Thursday, June 14, 2007

Penises and art

Last night, I caught the last half of "Creature Comforts," the US spin-off of Aardman Animations' 1990 Best Animated Short Film winner (created by Nick Park, of "Wallace & Gromit" fame). The interview audio tracks are recorded with "real" Americans, then cast as the various animal characters. Not surprisingly, most of the comments are decidedly inexpert...and that much better for it.

The final segment of last night's episode was entitled "Art." It was delightful, and a welcome change from the often tedious musings of art bloggers. (Tedious is a strong word, but if you read through the long conversations generated by posts like Winkleman's "What's An Artist? Take 459" or Cognitive Daily's "Is Science Art?," you'll likely agree that sometimes even thoughtful dialogue can seem like so much noise.)


bioephemera said...

Well... glad you clarified "tedious." (I'd recommend not reading the last few posts at my blog, then.) ;)

First: I love anything Aardman does. Good call on the new show.

Second: although you may find undergraduate-like, naive discussions of the nature of art tedious or pointless, I don't, if they involve individuals outside the art world. For a bunch of scientists to ask themselves if science is art. . . that's not something we're normally encouraged to consider at all! And wrapping your head around a foreign concept is almost never a waste of time.

I think there's a middle ground between the humorous cluelessness of the average American (whom, I must protest, would not know who Pollock is, much less own a Pollock) and art "experts" babbling unintelligible, relativistic sophistries. That middle ground consists of circuitous, inefficient conversations by outsiders who are poking around in all sincerity, trying to figure out the significance of art for themselves, largely from first principles.

At least, so say I. :)

Hungry Hyaena said...


Too late, Cicada. I'd already read your tedious posts. They were insufferable, I assure you. ;)

I was tempted to comment on them but I was, by that point, feeling punch drunk after reading so much on the subject...hence, my use of the word "tedious" in this post.

Ever the contrarian, I don't love anything Aardman does - some of it, "Curse of the Were-rabbit" in particular, is too moralistic or sentimental - but I enjoyed "Creature Comforts" - both the original and the bit of the American outing that I caught - perhaps because the shorts are less ambitious and so take themselves less seriously.

It's not that I find the conversations pointless...rather, I find them fruitless after a point.

As Francis Bacon - painter, not Enlightenment thinker - said, "Talking about painting is like reading a bad translation from a foreign language. The images are there and they are the things that talk, not anything you can say about it." Obviously he is referring to individual instances of looking and critique and, in large part, I disagree with him. Looking always involves interpretation, and is necessarily a cerebral activity.

That said, dissecting definitions of "art" and artistic practice is hopeless. (Another Bacon line: "It's always hopeless talking about painting. One never does anything but talk around it.") Like dreaming, experiencing art - good art, anyway - highlights the disconnect between being and thinking, Descartes' formulation be damned. There are flashes of comprehension, but the whole remains abstract; as a result, quantifications and justifications for defining this or that as "art" make the sensitive - as in sensing - part of me reel.

On the flip side, yes, I'm a chronic talk-this-one-through kinda guy. Late night bull sessions on the nature of love, art, social commitment and so on are more fun than any amount of partying - though I do enjoy combining the two. There is always value in wrestling with ideas, even if the more awesome questions remain "unwrappable."

Finally, yeah, the two caged birds are not your "average Americans." They are a wealthy couple, as is made clear in several other bits I've seen online. They're very funny, actually...two of my favorite characters from the "Creature Comforts" bits I've seen.

Frankly, the middle ground, to my way of thinking, is to open up to experience without baggage. So many "average Americans" scoff at art because they feel they are being had. "My kid could do that!" and other similar ejaculations are the product of suspicion more than anti-intellectualism or ignorance. The experts, on the other hand, thrive on self-induced orgasm, having long ago decided navel gazing wasn't satisfying enough. The middle ground discards pretensions of all kinds, and lets you look/experience with fresh eyes and more full awareness. Art is too often burdened by context. You can decide that a piece of art doesn't do anything for you, but not because it's high-priced, made by a Nazi sympathizer, a product of the 1960s, or what have you. If it exists, it exists in the moment. To hell with the art historical context and its cultural relevance, at least until after you experience it.

As Pollock famously quipped, considering art is " looking at a bed of flowers. You don't tear your hair out over what it means."

Oly said...

FYI-- there's a full episode online in the "innertube" section.

It's the first episode.

Check it out.


Andi said...

Creature Comforts is fun. It's too bad I'll probably never see it again. It's light enough to stay outside here until almost 10 PM, and why would you be inside watching TV when you could be outside doing... whatever? Still, I enjoyed what I saw.

Chloe Cumming said...

I didn't realise Aardman had done a US version of the new Creature Comforts... thanks for that!

I'm in the UK and they have done tons of new UK ones that they show in the afternoons in ten minute slots.

Grinding art-tedium made funny is alright with me. It becomes about the funnyness of people rather than the hideous mess of artspeak.

Tree said...

I got nothing on tedious posts (although maybe I should take a lesson..heh)
I LOVE the clip! Very amusing and I'm a big Wallace and Grommit fan.