March 17th, 2013

The Accidental Artist

There's this weird thing thats been happening to me.

The other day I was talking to a girl at a bar who went to RISD. I noticed she was wearing some Jamba Juice/Twilight snap bracelet thing. I asked her about it, she confirmed, it was in fact a Jamba Juice/Twilight snap bracelet. Naturally, I found this to be pretty funny. I commented, "I like the bracelet, its madd funny." Which was received by a blank stare and a salty, "What's funny about it?"

I was shocked by her response. Here was something that while it may not be the funniest thing in the world, it for sure isn't THAT serious. I proceeded to explain, "its funny because of its context, I assume you're not a Twilight superfan proudly expressing your culture through this snap bracelet.. are you?..." to which she said.. "no.. I just like the way it looks."

This "just like the way it looks" type of art appreciation applies to stuff like this,

I continued by explaining that as someone who calls themselves an artist having attended RISD, one can not simply "like the way it looks" without thinking about its context. More importantly, acknowledging that the recontextualization of this Twilight/Jamba Juice bracelet is in fact humorous. Humor being the basis for such a thing. The ability to see what is banal as something otherwise is rooted in privilege and class. For instance, you and your arty friends having a dinner party in Taco Bell is not the same as a redneck family having their weekly Wednesday outing at Taco Bell.

So why is it so bothersome to me that this unnamed girl didn't see the humor of her snap bracelet? Why do I find her viewpoint of "just liking the way it looks" deeply disturbing? Im not exactly sure.. but I think it has something to do with the fact that I appreciate honesty in art and don't appreciate pretention.

Humor provides a relatable framing to look at a deeper issue. The current flavor of fashion and art around me is embedded in appropriation of "low culture", disposable consumer culture, glorifying the mundane in pursuit of an honest expression/reflection of our times. Kitsch, is one word for it. The image above is from DISmagazine published sometime in 2011. You are looking at loafers inside of jellies. This is a funny image first and an art piece second. If it was an art piece first, it would be something more like this image,

which tackles consumerism and feminism through something one could definitely say "oh I like the way it looks" towards.. that is to say, a "graphic approach". DISmagazine, The Jogging, Zach Shipko, Jeff Baij, Rachel Lord, Jacob Broms Engblom and many other peers of mine, I would not say take a "graphic approach".. rather, they strive to create an image that is striking through humor, not through graphic irreverence.

OK, that was kinda a lot of writing to get to the part of this post that is the reason Brad Troemel is probably going to read it. I take issue with Brad's article, "The Accidental Audience" , published in The New Inquiry.

After four paragraphs you finally get some critical thought in the essay.. basically he comes out and explains that he's butt hurt that people save Tumblr posts to their computer, re-posting them to their own Tumblr as means of claiming ownership of an image and disenfranchising another Tumblr member of oh so coveted "notes"..

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 4.46.43 PM

He makes this distinction between "reblogging" a Tumblr post and "manually reposting" an image, arguing that the context is stripped from such an act, "These omissions and obfuscations of authorship create an increased likelihood that art images will be stripped of their status as art, allowing audiences to understand the work as something other than art. They become accidental art audiences."

LOL ok stop right there. Dude.. you are talking about an image of bacon in a hair straitening iron..

This reminds me of the Jamba Juice girl, only worse. Not only are you too stiff lipped to be able to enjoy an art image as humorous, you also are mad at anyone who finds it anything other than serious because they "dont get the art." Such rhetoric is dangerous, as it further polarizes "artists" from the rest of the world. A trait common in Brad's writing, as read in his article, Club Kids: The Social Life of Artists on Facebook, where he champions artists using Facebook as a social tool, as if it is anything more special than any 13 year old using it.

Don't get me wrong, I fucking love Aaron Graham's, HAIR STRAIGHTENER USED TO COOK INDIVIDUAL PIECE OF BACON. I love that it lampoons formalism in a relatable way.. with common objects. I love that it doesn't hold the image sacred, it wasn't taken with a 5D and Lowel lights.. it was probably just snapped with a camera phone. Point being.. there are PLENTY of interesting things that can be discussed about this image.. yet the entry point to discuss these things is humor.

Nick Demarco's Daydreamer Desk recently got a pretty good amount of attention, making its rounds amongst top news outlets. "Normal", non-artists, like the desk, they don't think about it "as art".. MSN earnestly reports, "Some might say that sleeping on the job is a bit too laid-back for most corproate environments, but at least you'll have a nice place to sleep once you're fired." is this a problem? No. Its not a problem. Its a good thing. Nick is a funny guy, I know he's a funny guy. Nick and I make jokes together. Is Nick "a joke"? Hell no. Nick is not a joke, hes a great artist. Nick is also a contributor of the Jogging.

So again, what's the problem with people taking their post-modern appropriations of low culture without humor? Why did I just write this long post? Well I think most importantly, it makes you come off as a pompous snob – taking from other cultures and refusing to let those same cultures consume your stolen bounty. The other problem with it is that its fucking boring. Just "liking the way something looks" does not require a $55,000 art education, nor does complaining about someone on Tumblr stealing your art image and "not getting it." Troemel finishes his essay on an especially gauche note saying, "The accidental audience’s scale and effectiveness in dissemination for democratic work proves this option is possible — just don’t tell anyone it’s art once the images get out there. For all I know, they might be something else at that point.".. to which I'll just say.. dude.. don't post on the internet, especially Tumblr, if you're such a stuck up sour person that you won't appreciate an audience who doesn't remind you of the art school kids you spend all day with.

Lighten up people, these times are really exciting and fun. A super serious demeanour does not make you an adult and is not a prerequisite for being intelligent.

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