I like to think I’m a fairly sophisticated fellow, but there are certain topics that make me feel like a Neanderthal. Fashion is one of those topics and the other is modern art. Take, for example, the following picture of an art “installation” that is up for the 2008 Turner Prize:
Cathy Wilkes, 42, is a Glaswegian who gathered together a television, a sink with a single human hair and a pram and titled it She’s Pregnant Again when she represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2005.
This time, she has placed a mannequin on a lavatory next to two supermarket check-out counters. Four horse-shoes and bits of discarded wood dangle from wires attached to the mannequin’s head. They appear to bear no relevance to the check-out counters on which the artist has arranged bowls and spoons, as well as empty jars with the remnants of food. Scattered across the floor are piles of tiles and broken pottery in a plastic bag.
I can appreciate the nude mannequins, but I have no clue what the artist is trying to say with that piece other than perhaps “look at what I can get away with calling art!” It’s interesting in a “uh… OK” sort of way to me, but I see no deeper meaning in it. Which probably explains why I’m not an art curator:
Sophie O’Brien, one of three Turner Prize curators, saw deep meaning in the installation, explaining that the artist was “searching out the language of objects – things we overlook in our daily life” – and making us look at them with “fresh eyes”. She claimed that the artist had placed each found object with extreme precision.
*Squinting at picture closely* Really? OK, if you say so.
When she says the artist placed each object with “extreme precision” I get this mental image of her standing there with a slide ruler, a protractor, and lots of string measuring out precisely where each object should go based on some obscure algorithm she pulled out of her ass. I can’t help but wonder if such levels of precision are really necessary for such an installation. It was all for naught in my case, though, as I’m not seeing anything new about the objects in question.
Her colleague, Judith Nesbitt, the Tate’s chief curator, added: “It’s as if the narrative has been stripped away. You’re left trying to make sense of the objects to each other and to ourselves.”
OK, I’ll agree with that much. I am left trying to make sense of the objects in relation to each other. I still don’t get it.
I mean I can see where a certain amount of skill is involved in something like this. It’s just that the skill in question has less to do with the art itself and more to do with her ability to smooth talk people into thinking it’s art. I can admire that skill, but I’m not convinced it’s art as a result. Perhaps that’s a side effect of my natural cynicism about people and the bullshit they tend to spread. On some level I’m envious because it seems like a good way to earn a living if you can pull it off.
The one part of the exhibit I think is neat is the nude mannequin sitting on the toilet. It’s just weird enough to appeal to me, though it would be better if it didn’t have the random bits and bobs dangling off its head. Just a nude mannequin, posed in the casual way that it is in the picture, with perhaps the nurse’s hat, sitting on a toilet, would be something I could appreciate a great deal. Not because it’s art, but because it’s funky and makes people wonder what kind of drugs you’ve been indulging in.
I actually own a male mannequin head and torso myself. I picked it up back in my early twenties the first time I worked for a Meijers store in Waterford Michigan. They were throwing it out as the trend at the time was away from semi-realistic mannequins to the trendy partial mannequins minus arms, legs, heads, etc. that are used in most stores today. It wears one of the last of the Les’s Place t-shirts I had made up in the mid-80’s in honor of the BBS system I used to run. It doesn’t have any arms or lower half of its body and no hair. I call him Ralph and he usually wears one of my hats when I’m not wearing it.
He’s currently sitting on the floor of the living room in front of the sliding glass door because I’ve not figured out where I want to put him yet, but I’m leaning towards having him stare up out of the basement window once we get a storage rack in place down there for him to sit on and to hold all my spare computer parts. He’d almost never be seen except for the occasional nosy person who happens to spot something odd in the basement window. When we lived in the apartment in Canton he sat on the half-wall that divided the stairway from the living room staring down at anyone who came in the apartment. The first few times you’d come in he’d scare the shit out of you, but after awhile you’d forget he was even there. I could always tell when the maintenance people were coming in because he always startled them.
I loved that. But that’s not art. That’s me just being funky. I can appreciate funky.