Sunday, September 3

Yeah, But Is It Art?

At a street market in Amsterdam there is a vendor selling boxed sets of compact paint spray cans. They come in sets of complimentary colors (including shading hues). And the boxes are cleverly open with an over-the-body strap that allows the user to dangle the cans at waist level for rapid access. European cities are more densely tagged with grafs than most of their US counterparts. They also seem to be far less political and/or gang related.
Questions: (1) Is this display on the corner of Elandsgracht and Derde Looiersdwars Straats in Amsterdam’s Centrum… art? Before rushing an answer, look how the city’s allowed that advertising box along the wall, and planted weed-like street signs. Look how bikes are strewn all about. See the utility boxes screwed to the walls. Is any of that, art? How should this scene look? Who makes that decision?
(2) Uncovered walls in Pompeii are wrapped in millennia-ancient tags. While much of the Pompeian graffiti seems advertising related (“Buy Deficia’s Big Sausages”) lots just reflect a passion of people to declare that they were there.. Is their an instinctual artistic need to brand a historic instant with their presence?
GEEK STUFF: Grabbed with my new Canon 7D through its workhorse 17-85mm zoom. Mid-day sun tested the 7Ds ability to capture HDR groupings… I’m thinking it dramatically passes that test. Right?


Cedric said...

That eternal little gem of a question. If the graffiti is art, does that make the advert art? Or the placement of the bikes perhaps? Or maybe it's the coming together of all these elements that make it art I don't know, which in itself is perplexing because I have no such qualms calling your photo, art. Why would that be? Again, I don't know but perhaps it has to do with the intent behind the creativity. The people who parked their bikes certainly had no artistic intent in the placement of their machines. The persons who created the advert were certainly wanting to make a statement but more likely motivated by money than by any artistic urge. As for the spray-can toting graffitists, well, they are wanting to express something but it does come with an element of destructive energy, an artistic trait in itself I venture but perhaps not when aimed at another's property.
I don't know. But I will say that this photo of yours, Ted, would make an excellent album cover or a large, feature print on the wall of a well lit living room in a converted warehouse loft.

Ted said...

An album cover? How old are you? Who was the classic photographer who said he took photographs to see how the subjects would look in pictures? And someone else wrote that art is a result of framing anything. Which brings me to the logical conclusion of the photographic 'artist' who randomly tossed frames at random. I have a photographic/artist friend who argues that he'd like to create a camera that could peer out of a hole in the side of a box that he'd ship to a random address while the device was programmed to snap images without order. The results he believed would offer up the essence of art.

This image is, OTH, entirely contrived in POV, cropping, lens choice, shutter speed, DOF, and excruciatingly detailed post processing. The tone map is mine, as is the placement in post of some elements while removing others.There is a strictly imposed order upon every element within it. I am NOT a photojournalist. In fact a friend of mine, an editor of a metro daily, smiled at me during one of my shows and said, "Ted, you are doing exactly what I'd fire my photographers for doing." I'm happy with the name of this block... I do "Image Fiction" :-) It's a little like what poets, composers, authors, and even breast augmenters do.

But it's the "element of destructive energy" associated with tagging that engorges my hackles. Art which imposes a material loss (or some levels of psychological damage) upon others is malicious self-indulgence. Is there a distinction between art and theft? Even lacking a distinction, is "art" a defense? I think my head's rumbling to explode... Grumble

You are wonderfully supportive, and I appreciate your kind words particularly since the hiatus of 'PLOP!' has left my imagination less nurtured. Shhhhhh.... quiet. Hear that? Hear the chanting QUIET!!!

Sorry about that, there, I've switched on the censor. Whew! So here's a question. Suppose someone orders up a large version of this image. Should I sell it? Traffic in someone's malicious self-indulgence? Hmmmm.... I'll cross that bridge just as soon as the orders roll in :-) I mean, if I find a vial of meth, should I sell it? I mean I haven't bought it. Nor have I made it. And there's a market for the stuff (although I lack access to it, or think I do).

Graffing bothers me, but some of it is fascinatingly creative. And in Europe I see miles of it along roadways that is so old that it's aging into a patina of almost elegance. Hmmmm....

Drop me an email, K? Gotta' question for you.

Cedric said...

How old am I? Older than life but that's a long story.

Album cover, sure. You do know that vinyl presses have started up again in Japan and many contemporary bands are putting out their music on LPs once again. Sure, it's not a high volume industry but that only makes it more special right?

All art, however we define it, is contrived. On some level of consciousness at least. The truth is, I no longer really think of anything as art or not-art. I'll discuss things in terms of their "artiness" because it's easier that way, it makes me more sociable (not an easy feat), but the question "what is art?" is to me, completely rhetorical. It is beyond discussion and debate. Beyond words. The reality is that I can look at anything and tell you without hesitation whether it's art or not. I am the ultimate art expert don't you know. The trick, of course, is to ignore whatever anyone else says and refuse to elaborate. Of course you end up looking like a total prat so you need to ignore that too.

Where graffiti is concerned, I will say that I prefer it over billboards and advertising any day.

You are most welcome to email me at wottheduk @ outlook dot com

Ask me any question, just don't always expect a worthy answer :)