Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise once said: "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." And I think that's a rather apt description of my blog over the years, and perhaps the most perfect description of me in general that I've ever read. So that's what this blog is, a collection of the falling stars that are beckoning me at any time.

22 April 2008

never going to be popular, but possibly the only art that's going to change us

Too many people, I think, think that the purpose of art is to look pretty, and that things that are ugly and inhumane or really at their depths show us the ugly and profane and inhumanness of humanity are not art. I saw that there's a facebook group to protest an artist whose art installation was a sick, starving and dying dog tied to a gallery wall. Many people apparently claim that the dog did starve to death, but other reports are that the dog was merely a very ill looking stray, was fed regularly while the exhibition wasn't open and escaped back to the streets after a few days. Either way a lot of people claim that this isn't art, just some sick inhumane man getting sport off an animals suffering. Really? Didn't this man's turning a spotlight on the miserable lives of stray animals? Didn't it pose intriguing questions about the nature of people who view the suffering and obviously pitiable condition of a living thing which was less fortunate, not of their own caste (situation) and whose condition that they could at any time have done something to improve (untied the rope and removed the dog to food and a vet) but chose not to because their interest was only served to look and pity and never to act? That methaphorically that dog was not only a dog, but the poor, the ill, the disenfranchised, the persecuted in any society whose lives we could all easily improve and show compassion for, but don't because to take action we would have to act differently than the rest of the group?

And what of the people who sign these petitions decrying the artist, so maybe some of them donate a couple of bucks to a charity for strays in Central America, do any of them really get what the artist was saying, would they really care about the dog or other dogs like him if it weren't for this man's exhibit? Would they even know about the plight of strays in Central America in the first place? Would they have taken time to look for a charity to give to if not for the way that this exhibit provoked them and challenged them to look outside their idea that somehow everyone on earth cared enough about stray dogs to save them from conditions that were deplorable?

The point of art is to challenge our notions, to give us sometimes surprising insights into things we over-looked or took for granted about things. It's to affect us in some way and say something. It is not merely to look pretty and show us the good and beautiful things. Personally I am absolutely convinced that this man's work is a piece of art. If it horrifying and ugly and repellent? Sure. Of course it is, but so is the fact that everyday millions of dogs and cats live that horrible existence and no one even looks at them let alone tries to save them. Here is a man who says, hey, don't ignore this dog, see how he is suffering. (though I do seriously hope that the reports that the dog was fed when the gallery was closed are true, sometimes you don't need the utmost of reality to get your point across.) Plus, Animal Planet makes a pretty penny in advertising $ with all their Animal Cops shows where viewers just sit and watch images of horrible animal cruelty so that they can get a jolt from saying how much they can't believe anyone could treat an animal like that and sometimes get a cathartic release seeing the person responsible arrested. It's not quite the same as standing there watching a dog suffer, but it's still a voyeuristic and somewhat sick form of entertainment.

In the end the ugly, nasty, and confrontation provoking art is probably the only art that has the power to change the world. We fight over its right to exist at all and yet we're never going to save ourselves and others from looking at a bowl of fruit and some flowers.

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