Thursday, October 04, 2012

BS Baffels Brains

Painting with Barb is always a challenge.  She actually reads art books, while I just like to look at the pictures.  She reads art blogs/newsletters of people who are known artists and use big words. I'm of the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" way of thinking and doing things.  We both like to try new things and have "brush-time."  But the real challenge is how to tease and pick on Barb and drive her crazy and make her laugh.  That is the best part.  She is always willing to laugh at me and at herself.  I get some sort of perverse pleasure in ringing her bell (well, anyone's bell will do).  All in good nature.

The time we spent five days together at an art workshop was very interesting.  We were driving to the workshop discussing Wal-Mart.  Barb was arguing that WM was a lousy store and that they took away from the "little guy" and put smaller grocers out of business.  Now I come from a long line of arguer/debator/lawyer type folk who will fight until someone draws blood and maybe even go for the kill.  My little sister says she has to mentally gear-up for a family reunion knowing that she will be a target.  As I have gotten older, I have tried to squelch this evil side of myself, but sometimes it just comes out.  I have learned to attack only someone who is strong enough to take it and will give a good fight back.  Barb is strong, but I can take 'er.  And so, I attacked her arguments against Wal-Mart until Barb got so frustrated she said, "Well, you, you are just a, just a Wal-Mart lover!" My eyebrow went up and I laughed,  Really, Barb, that's the best you can do?  To this day, "Wal-Mart lover" is one of our favorite phrases. 

Speaking of phrases, Barb often uses big words, and I like to tease her when she does.  Like the time she used "ethereal" to describe a painting.  Really, Barb. That's a word?  Are you sure you are using it correctly?  Maybe you should look it up.  Of course, she is usually correct, but she gets so put out with me.  It is the same when she reads some new art book and has a new technique to try.  Are you sure about this, Barb.  Cad red is a stainer - why would they use that? Phtalo blue - are you sure you are saying that right? Quiniacridone - say that again! Sometimes Barb will quote from newsletters and such.  Although the quotes may be interesting, they often seem pretentious - and I will say so.  Which brings me to this: After our usual brush-time and teasing last week, Barb sent me this  little bit from The Painter's Keys.  I thought it was right-on when it comes to pretensions art and artists.  You can go to to the link, but here is the gist:

The purpose of gibberish

September 28, 2012

Dear Barbara,

Yesterday, Michael Fuerst of Urbana, Illinois wrote, "We all receive written material and invitations to art lectures. A lot of this material seems to be gibberish. Can you explain the purpose of it? One invitation to a lecture at the University of Illinois included the line, 'a set of socially shared meanings the artist chooses to make visible in the space of art.' What does this mean?"

Thanks, Michael. That's the long way of saying the artist lets people look at his stuff. You'll notice that my interpretation is particularly dull and unimpressive. Fact is, some folks have a need to make things sound more important than they are. FYI, we've put some of Michael Fuerst's work at the top of the current clickback.

If critics and educators always told it the way it is and cut out the gibberish, they'd be out of a job.

Terms like "collaborative gesture," "foregrounding the power of context," and "insisting on the metapoint" have burned their way into the sophomoric vocabulary of the merely educated. Unless pressed, working artists seldom use these sorts of terms.

It's all about obfuscation. Just so I don't fall into the same trap with a big word, obfuscation means "covering up clarity." The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "to obscure, stupefy and bewilder." The human mind has determined that when a proposition is shaky, a certain amount of mumbo-jumbo is required to make it more acceptable. Some religions, for example, rely on whole other languages that no one but a chosen few can understand. Throughout history, this ruse has been the bastion of charlatans and it's still on the tongues of the high priests of art.

Obfuscation is an accepted way to influence otherwise bright people who don't have the time or inclination to figure things out for themselves. Bright people, because they generally obfuscate in their own way, tend to buy into the ruse--wink, wink.

Talking about visual art is difficult to do. Gibberish is a popular convention that has self-fulfilling benefits. Art that by its nature is confusing is bought by confused people who willingly submit to some form of verbal confusion. "Significant" and "important" art is magnified by the art of gibberish. Cut out the art of gibberish and many artists would also be out of a job. 

Best regards,


PS: "Talking about art is like trying to French kiss over the telephone." (Terry Allen)

Esoterica: In these letters I have been known to fall into unacceptable gibberish, and I'm generally informed by return mail. Thank you. It's my firm belief that most of what we artists need and cherish can best be told in plain language. "Short words are best," said Winston Churchill, "and the old words when short are best of all." And when the sublime cannot be explained we have the option of silence. William S. Burroughs observed that "Modern man has lost the option of silence." I think just about but not quite. We artists are living proof that human creativity evolves in relative silence. But you can rest assured there will always be those who come to fill the void. "Taurus cacas exit cerebella," said Kjerkius Gennius (36 BC) "B.S. baffles brains."


Buck said...

That Robert guy pretty much gets it right, and reenforces his point by quoting one o' my heroes, Sir Winston. His points apply not only to art but to life in general.

It's fun to argue... as long as no one gets hurt. I've learned that much in my old age.

Bag Blog said...

I don't want to hurt anyone with my teasing or arguing. There are some people that I don't tease at all, because they don't do well.

The Churchill quote is a good one.

Jo Castillo said...

I agree, but I will say that Robert obfuscates much of the time himself. Took me too long to interpret his columns so I unsubscribed. Ha.

Arguments are fun, the Pickles comic on October 3 was Gene and I for sure.

Walmart pretty much saved our country from recession don't you think? They help our town by staying open 24 hours. The Crisis Center uses them for a refuge until the victim can be picked up. They donate to all local charities, etc. Lots of jobs. Maybe not the best jobs, but jobs. But, I will say I hate to shop there. Ah well.....

Love your puppy. We could never have one as we like to lock the door and leave for days at a time. :) I also like the green painting!

Bag Blog said...

Jo, the Pickles comic was you and Gene - made me laugh. I have never subscribed to an art letter like Robert's - so I have no idea who he is or what he says.

I do like Wal-Mart for all the things that they bring to the community. I get put-out when they quit carrying something that I have bought for years, but I guess that could happen with any grocery store.

Stefan said...

Obfuscation is a word used in computer programming as well. In that case, people use that so others can't reverse engineer a program that you sell. When the try, they get mostly gibberish.

Not to bore you to death with one word, but I always looked at obfuscation as a bad thing. Sort of like a bad hamburger where everyone tries to guess what the meat was from. Meow!

Bag Blog said...

Obfuscation seems bad to me - big and bad.