Friday, 1 April 2011

A Fool for Thought

I had it all planned out. I was going to write a fantastically persuasive feature about a new crazy art-form, piece or installation. I was going to linger over hyperbolic phrasing and relish the rainbow-coloured tightrope that separates the ridiculous from reality.
Sitting on the beach with a notebook I positioned myself pretentiously, ready for implausible inspiration to strike. I would write about visual art gone off the hook, theatre heading into a new stage, dance leaping onto new ground and comedy - well- just putting the joke on us.
The article would test the waters of the absurd and it would be published on Friday morning, at 00:01. Flirting with the far-fetched, it would fool you all.
Then I realised that, like a plastic spider on a string, the ridiculousness of modern art is a joke that is no longer funny. We've had excrement in a can and theatre in a swimming pool. We have persuaded ourselves that four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence is a delicious ode to absence. We have known for decades that art can linger in stacked tins in a supermarket. More recently, the Rotozaza performance company have shown us that the supermarket itself can be rich performance space.
It has got to the point where being able to appreciate the preposterous (or at least blag it!) has become an essential skill for every cultural connoisseur. So when he joked about the current state of affairs ahead of the arts cuts this week, comedian Stephen Merchant unwittingly provided the key to change: “We’re going to wake up one day and find our greatest artistic achievement is a dancing dog on Britain’s Got Talent.' If a red square, an unmade bed and a urinal can be art, so too can man's best friend. So today, rather than joke about, we should use our infinite ability to raise the reception of a creative piece as the boost to the arts that funding cannot give. With the ability to engage our critical minds, we can turn this dog into a victory.
Here's what some leading critics had to say:
  • 'The dog on stage is the ultimate representation of man's inability to cope at the centre of the world as the only conscientious being. Thus, this challenging work represents a resignation of power and a troubling acknowledgement of the artist's limitations.'
          Julian Rover, Art Crittercism' Express
  • 'In celebrating the dog, we are aligning ourselves with the culture of the Ancient Egyptians. By ironically placing the dog on the stage, we are opening up a forum for the idolisation of old gods. Of course, it is not accidental that 'god' is 'dog' spelt backwards. In looking back in order to witness great deities and in embracing history and popular culture in one fair swoop, this is an insightful take on human subjectivity.'
          Arthur Ruhtra, The Complications of Our Screens: A Discussion of What Remains to be Viewed
  • 'As we stand on dance-floors with arms self-consciously pinned to our sides, the dog echoes urban society's concern about animalising ourselves through dance. A troubling commentary on an age of technological anonymity and de-liberalisation, the dog tells us we can never quite go back to our true and natural selves.'
          Louis Barker, The Couture Show
This April, join art.IS in turning the joke around. We'd like to invite you to provide the analysis that turns rubbish into critically acclaimed wonders and contribute more to raise the profile of the arts than the Arts Council ever could. Maybe then we'll be able to afford a genuine German shepherd in time for the Nativity.

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