The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

You’ve got to hand it to Hirst. He does come up with some really catchy titles for his… thingies. Britain’s richest living artist…

Whether we like it or not, we live in a post-modern world. But the question is, “What’s art?”

What is the definition of art? And who can define it? Does art have something to do with the means we use to express our beliefs? Is art about how or why? Or what?

Is it enough for the artist to call a dead shark “art” for it to be art?

 

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67 comments on “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

  1. nice & calm says:

    And what do you think, is it enough?

    • I'm not sure. I believe that art is supposed to provoke a reaction, to make people feel. Also, art has to transmit a message. A strong enough one that people will either agree or disagree with it.

      I'm a big fan of Pollock and Brancusi. Because I can't be indifferent. It asks for a response from my part… also I think modern art, especially abstract art, does offer more freedom. But, in the end, isn't it true that we can give any meaning to any piece of art?

      What I see in my works, as the artist, and what others see will rarely coincide.

      About this shark thingy. I think the title says it all. I raises a pretty deep question. How aware can you be about death? Can you understand death? Can you analyze it?

      Also his choice is intriguing. Why a shark? Why not a venomous spider or a snake? Why not a scorpion? Man has no natural enemies. Yeah, we've all got phobias and stuff, but some people aren't afraid of spiders or snakes. But I think that something as big as a shark demands respect. It's strong enough to tear you to shreds. There's no antidote for that. You can't kill a shark with your bare hands.

      That's what death is, isn't it? Something so strong that we can't defeat.

      But, you see, this shark is dead. He can no longer harm you. And it's a message there… man can defeat this beast. It's like a paradox. But the threat is still there. Death becomes an abstract notion. Maybe it can't harm you right now… but someday…

  2. Without giving my opinion on this, I would say, read Yasmina Reza's play Art for some insights into this rather complex topic.

  3. wordsaver says:

    I would call it "art" because it touch people and that is not a definition of art but it is it's purpose, that's for sure.

  4. neelkanth says:

    A very nice theme for thoughts.

  5. I think art is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it in the eye of the artist? Or both? Yup. Both.

  6. roweeee says:

    Whether or not you call it art, I'd much rather a dead shark than a live one. Being Australian and living at the beach, that shark is where it belongs…in an environmentally friendly way, of course! Back to the topic, defining what is and isn't art is a complex debate. I also wonder what makes someone an artist as well. In the end I decided that it's someone with artworks all over the house and paint or other art-making stuff stuck ion the fingertails, their hair, plastered over their clothes. Unless you are a freak of nature…a neat artist.

  7. Ian D Smith says:

    I saw The Physical Impossibility again this year in Hirst's retrospective, where he captures a moment in humanity, freezing the impossible in a tank of formaldehyde. He really does challenge a false sense of superiority over nature. Here we are in the city gazing around an art gallery confronted by a dead shark in aquarium blue, dangerously close, yet safely dead. The notoriety of the piece, and of the artist, gives us a frisson. How dare he? we ask. We cannot consume this. We cannot relate to anything about it. It's anti-everything. Popular, celebrity culture and love of fantasy for our own aggrandisement is all challenged here. Art is dangerous. It makes the popular media beat it's suburban petit bourgeoisie chest and declaim the work of living artists who have lots to say. Hirst is a genius. Go and see some of his other even better pieces,In and Out of Love, A Thousand Years and so on. It's endless, provocative, genius and well worth seeing. People can't come to terms with Hirst, or Emin for that matter, because that's exactly what's intended. Living artists often play the media at their own game, using them for publicity, and then turning the tables on them. Only art can do this.

  8. bert0001 says:

    … art .. any art … needs to make the viewer, reader, listener, SPEECHLESS, … by beauty, mind-logic, uglyness, the unexpected, (whatever makes you speechless) , …

    So art is not universal. There is always an audience, small, medium sized, large, … but always limited.

    Being rendered speechless, can be a shock, or a relief, mind stops for a moment, sometimes two moments, … and we are one with the work of art, one with that book we read, one with the statue, one with the movie or one with the music, or one with the architectural masterpiece, or one with this strikingly beautiful photograph.

    And sometimes – if not often – nature itself is art,since it too can render us speechless – when we watch the stars, the moon at a beach, an ant on a white petal, a cry of a buzzard, the act of procreation, a lush forest, barren mountains, a cloudbust, a thunderstorm, a volcano, …

    Thank you Art in everything, and everyone, for giving me the freedom of being speechless and in awe.

  9. That is the question I am constantly asking myself. May be, I have no taste in art, but I can never understand how a person can ask n thousands of pounds for several coloured circles, that wasn't even produced by him personally. I think it is just twisted.

    For me art is something produced with blood and sweat, something that gives aesthetic pleasure, and at the same time makes you think about deep philosophical issues.

    Did you hear that Hirst is planning to open his own gallery, on the pattern of Saatchi style?

  10. AmazinglyBrash says:

    Art is a craft that expresses an artist's prospective, yet evokes emotion into the audience. Its words, drawings, paintings; it's the ability to see the core of the world through the surface. Art shapes form to form art….it's a God given right; it's the devil going wrong. Can anything be call art? Yes but it may not be acknowledge as such.

  11. "Is it enough for the artist to call a dead shark “art” for it to be art?" I'm with Duchamp on this. It's all about intention and context. It's art because Hirst puts it in an gallery and calls it art. Outside of that context and that intention it's naught but a preserved shark in a tank. And in that context it could simply be someone's lunch. On the broader question; What is art? I variously think of art as rich peoples decoration or an extension of the tribal tradition of gift giving. If it's rich peoples decoration it's a weapon used to define a a certain class of people. Those who engage with "cultural production" defined in opposition to those who do not. Art in that context is a weapon of class war. Alternatively if art is an extension of the tribal tradition of gift giving it's a way of cementing relationships. Without the exchange of these objects we would be at war. We’d kill each other. Both understandings have a fairly primal imperatives at their core. One xenophobic the other conciliatory.

  12. richhell says:

    The "What is art?" question is as old as Adam and Eve, as Kipling would put it. Here's Orson Welles in a brilliant movie on just this topic called "F for Fake."
    http://youtu.be/zBJ2De04ht4
    If the experts can be fooled, then how do we know what's art?

  13. meridabill says:

    What we call it doesn't matter to me. The question for me is if it speaks to me as wordsaver says "it touch people." Hirst doesn't speak to me neither did Warhol. Their "art" interests me but doesn't "touch" me, but then I'm not post-modern in sensibility or aesthetic. I prefer Matisse, Miro, Picasso and Hopper.

  14. burgessart says:

    Cristian you have raised some interesting issues here particularly what is ART. To answer this in my art classes I explain how art changed with the invention of the camera and how artists began questioning their roll since the camera could do most of the things artists did in the past. This questioning has continued to the present day where anything can be art. As infinite as our imagination is…. so too is art and what it can be in the future. Best wishes, Robert

  15. Rupert says:

    It is kind a lame thing to say but I can't help but agree with those people who trot out the old trope that art is whatever you want it to be and it can mean something different to everyone.

    Since we are talking about Hirst, and as I am an Australian, it would be remiss of me not to plug Robert Hughes' documentary The Mona Lisa curse (see this YouTube video:

    he is a man who most definitely had opinions about what art is and should be. Personally I sympathise somewhat with his dislike of contemporary art, I do feel there is something a little, let's say, shallow, about it. But this of course is only my opinion.

  16. Boobieslifeandluster says:

    It is a complex topic, but I don't think you can call this 'art' … it is like looking at a dead shark on the water edge, washed up and harmless and calling it – art. It is nature. Just by putting this shark in a box and exemplifying that it is dead – maybe at the hands of a human, maybe not, it does not make it anymore a piece of 'Art'.

  17. I swear I thought there would be a reference to Schroedinger's cat in this post when I read the title.

  18. Mimi Black says:

    I went to the Damien Hirst exhibition about a month back, now. There are certain aspects of his exhibition which I loved, such as The Butterfly Room. Was amazing, live butterflies everywhere!

    But, I think, unless you reach a specific status within the Art industry, hanging 5 multicoloured pots and pans on a wall and calling it art, no one would take you seriously. I think some things like that are crazy. I could do that myself and get no recognition, guaranteed.

    I'm off to see Bedlam on the 20th, curated by Ste Lazarides, hoping it's as good as it looks!

  19. When I lived in NYC I wandered into a SOHO art gallery one fine afternoon to browse around. I didn't think much of the paper covering the windows. Inside was my first glimpse of the artwork of Hirst. I was shocked, appalled, intrigued, horrified. It was too real. It pushed the envelope. I couldn't understand how formerly living creatures in tanks of formeldehyde was considered art. Is art shock value? Marketing? Public relations? Spin? Whatever art is, Hirst is a genius in that he's figured out a way to take an original idea all the way to the bank. Artist or not.

  20. jomaidment says:

    Look at a Winters Tale by Shakespeare, or a midsummer nights dream for other notions of art and life imaging each other and where the ideas trasncend from

  21. victoriahere says:

    Art is whatever you want it to be. Being creative opens your mind to something different. You can look outside and say hey that's good art. You can even scribble on a piece of paper and say hey that's art. If you like it and you think its art, then it's art.

  22. For me, art is a way to express one self and as an artist be able to create a reaction -positive or negative- from the observer. Of course, it is much complicated than that.

    Art has morphed into something I cannot comprehend.

    I watched a documentary about Art Basel, not too long ago. This one gallery owner was confessing that art has transformed to a cut throat business and that it was not about talent anymore, but what the artist (or rep) does to convince the rich to spend their money on.

  23. TAE says:

    I think art can also be something that was crafted for a purpose. I don't really agree on the "transmit a message" part, but I do agree that there's often at least the intention to provoke a reaction.

    Take a skillfully hand-crafted piece of jewelry for example, to me that's art. The message may be portrayed by the person who gives it to a loved one, so it's detached from both the artist and the piece – though it may all come together in the recipient's eyes (the child's every doodle is art for the mother).

    Sometimes you'll also "read" a message in a piece of art that the artist didn't mean to express. I'd dare say that this happens often in written art. Everybody brings their own perspective to the table.

  24. artzent says:

    No, The viewer decides if it is art or not!

  25. Reblogged this on What I think matters too! and commented:
    Very Thought Provoking :)

  26. susannehaun says:

    That question is a never ending story.

    Bruce Namann says, all things he do in his studio ist art, because it is an artist studio and so it must to be art.

  27. StillWalks says:

    The art is not in the shark itself but in the context in which it has been placed. The fact that it has been discussed (with varying degrees of heat) by many and will continue to be discussed probably for a long time to come confirms for me that it has succeeded in a large part of its job as a piece of art – to make us think, debate, argue, enliven our minds!

  28. caseyvoight says:

    In a very technological driven world I find that the most beautiful and terrifying things in life are real. They are made that way by there ability to be destroyed. Good art is like a spell that with one glance makes you feel an emotion, good or bad. It doesn't matter what it is, and it doesn't have to hang in an art gallery to be called art it just has to conjure. Some people are just able to be spellbound easier that others:) That's why they say art is in the eye of the beholder.

  29. frequentneed says:

    Art is expression and

    a matter of opinion from an appreciators perspective.

    To define art might be simple in words but individuality creates subjectivity so therefore its likely impossible to have a universal definition.

  30. The Intellectuals and the Masses and what good are the arts by john carey are good on this. As is what is art by Tolstoy

  31. idled hands says:

    I was curious about your post and was thinking terrible, awful thoughts on modern art…but I decided to marinate on this since I do like art and on some basic level would even consider myself an artist.

    The more I thought about it, the more I liked the piece. I think the artist chose the shark because it is static and I’ve heard (and for the most part, it is true) that a shark can’t stop swimming or he dies…but there he is, seemingly alive and well but unmoving. In death, the artist creates an illusion of life.

    That’s my two cents.

    lb.

  32. Shay says:

    I completely agree. It's interesting to think that "great artists" are only great because everyone else believes it to be so. It's like the idea of power, it's not something tangible that you can feel and hold. Your power (or your artistry) all depends on whether or not people believe that you have it. (Or if they believe that you don't.)

  33. […] be a perennial task. Cristian Mihai questions what the nature of art is, exactly, in his blog here. He asks if an artist simply calling his work “art” is enough for something to be art. […]

  34. The question "What is art?" has been hotly debated the past two years in association with the contest "Art Prize" that has been staged the past couple of years in Grand Rapids, MI. With a million dollars in prizes at stake, many opinions have been loudly and sometimes forcibly stated. Unfortunately in my mind, the answers come down to "Follow the money."

  35. We had the same debate in a seminar once. Some argued that you could literally just do ANYTHING, like 2 lines crossing at exactly 90 degrees on a black background and call it art and that there was no time or skill involved in that? But does that mean you have to be SKILLFUL and invest all your time into something to be considered an artist? couldn't you be bad at drawing, working full time and produce something that is so emotive and thought provoking?

    I believe anything that will cause an emotion or reaction can be called art, and it is always different for different people. So is 'art' even definable. When inspiration and innovation are at the heart of a work of art how can it be?

  36. LeTalib says:

    I agree with what you said about 'dead Shark' being presented as an 'Art-piece'..

    if you want to shock someone and grab his attention by the balls you need to present the biggest trick which you have..every artist tries to do that……plus art can be anything which amuses, amazes, disgusts, moves you…as soon as you start thinking about it in your free time…you start shaping the existence of ART.

  37. Jae says:

    I'm mostly of the mind that as long as I'm not forced to pay for it, they can call it whatever they want. ;)

    But more seriously, I think it's hard to really define art. I've seen stuff at the NYC MoMa that has taken my breath away impressing me, other stuff I wonder how exactly we're taking the "artist" seriously. It's hard to say, especially since something might move me but not others and vice versa.

    In my perspective, I see art as communicating truth in an extraordinary way. But again, it'll come back to perspective and personal taste, so I guess the answer is there is no answer.

  38. rouschel says:

    On a morbid level, I think death can and is analyzed in it's purest form by those who are suffering. They wish for it and completely understand that is non-existence. Sometimes the pain becomes so severe that you wish for nothingness.

    About the art. I am not sure about this piece. I am not an avid lover of post-modern art and have difficulty connecting to it. At first glance, this piece seems more appropriate for being in a museum of science rather than art. It is, however, very intriguing to hear the thoughts and opinions of others on here. It has provided me with some insight into the possible intentions of the artist.

    There is the possibility, however, that it is what I call "Nirvana art". When asked about why they chose such graphic and culturally saturated topics for their videos, the band Nirvana would respond, "Because it looks cool." Maybe this just looks cool too. As mentioned before, the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder.

  39. sterlingsop says:

    Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

    (And no, dead sharks are NOT art!!!)

  40. I think your follow up response to "nice & calm" was more intriguing than your initial post. Your analysis gave a lot of insight into the piece of artwork by Hirst. But that might be the whole point—when I saw it, I didn't have much of a response to it. I had to hear someone else's interpretation for it to start to mean anything. Which seems to suggest that the art itself isn't as important as your understanding of it. You could have said that about a lot of different things, which I think takes some of the impact out of the artwork, if we can call it that.

    Anyways, good post. Thanks.

  41. Art definitely isn't Jackson Pollock.

  42. ruleofstupid says:

    There's a lot of politeness here. Me, I think the shark is pretentious wankery.

    Art is free to change forms, it is of the artist, of its time and of its context and culture – a real flux of interweaving influences.

    I think a good test for 'is it art' is this – could any old tosser do it. In the case of the shark, any old tosser could do it. There is no skill, no craft, no hard work.

    What moves me in art are two things – first my emotional response to 'it'. Second my understanding of the skill required to do 'it'. The sheer mastery of tools and form.

    Look at books. None of us would buy a crap book and not call it crap. A writer has to learn not just to talk but to write, to write well, in various forms (dialogue, description etc.). It is an art and a craft.

    So why can talentless twats who have never learned how to do anything create crap art and get away with it? It makes me want to vomit at the vacuity and BS of critics and other prats who sustain this production of emptiness because it is fashionable and profitable, not because it's art.

    Although I have no strong opinion on the subject! ;)

    ROS

    • jaschmehl says:

      I agree completely with your comment, ROS. Art requires skill. Another comparison: Why should artists be treated any differently than athletes? We don't give gold metals to anyone who can jump a hurdle or do a cartwheel. The accolades go to the ones who can demonstrate they are the best at what they do. The same standards should be applied to the art world.

  43. ruleofstupid says:

    p.s. even the title is stupid. "The PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY of death in the mind of someone living." Duh. If they're living, of course it's impossible for their mind to be physically dead.

    The impossibility for the true understanding of death to exist in the mind of someone living, maybe. The conceptual impossibility… But that's not what the title actually says.

    Grrr…

  44. I agree with several of you – rachelkinsman, TAE, Unordinary Customer that art is in the emotion of the beholder – but I also think it has to be created by a human to be art. If you see a stunning thunderhead cloud (I'm looking at one right now) – that is a work of nature – ahd if a photographer captures it at its best, that would make it art – or if a painter were to paint it, it would be art. I think there is a different inner reaction to the three renderings of the same object.

    I disagree with burgessart that the camera can do most things the [painter] can. I stopped pursuing photography as an artistic outlet and started painting to overcome the limitations of the camera. I still use cameras extensively to collect reference material, but rarely do the end paintings look quite like their start points. Today I painted something that I could not do with the camera without extensive work in photoshop – which is not the camera.

    Whether what I created is art, I have no doubt, whether it will evoke in all the emotion I put in it I, I expect not. Whether some will get more out of it than I put in it, I expect so. I usually aim for joy but this time I also anticipate tears.

  45. tonettejoyce says:

    It is hard to say what art is; I suppose,like beauty, it is in the eye(or ear) of the beholder as well as the creator, but since the person did not create the shark, no , it is not art.

    • Yeah. I see what you're saying. Yet, I can't help wondering if the very same shark, exhibited an entirely different context (with a different title), might communicate something far deeper (or possibly nothing at all) to those who encounter it. I'm no judge of good or bad art. I only know if I feel a connection with a book, a movie (a shark?) in such a way that my consciousness is expanded ever so slightly through the experience. You are SO right about art being in the eye of the beholder. Hmmm . . . I wonder if that dead shark, as it beholds us with those wide-open eyes through the walls of the glass tank, perceives us as art or not.

  46. Dorothy Lynn says:

    I'm not sure that I would consider a dead shark art, except the title really does make me think. It immediately reminded me of a quote from "The Dispossessed"By Ursula LeGuin.

    "If you can see a thing whole…it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives…But close up, a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death."

    I guess the idea in the quote is in opposition to the title…that you can have the possibility of Death while you are living, and that life is better for it if you do hold death as a possibility.

    The very fact that only the title of his artwork made me think this much is an indicator to me that the piece has some artistic value.

  47. Laurel Anne says:

    Reblogged this on Living Life Fully and commented:
    Here's an art piece by Damian Hirst followed by a discussion on "What is art?"

    My thought (at the moment at least) is art is something creatively created which, when shown to others, causes them to have an emotional response. I believe the purpose of art has changed through history. Up until the early 1900s I think the major purpose was to convey beauty, to celebrate life, to show goodness, and bring joy–positive emotional responses come from this art. Now I believe much of the popular art created is either meant to convey horror, disgust, bewilderment, confusion, or hate.

    Like a commenter on Cristian's post said, I think much "art" now, more than earlier, is created simply for the purpose of selling what the wealthy will buy. I wouldn't call this production true art.

  48. Patrick Călinescu says:

    Whether we like it or not, we already live, I'm afraid, in a post-postmodern world; that is, the postmodern world of the 70s and 80s may already have become extinct. But who can really know these things for sure, right?

  49. kirinjirafa says:

    Painfully oversimplified two cents here, but I think art boils down to expressive communication. It's the creative force in a person being represented in the physical world (intentionally- I wouldn't say every random act or conversation qualifies).

    I don't think skill is necessary at all, and lazinness in producing the piece doesn't automatically mean it isn't art, and I don't think that commercializing it lessens its status. However, I would say that a piece being thoughtlessly produced with no psychological input does not count. I don't think that a skillful thing can be done thoughtlessly or accidentally; I think it requires some mental effort to determine what is balanced and what is cohesive, so I don't really feel it is possible to make something excellent without any mental input. Mental input, creative expression, communicated physically=art.

  50. Abandon TV says:

    Down the road from me there is a cafe. They sell coffee made with dishwater and sandwiches made with stale bread stuffed full of grass instead of salad. You might think they would have no customers, but their business is in fact booming.

    You see, they use this clever marketing tactic where they subtlety imply that if your tongue can't appreciate the taste of their food, and if your stomach can't find nutritional value in their food, then it's because of a deficiency in YOU and not their rancid food.

    All they needed to do was bribe a few food critics to write some pseudo intellectual reviews of their cafe. They weren't even particularly positive reviews. The crucial thing was that all the reviews discussed the cafe as if it really was a valid eating establishment serving valid food (plus throw in some stuff about the cafe being progressive, challenging and 'edgy').

    And now no one is willing to admit that they can't find taste and nutritional content in the cafe's dishwater coffee and lawn clipping salads. Not the food critics. Not the customers either.

    The same thing has happened in the 'arts community' and as a result no one is willing to admit that just putting a dead shark in a tank and giving it a pretentious title is not something that any self respecting grown up artist should feel they can get away with (assuming they want to be taken seriously that is). Sure if you're some teenage art student going through a 'rebellious' stage, we might forgive you but not if you're trying to pass yourself as a grown up serious artist.

    When you break it down, this clever marketing trick switches the emphasis from the artist being required to justify his/ her work and create art full of meaning….. to the public being required to prove their own capacity to appreciate art by finding (or at least pretend to find) layers and layers of 'meaning' in whatever is shoved in front of their faces, be it a dead shark or some coloured spots or whatever.

    And so, if you call a dead shark in a tank "a pile of crap" it can no longer be an honest and justified criticism of a (con) artist, it is now more like an admission of failure on YOUR part. It's like saying "I'm sorry but I just don't have the required imagination or artistic sensibility to 'see' this work and decipher its layers of meaning. I must be so shallow and uncultured because, to me, it just looks like a dead shark in a tank."

    To echo another commenter here, I think a good litmus test is this: can you imagine it for yourself? I cannot imagine Mahler's 5th for myself. I cannot imagine a Picasso for myself, or a Stubbs or even a Rothko. I don't particularly care for the Beatles, but I can't imagine Revolver for myself.

    However, I *can* imagine a dead shark in a tank for myself. And I can think about death for myself too. I do not need Hirst's help. And his contribution adds nothing to what my own imagination and intellect can conjure up while waiting for the number 73 bus. Therefore from my perspective Hirst adds nothing of value to the world. His 'art' just takes up valuable space in galleries.

    It's a sad fact that 'culture' has been so sucked dry of genuine art that it's as if we've compensated by all agreeing to call everything and anything art. We now turn any old load of nonsense into art just by endlessly discussing it as if it were indeed art. But even as babies we soon learn that distinguishing food from poop is what defines us as 'higher beings' above the level of vermin or amoeba.

    And (contrary to the current consensus, it seems) a cultured person is NOT someone who finds layers and layers of 'meaning' in every pile of pretentious garbage assembled and cynically chucked in an 'art gallery'. A cultured person is actually the opposite: someone who is able to recognise that which has no meaning, no significance, no worth and no beauty….. reject it …. and then move swiftly on.

    To embrace everything all the time is to end up like that toddler in the park playing with dog poops.

    Hirst is depressing proof that, for now at least, the idiots are winning…

  51. I'm thinking that, if we all experienced a specific piece of art (music, dance, shark-exhibit, blog- post) in the same way, it wouldn't be art. Maybe it isn't even art if I experience it the same way today as I did yesterday. Possibly, what makes art, art, is its capacity to reflect our deepest emotions in the very moment that we encounter it. I've been thinking a lot lately about what the difference is between life and death. I look at the image of the shark in the tank and it looks so alive. It's impossible for my live-brain to perceive it as something dead. Maybe that's because I avoid death to the extent that it's always outside of the realm of possibility for me. Maybe the only way to really come to terms with death is to let it out of the glass tank. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking today as I read your post, Cristian. Tomorrow I may experience your post differently (thanks for sharing your art with us).

  52. Damian Hirst is not an artist.

  53. We debated this in art college for an entire two hour class. The simple conclusion was:

    "Art is something that elicits a response"

    The "skill" behind some pieces lies in the "artists" ability to write an effective artist statement.

    To some, real art doesn't require it, while others, it's essential.

  54. carpetbeater says:

    My brothet wants to stand in front of any art form and impress with a lecture on why or how it came to be. I tell him to shuddup and look and standing by this shark was impressive,fascinating and a bit scary imagining the alive version coming for you. Genuinely in the eye of the beholder, if you cannot see art it is because you don't have 'eyes'!

  55. Great video! I think once you wear a cloak and hat like Welles does in this video, then, and only then, are you and "artist". :-D

  56. This is a great post Christian. It was quick and to the point, and this discussion is amazing. I think each and every one of us has an expectation of Art. That expectation is culturally generated and determined, but it also places itself within the finite accumulation of an individual's experiences. That is especially true after reading these comments.

    Some wrote cynically that "it's just a dead shark in a box," or it's polar opposite, "this makes me think, thus it is Art". They are both right, and Art had its effect in both ways upon different people. This isn't its essential characteristic, and I don't think we should be locating a central axiom or characteristic for locating, understanding, and most of all, recognizing Art; mainly because I wouldn't want Art to have an essential characteristic.

    You see, once we say "this is Art! I know it now!" ten thousand people say "Aha! This isn't Art!" Then it is political. And it often becomes insulting when we dole out words like "idiot," "useless," or (gasp) "not an Artist". It's always easier to read a book and say, "this sucks!" then it is to write a book. It is always easier to say "this isn't art! I could do that!" then it is to think of the idea, get the money, devote your life to it, gather other like-minded individuals, accept praise and criticism alike, and never falter when faced with situations that would crush other people.

    I guess I'll put it this way: if a man can take an adult shark, put it in a box, get it in a museum, get people to talk about it, see it, take interest in it, pay $ to stare at it, get a blogger to post a picture of it that then generates over 60 various responses, then, by God, more power to him. Cause that is truly amazing.

  57. One more thing: "Hirst's response to those who said that anyone could have done this artwork was, 'But you didn't, did you?'" Exactly… http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2003/apr/2

  58. Abandon TV says:

    "… It’s always easier to read a book and say, “this sucks!” then it is to write a book……"

    This is an interesting comparison. Writing a book is indeed a difficult task. But surely that is

    precisely because critics and the public still have fairly high expectations with regard to 'grown up', proper books? (both fiction and non fiction).

    Without those high expectations the definition of 'good book' would change and anybody COULD write a 'book' and get published and get rich and famous – just like Hirst has done with his 'art'. Anybody can pickle a shark. It is no different to pickling a dogfish in a glass jar, except in terms of scale. But hardly anybody can write a decent book, or write or direct a decent film, or write a decent song or produce an album. That is precisely the point.

    Imagine if one COULD get away with writing a 'conceptual book' like this: 'Once upon a time there was a shark in a box. How did it get there? What does it mean? What does it tell us about life and death? The end.'

    There's nothing whatsoever 'wrong' with someone writing a conceptual book like this (or people liking it), but if it won lots of awards designed for proper literary woks and earned the author lots of money and fame as a serious book (ie competing with other proper literary works) it would – as I'm sure you agree – start change the culture of writing, and of reading. The fame, fortune and prizes would inevitably encourage other would-be writers to adopt similar styles and strategies to their writing careers.

    This is just what we have seen happen in the art world. The winner of this year's Turner prize is basically a grey ping pong table with a few lampshades suspended above it. Art galleries are full of bits of string hanging from ceilings or copper wire wrapped around a banana. On and on it goes.

    You applaud Hirst's ability to generate heated debate, which he does. But, as I mentioned in my previous post, the debate itself has become the measure of modern 'art' these days with artists trying to out-do each other in terms of the amount of heated debate and 'controversy' they can generate in order to gain recognition. The easiest and laziest way to generate such controversy is to make art as tenuous as possible, which is precisely what we see happening.

    Suppose we turn back the clock to any previous century (choose your favourite) and change history so that this type of strategy was encouraged to the point where the 'proper' art of that age was all but abandoned in favour of Hirst-like conceptual stuff. 'Proper' art just didn't generate the same kind of buzz as tenuous, conceptual, pseudo art. It didn't win any prizes. So no one bothered to devote their life to it. Instead they made 'controversial' pieces and took the money and recognition – thank you very much.

    So now we come back to the present day and of course now our art galleries are devoid of all the fine paintings and sculptures and instead full of pieces of art called 'hessian sack on oak'….. 'goat's head in pickle jar'……..'sand on tabletop'…….. 'spots'…… 'discarded shoe'….. and so on.

    Do you STILL champion this kind of art above all others (as Hirst and his chums seem to be being championed today)?

    It's a pretty straightforward 'cause and effect' equation. If enough of us champion this kind of art and give it awards and flock to see it then this is what we will end up with – this is how art will be defined (by us).

    For this reason I propose a brand new category for art (and why not books, music, film and theatre too?):

    'Art which anybody could do'

    Hirst and his like could win as many awards in this category as he likes, and I would be genuinely happy for them. There could be special galleries which only commission this kind of art.

    It is not Hirst's brand of art which I object to ….. it's the fact that it is displacing art which anybody COULDN'T do which is so objectionable.

  59. Jim Kendall says:

    When I think about art I think about Halloween. Halloween seems to be a time good girls become bad girls and dress like porn star hookers. It's a night to profane discretion and call it a costume.

    Art seems to suffer the same ailment worsened by the right of free speech and free expression.

  60. Jim Kendall says:

    Reblogged this on Reblog Junk Drawer.

  61. texydeb says:

    For me art like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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