Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

Fritz Haeg

Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In

June 25, 2008
James Turrell's Roden Crater

Thanks to “Pretty Lady,” “Spatula,” and CAP for comments on my last Whitney post that are worthy of being posts in themselves. While, CAP, I was perhaps too casual in saying “anything can be art,” I actually do believe that, at this point in time, anything someone makes or designates can be (note I said can be, not should be) considered art, and that recognizing this was a necessary step to get us away from the painting-on-a-wall, sculpture-on-a-pedestal mindset that pervaded the first half of the 20th century. I do not agree with “Spatula” that “we have gone too far in deconstruction” since I’m one who delights in art that uses an economy of means (Irwin, Turrell, Eliasson, and a moment of silence in a Sigur Ros concert) to achieve great ends.

However along with deconstruction, we lost our ability to discern. We went rollicking off in the other direction, making deconstruction an excuse for sloppy thinking, sloppy execution, sloppy everything. And I lay much of the blame for this on the proliferation of art schools who profit by making everybody think art is easier than it is, who in order to exist, need the majority of students to come away with a positive experience. I remember a final graduate crit at SVA, when I said to a student about her sculpture, “There’s a lifetime of work to be mined from this”—thinking that I was giving her my highest praise—and she burst into tears because to her mind, she was finished. This was it. What, she’d have to do more?

However I believe the resounding failure of the Whitney Biennial marks the beginning of the end of a too-long era. It goes along with the political scene. We want substance. As with the Iraq war, SUVs, and Froot Loops, we’re not inclined to think something is good for us just because the powers that be say it’s so. I’m encouraged by the fact that I’ve seen more good art in the past six months than in the last ten years put together—and that we’re having these conversations. Before when I saw stuff like Fritz Haeg's Animal Estates or the Whitney’s publicity I thought that I was the only one who thought it was ridiculous. It’s a relief to learn that I’m not alone.
June 18, 2008
"Anonymous" comments about the video that spoofs Biennialist artist Fritz Haeg in my last post: "Oh, it's actually a response to this video... now tell me this is not funny... THIS IS THE REAL ONE!"

Anonymous is so right, it's almost word-for-word. But you have to grit your teeth to watch it.

And "Spatula", commenting on Haeg's Animal Estates admittedly treads on the “dangerous terrain of discourse” in wondering how it can be construed as art, but I will take it on. My definition of “art”—since Duchamp made sure that it can be anything, which to my mind, was a necessary step—is something where execution and idea merge so completely that we’re unaware of either and taken to a place beyond words. That’s what music does for me (thank you, Jose Gonzalez, who I saw at the Iron Horse in Northampton last night) and that’s what I want art to do. That’s what I get from Olafur Eliasson’s endeavors: a place of new experience. Indescribable. Therefore, when I see something that sends my thought processes away from the piece at hand, when instead of being immersed in it I'm congratulating myself for having been so precocious as to realize—even in Mrs. Egbert's first grade— that it was stupid to go around in a group pretending to be squirrels, then it’s not art.

June 16, 2008
The Whitney Biennial is now over, but clearly there's no limit to the fun we can still have with it. Reader Judi Collins sent this, The Cat Condos Project by The Infinity Lab:

which was inspired by this (after a brief commercial):

Do share your thoughts.