07 June 2007

"Progressive" art

The Times on the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition:

Gavin Turk’s Dumb Candle, a sculpture of a candle made from the end of a broomstick, and Gary Hume’s untitled work combining furled black plastic on a sheet of glistening aluminium, are two of the six pieces shortlisted for the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award for the “most distinguished work” in the exhibition.

Bill Woodrow, the sculptor and Royal Academy member who was on the judging panel, said that both works were indicative of the the venerable institution’s more progressive direction in recent years. “The membership of the academy is changing all the time, with new members arriving with new ideas,” he said. “The majority of members really want the place to be up to date.” ...

The black plastic in Hume’s work (priced at £70,000) “is not a bin-liner”, Woodrow said. “It is the protective film you find on the front polished surface of a sheet of aluminium to prevent it from scratching. He has peeled this back and then screwed it up into three dimensional forms to make a beautiful object. It’s asking a lot of questions about how you make work.”
The mediocratic criterion of art is based on technicality rather than aesthetics, i.e. on consistency with fashionable trends. It does not matter if art is horrible, banal or even disgusting, so long as it demonstrates methods and references approved by the professional art community.

The purpose of art in a mediocracy is not to enlighten or illuminate. It is to make its audience feel subordinated to material and social forces. Most mediocratic art fulfils this function well, and can therefore be described as ‘good’ art, on mediocratic terms.