Friday 07th October 2016But is it Art?
Sometimes it feels like after the number of articles we've written entitled 'But Is It Art?' or some variation thereof, we should just go ahead and make it a series like our Artist Spotlight. There are a number of interesting issues involved in the whole question and there surely is enough material to make an interesting series, but sometimes the question can seem a bit tiresome and should really just be answered 'Yes - now stop asking'.
In today's iteration of the theme, we're going to take a closer look at art by animals. Yes, not art depicting animals, but actually created by them. An interesting article appeared in the Washington Post recently by an anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and while it certainly provided an interesting and engaging look at some of the more prominent animal artists of the last half century or so, the one thing it absolutely failed to do was answer the question 'But is it art?'.
Understandably, the author comes off as rather ambiguous about which way to answer the question, deciding in the end for the old standby, 'it depends on your definition'.
"If art is in the eye of the beholder, then Congo’s sweeping blazes of color can rival those of Jackson Pollock. If your notion of art is an exterior expression of an inner self, then maybe Chandra the Oklahoma City Zoo elephant’s paintings reveal less about her subjectivity than, say, how she might communicate through sounds and movement as the matriarch of a group of elephants in the wild.
But for primates such as Washoe, a chimpanzee who was raised like a human child by American scientists and died in 2007, the case may be different. Like Washoe, a few other primates have lived bicultural lives in human worlds as the subjects of language and cognition research, and can “talk” to us through signs and symbols. We may see something different in their creations, especially when they can title them themselves."
I think it's time that we disregard the equivocation and accept that no matter which way you go, there will be someone prominent and respected who disagrees with you, and therefore you're not helping yourself or anyone else by sitting on the fence about this - and certainly not the animals, unless you argue that any exposure they get is likely to increase the sales of their work and thus increase the fundraising ability of their parent zoos.
In short, yes, it is art. Whether it is a cross-species collaboration or not.
(Photo credit: Piece by Congo, photo by Bonhams/AP)
Posted on October 07th 2016 on 08:24pm
Friday 16th October 2015Instagram as Art
Perhaps the most popular image sharing application on the planet, Instagram has taken the world by storm. With over 400 million users around the world, and over 30 billion photos shared as of September 2015 (yes, that's billion with a b), it's impossible to deny the popularity of the app. Most serious photographers have scoffed at the usage of Instagram, probably driven by the nauseating filters that were the hallmark of the app at the beginning of its tenure as an internet fixture. Since those vintage days, Instagram has matured incredibly and has even been at the center of a massive copyright scandal involving artist Richard Prince.
Many people don't regard the photos posted to Instagram as art, but yet when Prince took a series of images from random Instagram feeds, enlarged them, and published them as his own work, all of them sold for an estimate $100,000 apiece. Due to some complex legal trickery, this procedure apparently constitutes a derivative work, and therefore is protected speech in the United States and thus no legal challenges can be successfully made to stop him.
If people are willing to treat Prince's "derivative versions" of Instagram photos as art, does it not then logically follow that the originals themselves have artistic merit as well? Or is the controversy surrounding his work what gives it artistic value to the collector? The provenance of a work often increases its value to collectors, but it doesn't usually create it from the start.
One of the strangest elements about Instagram is its role as a social media magnet. Not just about photographs exactly, there is an entire community built up which has the power to make and break careers. Instagram celebrities hardly seem like a real thing, but some people - typically women, and typically attractive women at that - have built up such loyal followings that they actually get paid for photographs showcasing certain products despite having no traditional modeling experience. Do their photographs count as art? What if they haven't been paid?
The traditionally defined lines between the art world and popular photography are becoming more and more blurred, but it's hard to form an opinion about whether or not this is a bad thing. Instead of a closed world, perhaps it's about time that the art world developed its own meritocracy, instead of having gallery and collector kingmakers decide who succeeds and who doesn't.
Posted on October 16th 2015 on 11:29pm