Monday, October 26, 2009

Talkin' Artsy-fartsy

I was at a bookstore in Duluth the other day, thumbing through a copy of W, the magazine. My curiosity was piqued when I landed on an article about a new art installation. Have you heard of Huang Yong Ping? He's an artist, originally from China, now living in Paris, who's working outside the boundaries of conventional art. Good for him. I like to see artists who make us think, look at the world with new eyes. Sometimes.

Huang has a new piece installed in the 17th century chapel at the, now let me see if I get this right, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It's a 50 ft. paper Noah's Ark full of burned animals. That's right. Burned. Some of these were created and some are taxidermied animals, left over from a real fire. Yep. First, the chapel as the place of installation bothers me a bit. It seems like an attempt to be subversive. But subversive just for the sake of trying to be subversive is not subversive. And second, there's this thing with the dead burned animals. As Bill the Cat would say, "AWK!!! Thpppt!!!"

The real trouble I'm having, though, has to do with a statement he made about the nature of art and artists. He said, "The work of an artist is to go beyond the standard thinking, to go beyond common human comprehension. So naturally there will always be people who aren't able to understand."

Who aren't able to understand. Big sigh.

I almost got woozy trying to wrap my head around what I'd just read.

And here I thought we were moving away from the notion that we are segmented, a world composed of fragments, that there are people who just "aren't able to understand." The ark with burned animals inside? A less-than-happy ending, indeed. But certainly not difficult to comprehend. I think the average person in today's world can understand that pretty well. Many are living the less-than-happy ending.

All art, from paintings and sculpture, to music and literature, has the ability to help people see the beautiful possibilities for themselves and for the world. It's time to hold up a new mirror; a mirror in which we are able to see our true selves, our higher selves. If we relegate some people to life outside this reflection, or label them as unable to understand, then we are helping to perpetuate the problems that seem to beset us. A new way is emerging; a new way of being in this world. That's what artists need to understand. And then they need to start leading the way.

Cut out the foolishness. Okay?

P.S. Opus, please come back. And bring Bill with you.

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