often reduced to moronic ad hominem attacks.

The way this ties into the art scene is how art at the time of the series survey was moving toward what was called relational aesthetic. This was described as mostly installation art focussing on interaction with spectators (in one case the piece was cooking food, serving it and displaying and sometimes selling the dirty dishes). While amusing it strikes me as a little too ephemeral and inconsequential to pose as art unless you seriously devalue art or unless you are solely concerned with playing with definitions rather than trying to add to the world.

In other words, again authority is taking a back seat to pure participation. Dumbing down.

The other thing that was interesting the series was that the interviewer/producer Lewis, is well versed in theory and knowledge but also asks pertinent down to earth questions about intentions. Some of the artists produced visually striking work but refused to articulate their reasons. In some cases it seemed as though they preferred to remain enigmatic (to be kind perhaps some might not want to influence the viewer) but in others it seemed as though they themselves had no real intentions at all and some said that it was what it was and that was all (in which case why bother….if the art was just a couple of lamps and nothing more than it was just a couple of lamps). One of these was Gregor Schneider, whose works were both unique and striking and yet he might as well have been a mute.

One exception was Matthew Barney who produced the astounding Cremaster 5 part video which reminded me a little of the Bunuel/Dali films and a little of Guy Madden, a strikingly unique and challenging work. And he could talk about it intelligently. (Perhaps it is no mistake that he is Byork’s partner, one of the most articulate cutting edge musicians).

Overall, though Art safari is worth seeking out – smart, thoughtful, entertaining and informative.

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