Most modern art is rubbish. I don't say that because I think art should be figurative; neither because I think that an artist should be a craftsperson. Great art can be abstract and can also be made by those who are not technically adept (or are but are not employing their craft). I say that because most art is rubbish. It has fallen far behind music, which despite its very limited palette (pardon the weak pun) remains able to innovate; behind even the novel, moribund as that form is. The only medium that rivals it for uselessness is poetry. Here
is a Guardian whiffler telling us why the Turner is so great. I take issue, as follows.
The great feat of the Turner prize is not that it rewards art many people consider to be "just a bit of rubbish" but that it claims to make absolute, not relative, distinctions between four such pieces every year.
The great feat of the Turner is that it attracts attention to pieces of work that would otherwise be gleefully ignored by the masses. And the masses do not need training in the fine arts to recognise rubbish when they see it. I will say this up front: great art reaches inside you and touches you. That is what art is: how we talk to ourselves, how we show each other what we've understood about ourselves, our world and our place in it. You do not need to know art to be touched by it. Taste, I concede, varies. But the feeling that something is not just a thing that I, or you, like, but is something insightful, deep and satisfying does not so much.
It shortlists four artists that to conservative eyes
Here is the crux of why people like Jonathan Jones feel they must admire the emperor's apparel: because it is new, and Jones fears more than anything being seen as staid, unwilling to adventure. But newness in itself is not a merit. It's a terrible failing of critique across the board that it insists that novelty on its own
is good. It's the same kind of thinking that in business has companies convinced that all change is for the good. But it's not, of course, and we can more clearly see that in business than in the arts. (Partly because business is not usually seen as being progressive, largely because it has not been infected with modernist critique that sees all of human endeavour as progressing from cave to cathedral.) Change can be destructive without necessarily entailing new creation. In any case, innovation works when it is against
what there is, not when it is made in a vacuum. So music that departs from a genre can be excellent; music that invents one rarely is.
Conservatism is not an ill in itself. Some things really aren't broke, and don't need fixing. I'm not suggesting that all of art was good! I am saying though that, for instance, it was not necessarily true that art had said all there was to say about the world, so ditching the notion that it could say more was not necessarily a good step.
are just charlatans
And I'm not conservative, but I think most of the artists picked by the Turner panel are
charlatans. They are chancers, who hope to make a career out of throwing together bits of junk, in the main. At best, they are cluelessly untalented. The benefit of art for them is that it's difficult for the poor "conservatives" to say why they are rubbish. (Because analwits like Jones have spent so many words on denying that "this artist has nothing to say and no means to say it even if she did" is all the criticism most modern artists deserve.)
exhibits them - and decides which is not merely an artist, but a brilliant, even great artist. In other words, it claims the loftiest critical standards can be applied to art widely dismissed as ephemeral.
Yes, doesn't it though.
And the art is not dismissed as "ephemeral". Ephemeral can be great. What is more ephemeral than the pop song? You love it today, forget it tomorrow, in theory. (In practice, some throwaway pop has lived for many years, and will doubtless live for many more.) Yet a great pop song is great art. The art we are discussing is dismissed as "rubbish". That's different.
Just so we're clear, I'm saying that an artist could be as good as Smokey Robinson but most are at best Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. Not even that, of course, because Dion and Carey are at least technically proficient, even if they are cluelessly awful. God, if Tracey Emin actually were as good as Mariah, what an improvement in her work we'd see! Perhaps it would be fairer to compare her with a novelty band, given that she is a dreadful one-trick pony. Indeed, the notion that modern art has become novelty art is quite strong. What else is a shark in a tank? It is not a statement about anything but how clever Hirst is to put a shark in a tank.
The truth is that after 23 years of this we still don't have any lucid way of saying why one ready-made is better than another.
Right again. But this is not because they are impossibly rarefied. This is because it is as pointless an exercise as comparing your stools and anointing one Best Turd of 2007.
What the Turner keeps falling back on instead is the oldest of all western ideas about art: the belief in God-given genius.
Why do we believe in God-given genius though? Maybe because some people's work has that extra something. Maybe because they excel in a form that we can understand?
I don't know. Maybe because some people are just geniuses?
When you get rid of technical achievement, get rid of excellence in painting or sculpting as standards of comparison, you are left with a messianic belief in the inspired artist
Get rid of all of that, and you are left with a bunch of guys who put junk together, aren't you?
One of the key problems I have with modern art -- and the notion that it can spawn genius -- is that that is all there is to it. You can be absolutely fantastic at putting junk together but that is all you have done. By removing conceptual depth from your work, you leave only the surface: the act.
So when you put a bunch of bronze figures on the beach, and insist they don't represent anything, what you have is a bunch of bronze figures on the beach. Which is nice.
- the same belief that led Renaissance Italians to claim Michelangelo was literally a gift from heaven.
Except that Michelangelo was talented.
This prize has abolished talent and replaced it with genius - and this exhibition takes the claim to a transcendent historical level.
No, the prize has abolished talent and replaced it with nothing, and is hoping no one who "matters" stands up and says "hang on, this is rubbish".
Well, I don't matter, but this is rubbish.
It is an exhibition of geniuses - a survey of the Turner's history that concentrates entirely on the winners since 1984. I can't think how the curators reached such a bizarre way of dealing with a history that is contentious in every way: every year, the winner is controversial; every year, some people think the whole thing's a sham. How on earth can you purify such a tangled phenomenon into this exhibition's pristine academy?
Well, why not?
The thing is, none of it has much value, and you could choose your winner by sticking a pin in the catalogue. As Jones has correctly noted, you can't judge these things. They are not like photographs or short stories. They do not have content. So what else would you put on display: the curators' personal favourites?
Why? To preserve the dignity of the judges who, in 1989, preferred Richard Long to Lucian Freud?
Well, who doesn't?
A Turner retrospective without Tracey Emin's bed - a loser in 1999 - is a history without the dirty, interesting bits.
Maybe they are striking back in kind. Emin's bed was uninteresting, and it won't have become any more interesting. If it wasn't for cunts like Saatchi claiming that this bollocks is art, Emin would be selling herself for crack, not coining it in. So maybe the curators are laughing at the whole idea of having "winners" and "losers" when there are no criteria for judging.
Maybe they are saying "just look at the rubbish some clown thought was the best of that year; Vermeer is rolling in his crypt".
Worse, by excluding the also-rans it forces you to ask: do any of these winners look like geniuses?
Nope. They look like cunts. If you included the also-rans, they'd look like cunts too. Because they are.
They have destroyed part of our culture. Art has long ceased to be about expression. Part of the reason is money. Making art tradable has created a desire for things to trade, and those who traded it had more or less run out of things that had value. So they needed to find new value, which they achieved by making it impossible to judge value. The truth is, modern art is "good" if Saatchi buys it, because he puts the value into it. It's all about the dollars. Another part of the reason is that we live in a world where not only does everyone want their fifteen minutes, but everyone also wants to feel valuable, talented, wonderful. So if you can't play the guitar, are not good-looking, can't write, are cackhanded and a bit dim, where do you go if you want to be respected as having a talent others don't have? You go to art school.
Other than Damien Hirst, I mean?
You know, many things in this world make you wonder whether it is you or the world that is mad. You read the endless bullshit that the rightards put out; you watch TV that it's almost unbelievable that people made, let alone expect you to watch; you see and hear things that are so in-your-face stupid that you wonder that the people doing and saying them don't implode under the weight of dumb.
But I am not living in a world where Damien Hirst is a genius. I am utterly confident of that; unless we are saying that his genius is for making money and having people talk about him. No, Hirst is a talentless prick.
Here's the thing. They often say about "conceptual" art (LOL at the "conceptual" tag for art that does not include concepts but seeks to be a concept in itself) that yes, anyone could have put a shark in a tank, but no one else thought to do it. However, the truth is, anyone could have put a shark in a tank, but no one else bothered. That's all it is. I could sever my cock and display it in the Tate. It would say nothing about me, about the world, about cocks, or about anything whatsoever, except that I claim my cock is art.
Which it is. And who's to say it isn't? Because we have allowed everything
to be art.
How boring! Instead of its being our means of expression, a conversation among ourselves, a delving into who we are, we have made art just everything, whatever we put in tanks, whatever we splatter on a board, whatever we say or do, so long as we say it's art.
So much of the art here is good.
Actually all of it is good,
Yes, I suppose it is. "Good" has absolutely no meaning in art.
Is this a good thing? Well, in some ways I suppose it is. Postmodernism helped us to stop thinking some people were better than others, some choices better, some morals and so on. But it helped because those things were not objectively better but were considered through the lens of individual or communal values. Postmodernism teaches that our judgements are based in consensus, not objectivity, and that confusing the two is a mistake. Mostly.
But it is not necessarily the case that consensual values are all wrong. We may agree that, for instance, genital mutilation is not objectively "wrong" without agreeing that it is right. We can say, we know that this judgement is based in our values, but we uphold those values all the same.
the notable exception being Hirst.
Seeing his bisected cow and calf - reconstructed by the artist for this show - is a shock: where is the sensitivity and beauty you see in Anish Kapoor's blue voids or Wolfgang Tillmans' tender photographs?
Kof. Well, Kapoor does blue lovely, and the worst you can say about Tillmanns is that he takes a nice photo.
And yet, forget the sensitivity, the beauty, the being good.
Yes, I think you can safely say that's been forgotten.
Hirst's art cannot be called "good" but it can be called great.
It can be called a dog on a string but that won't make it one.
It is ugly and brutal and true and far more modest than anything else here.
It's half a cow in a tank, you halfwit. That's ugly, yes. Brutal? Dude, brutal is the shoeing you will get if you ever express this opinion to me in the flesh. True? OMG. What? What truth is it expressing? Go on. I promise to accept Hirst's "genius" if any commenter can coherently say what truth there is in the cow. Unless your comment is "well, it's truly half a cow". Modest?
If Jonathan Jones was strangled with his own entrails, that would be modest in the same sense.
You want genius? He's a genius.
You know. One day, Jones is going to wake up and look in the mirror and go, blow me, what a farce I am.
Well, I can dream.
I do dream that, you know. I dream that there will be a morning on which we all have a moment of perfect clarity. We all go, blow me, what a farce I am, and realise what and who we really are.
I think I will write a novel about it! What do you think? A virus spreads throughout the world, infecting everyone person by person, so that they become incapable of... well, whatever you call that thing, hiding, pretending, masquerading. Incapable of not realising the truth about themselves. Scales from eyes. Think it has legs?
To find one in 24 years is actually not bad going.
You know something, Jones. I've put more art into this one post than Hirst has into his entire oeuvre. But you cunts killed art, and left us with a deathly dull substitute with the same name but none of the attributes. Thanks for that, Jones.