Today I’m not near Paul Collier’s excellent book so my mixture of art cogitation and poverty statistics will be art heavy. And motoring heavy. Yes, this morning I have been on the motorway. I was on my way to film a school sports-day for a friend. I owed him a favour after he put a story out to the papers about the feature film we are making. The story was about Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King. We wrote to Merv the Swerve asking for advice on who to approach for equity investors in film and he graciously declined to help citing conflict of interest. It was a slight story. Chris Evans blasting on Radio Two (annoying but I can’t listen to Radio 4 health features, too depressing) and traffic all around. Then it hit me. Cars are better than Art. In order to be relevant again, Art should be like a car.
Now I have written elsewhere that I did become a bit obsessed with the Chrysler 300C. OK, OK, I want one, I admit it. I first became aware of the car’s inverted and perverse aura of unreconstructed cool (a vision of cool that has not changed at all, in spite of new circumstances i.e. global warming, too many cars,etc) in the deserts beyond Al Ain in Abu Dhabi where I was photographing a camel beauty contest for a TV production company (I kid you not). The National staff photographer wheel-spinned away, rushing so as not to miss a saluki dog race and I was smitten.
It’s stupid isn’t it, but the car sums up where I am in life. Unreconstructed. Conflicted. Aspirational. A bit of a show-off. Cynical. Yet not so cynical as to ignore a huge that offers 42.8 mpg extra-urban yet can get you out of trouble with 0 – 62 mph in just 7.6 seconds for under five grand second hand. Like I said, pathetic. Or is it?
Groys talks about Art being today made as a series of tiny lies that curators construct into exhibitions that insinuate underlying truths about how we live today. These exhibitions (La Biennale di Venezia for example) are in turn hi-jacked for their cultural capital and come to symbolise the cultural and by association, military might of a nation. This is why figurative painting, with the artist as an emissary of God is now irrelevant. God is dead. Does this sound far fetched?
It’s very unfashionable to call Ai Weiwei’s work rubbish but that’s just what it is. He is a political propagandist and would be working in advertising if he wasn’t so pissed off with the Chinese political system. He is the only living example of The Artist as a Hero. But his work is shit. But we forgive him because he is a hero and you can’t say anything bad against a hero. And that in itself is mind-control i.e. an anodyne, Art-light, politicized consumable, cleverly neutered by social media and that renders Art incapable of shocking anybody. What can’t it? Because the Establishment wont allow it. Art is a monetized, politicized consumable and the Artists sell out before they even start. Art is Revolution. You can’t be on the payroll if you are a Revolutionary. That is why Edward Snowden is my hero.
But why should Art be like a car? Well, the car is an unreconstructed consumable that competes on performance alone. Caution is thrown to the wind in the pursuit of sales. Whatever the market demands the manufacturers deliver, swiftly and with elan. If only the Artist served his or her muse so well – how magnificent our cultural life would be! Instead all we have are whores selling their backsides to the highest bidder or Heroes like Ai Wei whose message is diluted and neutered. We need a Revolution but who is brave enough to lead the way? Was the Arab Spring organised by the CIA? What is true? Can we ever wrestle power back from the corporations? The future of our planet depends on how we answer those and many other questions and Art should lead the way with some kind of Truth, any Truth at all.