I have written a few articles about what I perceive to be a certain vapidity tightening its grip on photography (see Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2015 and The Düsseldorf School) and I’ve enjoyed hearing the wide range of opinions. If I were to pick a trend, however, it would be that there is indeed a growing disenchantment with the direction photography is progressing. Modern art is arguably the ‘big daddy’ in whose wake contemporary photography is following.
Yesterday, I came across this video on Youtube – WARNING: it is a mild mannered rant, but it does contain quite a lot of calmly uttered swearing!
It is clear that the gentleman concerned is not lumping all modern art into the ‘garbage’ category, just some. Personally, I think his diatribe is far more accurate than inaccurate. It is intelligently constructed and the arguments are very clearly present, although it does have inherent limitations. By that, I am referring to the impossibility of providing a negative. The narrator is in the same position criticising disingenuous modern art as an atheist is in refuting the existence of God. Just as the atheist may say that he/she sees no evidence for the existence of God, none will claim that they can prove that God does not exist. In the same way, it is not possible to show that a given piece of ‘art’ is devoid of the complex intellectual ‘elevations’ bestowed upon it. Instead, there may not be reason to think that a blue canvas with a white line down the centre is anything more than a blue painted canvas with a white line down the middle.
Ideas/concepts can be described to anything, but in the end, surely you are just left with an idea and the something someone used to introduce it. Unless the idea or concept is truly groundbreaking, or the ‘something’ is worth looking at, what do you have? I’d say ‘not a lot’. As for ‘shocking’ pieces, my advice would be for artists concerned to get out and travel more. Doing so might provide them with genuinely shocking material rather than the puerile, crass and ultimately comfortable material that isn’t fooling anyone.