I have mixed feelings about the concept of “found art”, which probably undermines my ability to be a critic since criticism should, by its very nature, stake out a strong position. At least that’s what I think although I have mixed feelings about that too, though, since art appreciation is subjective. Basically the only thing I feel really strongly about is ambiguity, but only if that’s okay with you.
Maybe I should start over.
I once talked to an artist whose works were pieces of tree trunks placed on concrete pedestals outside. He described it as a unification of the natural and artificial, and added that he always placed them outside to allow people to consider the contrast between what had been grown and what had been made in a natural space. Like a lot of conceptual art what it lacked in aesthetics it tried to make up for with philosophy.
I got what he was going for but I still couldn’t get past the fact that they were blocks of wood on concrete and I really just didn’t like them. It’s fine for a work of art to be philosophically challenging but if the audience doesn’t like it they’re probably not going to bother to try and understand the ideas it’s trying to express.
“Found art” is also almost always ephemeral. Take, for instance, Damien Hirst’s 2001 installation at London’s Eyestorm gallery that consisted of wadded papers, half-full ashtrays, half-full coffee cups, and empty beer bottles. It wasn’t meant to be a lasting work of art and fittingly the gallery’s janitor swept it up and threw it away, although I guess it’s not that ephemeral if people are still talking about it, even if the person talking about it is just me. Although that’s not the only time a janitor has “cleaned up” a work of “art”. Not by a long shot. It happens all the time.
Anyway I don’t really like “found art”, especially when it’s not even a case where someone was really trying to create art. The plastic sheet holder stuck to a lamppost that developed unusual colors or the sticker that somebody dropped in a parking lot weren’t meant to be art but I feel like they became art. Sometimes accidents change the world in ways that make it a little more interesting, a little more philosophically challenging, and I like it.
I’m with you–when philosophy overrides aesthetics, it’s hard to see it as art. Even worse is when there’s not even a philosophy, like the woman who nails bugs to gallery walls in different patterns. Is it art or just gross?
Bugs nailed to gallery walls just seems like unnecessary cruelty to bugs. But remember: whenever you nail something you always have a point.
I have mixed feelings about most things, Chris, but not about your damn good posts.
And I definitely don’t have mixed feelings about how much I enjoy your comments.