A normative opinion on art?

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Most of the city’s in the Netherlands have a museum night. In this night, all the museums are open for public and will offer more than just the usual exposition. For example; a musician, singing about a masterpiece in the museum, or a workshop,… you name it,.. I bet it’s lots of fun! Bet;.. because I sadly never, ever, ever have been to any museum night,..

On saturday the 1st of november, Amsterdam has it’s museum night, and because I am planning to go there for ages, (but like I said; never did,..) I follow the organisation of the Amsterdam museum night on Facebook. This morning, the Amsterdam museum night posted a call to ‘all’ to apply for jury member.

As a member of the jury, you need to be assertive and able to give sound arguments for your opinion. Also; you are allowed (or better yet; expected) to visit 4 museums in the museum night! And since I like to be goal-oriented while visiting museums, and I really, really want to go to this museum night, this year; I applied for the job the way they requested: by tagging my name in their Facebook post.

museumnachtAfter I ‘applied’, I kinda asked myself if I should have added a link to my blog to my ‘application’, because then they would be able to see who I am and what I know/ think about art,.. But,… in my blog I am not really assertive and I don’t allways give sound argumentation for my opinion. I usually describe art I like, and sometimes, write down why I like it. But I basically like every kind of art, so that’s not really assertive behaviour, don’t you think?

So; should I be more assertive on my blog? Should I develop a more normative opinion on art? For a moment, I thought I should, till I openened up this book on creativity: “Creativiteit, geen kunst”, (which literally means; creativity; not art, but better should be translated by: ‘creativity; it’s peanuts’) by Lia Nijman en Jenny de Bode.

The first chapter of the book is a reminder of how our creativity dissapeared, due to education focussed on logic and reason. We can get it back by doing small tasks (described in the book) that focuses on intuition. The book really is about the main notion of art; which is something that should not be ruled by reason or logic. On this, I totally agree, and I’m a bit ashamed that I even considered being more assertive and normative about art. I should not. Art is expressing creativity, and creativity can never be expressed in a wrong way. Therefore, dear readers: I will continue loving and writing about art just the way I always did.

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Fake for real

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Copies are inferior. Or not? Talking about the word copy is acknowledging the contradistinction between fake and real. In this polarity; real is desireable, while fake is not.

Today I watched a documentary about this topic. The most prominent talking head in this documentary was the philosopher Koert van Mensvoort. He promotes a less rigid division between fake and real. According to him, worshipping ‘the Real’ is a religious attitude, because the real can’t be reached.

The documentary reminded me of a book I recently read: Duel. This book was written by Joost Zwagerman; a Dutch writer who has written several books on art. The story in the book was about a fictional artist, called Emma Duiker. She’s an expert in copying paintings. Her paintings are the result of a very careful study of famous paintings. Therefore her paintings look very much alike the originals. The first issue of the book arises here: can a copy be art?

But the book introduced a second issue. For Emma Duiker swiped a very expensive original painting: no.18 of Mark Rothko. Her intention was to return it to the museum, after she exposed the painting to ‘normal’ people all over the world. This was part of an art project. Emma Duiker wanted art to be within reach of all kinds of people. She figured that art is too beautiful, too precious and too enriching to lock it away from the big crowd. People can be positively influenced by experiencing art. She wanted to give the experience of real art back to the people.

At first sight this idea is opposing the idea presented in the documentary. James Quo-Ping Lin of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan believes that artifacts are better be kept in the safe. Arts can be better preserved when they’re safe in a vault, and people can observe the art way better by means of digital copying. Quite opposing ideas right?

Still, James Lin had good intentions with this idea, intentions which resemble Emma Duiker’s. James Lin wants the world to enjoy art in a cheap, quick and easy way by distributing digital copies of art. This could be the future of art, but do we want this to be the future of art? Is it still art if it is cheap, quick and easy? Or am I spoiled, for living in the Netherlands, and therefore being able to observe real art on a daily basis, if I desire to do so.

I too wish all kinds of people were able to experience art, and if the only way to experience art, for people in Taiwan, is by means of digital copies,.. maybe it’s for the best,..

If you want to put your own ideas about fake and real to the test: you can play a very interesting game here: http://www.fakeforreal.com. Enjoy!

Kitsch

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ImageFor a fact, I don’t know if this word ‘kitsch’ is used often in English, when people talk about art. In the Netherlands we are quite accostomed to use the word to contrast with the word ‘art’. We even have a televisionprogramme about art, called ‘tussen kunst en kitsch’, which means: ‘between art and kitsch’. The programme is the Dutch equivalent of BBC’s ‘Antiques roadshow’.

The Dutch title of the programme is quite curious, for it unambigious refers to the value of the objects. In Dutch; ‘kitsch’ usually means ‘worthless’, and the word ‘art’ in this title clearly refers to expensiveness. The title therefore is well given, for it indicates that the value of the objects in the show, also can be in between ‘worthless’ and ‘valuable’. The word ‘kitsch’ nevertheless remains an interesting word, especially after I read Milan Kundera today.

Before today, I always thougth ‘kitsch’ refers to value. Kitsch is something which pretents to be art, but isn’t, and therefore worthless. Even the Dutch dictionaries say that ‘kitsch’ means it is junk, or rubbish. This alone makes the word ‘kitsch’ very difficult to use, for who’s to say something is worthless?

I added a picture of six hidious teapots to this post, for this picture was at the Dutch wikipedia site on ‘kitsch’. Therefore, not only me, but also the author of this wikipedia article thinks these teapots are a good example of ‘kitsch’. And I think that’s what determines the value of objects: concensus, and nothing but concensus. It’s a tricky thing, for if the teapots were put into a museum by an artist, who just wanted you to see behind the ugliness and think about massproduction, it would be art, and the concensus would say something completely different about the value.

But the whole reason I wanted to write about kitsch today, is Milan Kundera. In his book ‘The unbearable lightness of being’ are several phrases on the definition of kitsch. These all were very different from the definition I was used to. As I read the first definition, I wanted to memorise it, for it is philosophical, it is metaphysical, and I had the feeling it was a better definition than the one concerning value.

Kitsch, from his point of view, excludes everything that makes the human existence essentially unacceptable.

 

Kitsch is the room screen that makes us unable to see death.

This is a whole new definition of kitsch. It’s not about value, it is about the phony attitude towards life. It is about denying ugliness and pretending there to be only joy, beauty and estetics. But do teapots do that? Do they deny death and does it exclude the unacceptable parts of human existence? Does it, by it’s ugliness, deny ugliness?

Wow, that’s a big question,.. let me sleep over that one,..