Art, if nothing else, is experimental by nature. It encourages new ways to perceive traditional archetypal stories, holds the powerful to account and provides a window into the most obscure depths of a person’s psychology. Modern Art, on the other hand, seems to embrace superficiality and incoherence, whilst the modern artist crosses their fingers behind their backs and prays that nobody sees what they have created for the vacuous idiocy that it is. For the modern artist, the more confused they leave their viewers or their audience, the more profound their work of Art must be. Or, perhaps that is how they help themselves sleep at night.
Take the example of Milo Moire’s “Plopegg” wherein a performance artist (I prefer the expression ‘deranged naked pervert’, or DNP, for short) stands before an audience in nothing but her birthday suit. In complete silence, Moire stands on a raised platform and drops eggs out of her vagina. How stunning and brave. Or take a look at a piece of performance art by Casey Jenkins called: ‘Casting Off My Womb’. In some vague attempt to break down the taboo surrounding female genitals (Or something to that effect), Casey spent twenty-eight days knitting from pieces of wool that she had inserted into her vagina. While her intentions may have been pure, I’m not too sure what discussion is going to be opened by this particular work.
Contemporary artists have very little choice but to reduce art to such a silly, absurd and utterly incomprehensible project
I mean, if such gratuitous, superficial and pretentious behaviour is all it takes to become a successful performance artist then perhaps I should get in on the game. How about I create my own equally nonsensical work of art called ‘Drinking my Shame’. I could fill several bottles with my own urine-in public, of course, it isn’t performance art without a gaggle of bemused onlookers-which I would then subsequently drink, whilst wearing my pyjamas, in order to raise awareness for…oh, I don’t know. Bedwetting, maybe?
Now let’s step away from the easily mocked practice of performance art and take a wider look at Modern Art as a whole.
I think the problem at the root of Modern Art – or Postmodern Art, because that’s what we are really talking about here – is that it was too successful. To simplify the problem to its most basic level, the Avant-Garde emerged victorious. The Postmodernist putsch pushed its way to the top. The experimental artists, the mischievous, outrages types that sought to play with the distinctions between high and low art won in the end. They just don’t realise it yet, for some reason. With the boundaries separating the Avant-Garde from more traditional works of art obliterated, it didn’t take long for the Avant-Garde to become the tradition. Thus, to rebel against the wacky, experimental anti-art art of old, contemporary artists have very little choice but to reduce art to such a silly, absurd and utterly incomprehensible project that anything that might have made it ‘Art’ in the first place has ceased to exist.
Who are you to draw a line between what constitutes art and what doesn’t?
Let’s take a quick glance at a case study from southern Italy. A cleaner mistakenly threw away artworks that were meant to be part of Sala Murat’s display. In the ensuing panic, the city’s marketing commissioner, Antonia Maria Vasile, had something very interesting to say: “It’s clear the cleaning person did not realise she had thrown away two works and their value. But this is all about the artists who have been able to better interpret the meaning of contemporary art, which is to interact with the environment”.
“This is all about the artist”. Only those enlightened geniuses have the power to “interpret” the meaning behind the contemporary Art. Ah, of course. Such interpretations are beyond the capabilities of peasants such as that unfortunate, unnamed cleaner. In their quest to break from tradition, the postmodern artists have only strengthened the traditional divide between the Artist and their audience-which might just have been the plan all along.
Oh but who are you to draw a line between what constitutes Art and what doesn’t? I can already hear the irate grumblings of my pretentious detractors. Alright, I’m nobody. Certainly nobody well educated in the history of Art, I’ll own up to that. If distinction truly is dead and literally anything has the potential to become a work of Art then I declare that the cleaner’s choice to throw away the bits of the Murat exhibit is a powerful and courageous example of Art, providing a scathing meta-commentary on the state of Modern Art. Indeed, I look forward to seeing their next piece, even after all these years. I am certain it will be a masterpiece.