22 April 2008

Avant Garde

I found that this jezebel post, which Elena sent to me last week, while not directly related to the content of this blog, certainly provides a good example of an artist who has used a political message to gain exposure. I won't waste my time explaining the silliness of this "work of art", which involves the supposed remains of several self-induced miscarriages by a Yale University senior, as jezebel has done the job well. What I find interesting is that after Yale released a statement denying the veracity of substance of the miscarriages displayed, the artist, Aliza Shvarts, responded to claim that Yale was wrong. Is it really important for her work, the goal of which she claims is to start a dialog about real issues through art--which apparently doesn't happen--contain the actual blood and tissue of her supposed miscarriages?

It seems to me that if the tissue is real, then her work is not really art, because it is not representational, it is an artifact. Obviously many hot-headed undergraduates would disagree with this definition of "art", and I have no intention of bringing this blog into the distorted realm of that debate, but it's relevant given the question that my blog poses. What about using fake blood, or paint, or some substance other than her own miscarried pregnancy, denies her work it's message? It seems more likely, that while making a painting of a miscarriage is certainly interesting, it has nowhere near the shock value, or potential media interest, as some chick who actually did this to herself. Shvarts claims that her piece is meant to spark public dialog, but it's unclear what she wants that dialog to be about.

One conclusion that can be drawn from this event, which is sort of depressing, is that the modern art world is influenced by shock value. While there are tons of artists creating truly innovative, provocative and impressive works, often it is the more shocking works--see "Piss Christ"--that receive public attention outside of the art world, and thus make a name for those artists, obviously regardless of the real merit of the work. That sucks.

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