Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ars gratia arseholes

Long-suffering British art afficionados are of course all too familiar with the antics of pseudo-artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Hirst’s dismembered cows and Emin’s slapper-beds sell for absurd sums while genuine art gathers dust and contempt in equal measure. Typical of the genre is Hirst’s seminally trite and awful “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, the sole redeeming feature of which is that it put a shark permanently out of circulation.

Across the Channel, however, they’re still getting the hang of how to generate headlines and whopping commissions from such carefully contrived insolence. Struggling artist Mr David Cerny, a Czech gentleman, has brought to bear that perfect combination of German charm and Slavic finesse for which his nation is famed to create a shameless and bare-faced rip-off of Hirst’s “Physical Impossibility”, only with Saddam Hussein suspended in the formaldehyde in place of the shark. And so Europe’s art, like its politics and demographics, continues to circle the bowl.

Sadly, in his choice of theme Mr Cerny has revealed himself to be too obviously a rank amateur. The whole point of Brit Art is to gratuitously disgust and offend only those who are too civilized to shoot you six times and then hack your head off with a knife. It’s difficult to imagine what sort of reaction he could have been expecting. Why not just go the whole hog and make the figure in the tank Mohammed? Not enough room for all the wives?

Fortunately for him, however, he chose to offer this masterpiece for display in Belgium, whose leaders are famed for leading from the front in defence of Western Civilization, waving their traditional white battleflag. Predictably, they promptly pulled the plug on the exhibition on the grounds that children might see it, and not, for example, because they feared for their miserable chocolate-fattened hides.

Tasteless savages that they are, it simply didn’t occur to them throw it out on the grounds that it is laughable rubbish.

Mr Cerny’s oeuvre, yesterday. Perhaps fortuitously, his skills are as mediocre as his inspiration, so the figure in the tank looks nothing like Saddam Hussein. But at least now we know what happened to Yosser Hughes


R. Sherman said...

A quick comment before I leave to worship at a church, the foundational documents of which offend Arians, Valentinians, Eunomians, Muslims, Catholics and Baptists:

Well said.


Anonymous said...

The continued existence of people like Hirst and Emin is a subtle revenge of art history, an ironic twist most of them are too dim to perceive. The European avantgarde in art started off as a juvenile, exasperated attempt d'epater le bourgeois, on account of the latter's hopeless phylistinism. After about a century of trying to shock the bourgeois into genuine artistic sensibility, we have reached the point where only ignorant phylistines like Charles Saatchi buy their sub-articulate patchwork. The return to petty-mindedness of modern art is complete. When, in the past, we had Balzac's entrepreneurs to buy neo-classical mediocrity and Hyppolite Taine to justify their purchases, now we have people like Saatchi and the moronic BBC writer who reports, with a straight face: "Mr Cerny is an anti-conformist artist." Hirst and Co. now depend for their very existence on the people they were supposed to mortally offend in the first place. I see it as a superb demonstration of the infinite adaptability of capitalism. A similar phenomenon can be discerned in the transformation of Che Guevara from hapless Argentinian quack into a print on red t-shirts.

Note how Damien H. commits a category mistake in naming his contraption: "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living". Actually, physical impossibility solely applies to the order of things, or outer objects. In the mind, you only have logical, or conceptual impossibility. But I guess expecting someone like Hirst to make sense would be hopelessly bourgeois, again--meaning and rationality surely belong to an obsolete era, when white guys used to run the show uncontested. O, tempora! O, mores!


Ivan the Terrible said...

The only positive I can see from the likes of Hirst and Emin is the way they soak up the disposable income of morons like the Saatchis. God only knows what they'd do with it otherwise. Give it to New Labour, probably. I'll take a pickled shark anyday...

PI said...

This looks remarkably like our highly respected Lord Robert Winston.
Givr me Rembrandt's 'Polish Rider' any day of the week.
As for Emin and Hirst - I never did like smelly things. I'm referring to their oeuvre of course.

Ivan the Terrible said...

Lord Robert is indeed a good match. And when you consider that he and Saddam were never seen together, a disturbing and sinister pattern emerges. But surely Saddam didn't need a British peer as a double, when he had practically the entire population of Liverpool to choose from?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Is this another example of "conceptual art" or is that something different? I read an interview with Jeff Koons in which the fellow actually admitted he was no good at art. His skill was supposedly in coming up with "concepts", like getting someone to photograph him buggering his wife (La Cicciolina). She's a good-hearted woman, though, and had the good sense to divorce Koons.

Anonymous said...

"Conceptual art" is a bit of a contradiction in terms, but I suspect the notion (the "concept") behind it is that the artistic medium and form don't matter any longer--what gives conceptual art its aesthetic value (if any) is the concept, or message, it conveys.

But, as someone smarter than me used to say, if you want to send a message, go to Western Union.


JPW said...

What else can I say but Bravo!

infidelharlot said...

Plenty of room for the wives, 9 year olds don't take up much room.

Aunty Marianne said...

Word is it's now being exhibited somewhere in Ostend, which serves Ostend right, I say.

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