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Monday, March 19, 2012

Art vs "Art"

I am definitely a fan of modern art, and I love looking at it and wondering what on earth the artist was thinking when they made it (or what they weren't thinking, and whether they randomly stuck together some junk that they picked up from a verge collection, in which case we're all idiots to be paying money to see it in a gallery):

It often makes me laugh, and it gives me satisfaction that I too (or anyone else for that matter) could make it. Take that, year ten art teacher who failed me at still life drawing - I could be an artist of a different type if I wanted to!

The above two photos are of art at a modern art gallery in Belgium (I think it was in Brussels, or nearby...) It had fabulous light and sound displays too. I agree with their philosophy of providing limited or no explanation of the pieces of art, so that you can draw your own conclusions about the meaning (or lack of meaning) of the art.

I like modern art more than the next person, so I was excited to visit the Political Porcelain exhibition which is part of Canberra's Enlighten festival this year. The bio was "Artist Penny Byrne takes familiar objects from our mantelpieces, china cabinets and toy boxes and transforms them into powerful works of political commentary."

I was super disappointed. I didn't find the majority of pieces to be interesting, intriguing or creative. I found them to be mundane and uninspiring. For example, this piece depicting Julia and Kevin and the leadership change:

Seriously? There is no underlying meaning (apart from the obvious), no space for creative interpretation and I can't help but feel completely uninspired by it.

Here is another piece:

No prizes for guessing that it's an anti-whaling statement, despite the little Japanese people actually standing on what looks like a dolphin.

Allow me to juxtapose the above with modern art that is also political commentary, but that I find beautiful and inspiring:

The piece is called 'Suspended Together', and it's by Saudi Arabian artist Manal Al Dowayan. In the artist's words:

"“Suspended Together” is an installation that gives the impression of movement and freedom. However, a closer look at the 200 doves allows the viewer to realize that the doves are actually frozen and suspended with no hope of flight. An even closer look shows that each dove carries on its body a permission document that allows a Saudi woman to travel. Notwithstanding their circumstances, all Saudi women are required to have this document, issued by their appointed male guardian.

“Suspended Together” carries the documents of award-winning scientists, educators, journalists, engineers, artists and leaders with groundbreaking achievements that gave back to their society. The youngest contributor is six months old and the oldest is 60 years old. Regardless of age and achievement, when it comes to travel, all these women are treated like a flock of suspended doves."
What do you think of modern art? Am I being too harsh a critic, or missing something in Penny Byrne's work?


  1. I went to the Museum of Modern Art in NY and the best thing about it for us was the gift shop. SO boring. x

  2. That last one with the doves blew my mind. Now that is art! Where is it?


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