The Yuk Factor: Warning: the following image revelation may repulse those of a nauseous disposition. If you think you’ll be a trifle queasy, then best not to continue reading.
Yesterday, The Sunday Times Culture magazine listed one hundred artworks to love from Caravaggio to Constable to Bansky and Tracey Emin. I struggle to understand a lot of conceptual art, which I think is Tracey Emin’s passion.
Sometimes it is best left in my personal ‘window of puzzlement’ to gaze through from time to time or left down my own corridor of ‘intrigue and wonder’ so that I can freely skip along it when I’m looking for stimulus. My window and corridor help me at least, to always strive for an understanding where I can’t see it so easily.
However, I do wonder whether my desire to understand conceptual art, is just a desperate need in my brain to simply find an answer or pattern that will help me to follow an idea?
Nail clippings sprinkled on a trifle: Putting meaning into to the meaningless
The photographs above are inspired by Tracey’s works. A sensational marmite moment- almost certainly- it may have some of you clutching your stomach. Sorry.
And how do I place meaning to my grande petit meaningless? Could the trifle represent earth and its stratum of rich fertile layers? What about if we accept the top layer as the soil bed, bearing and supporting a crop of toenail clippings growing but looking like scattered hundreds and thousands? I could suggest that these toe clippings may be crude micro representations of life, viewed without any rose-tinted stratum; some nails delicately, elegantly shaped, some, bent and twisted, looking like mangled growth. Could they be displaying the rough and smooth side of life? Could each nail represent uniqueness, a picture of biotic life and individuality? With the organic matter gradually decomposing and retiring to the latter part of life’s cycle of birth and death, could it also, as its displayed on a pretty trifle, be juxtaposing a frugly, (fucking real ugly), beauty? Could it be making a very clear statement that these knobbly, tombstones-like structures can only ever represent death? And what about the issues of detachment that glare at us as we look at it. After all, originally, it was connected and part of a human being, dependent on the actions and movements of a physiological system, but now they are clipped and despatched and left to fend on their own. Perhaps they reflect our own rite of passage involving growth; we depend on our parents for care, food support and shelter and then eventually, we are nudged that its time to spread our wings and find our own way. All this, in a trifle? Perched high on a plinth, add a couple of spotlights…? Could turn it into something highly lucrative.
But does it leave you with free thought, in the end? Or have I just planted you with my hard to shift idea, a ‘don’t think of a pink elephant under a blue tree’, scenario? Bet you wish you could just unsee it.
Art, surely, is an expression of freedom and is not rigid and authoritative; there is no right or wrong way to think and express art.
Is it fair to say, conceptual art is a little prescriptive? Perhaps it’s meant to be, with its main aim being to create discussion on the thought behind the art. But, if everyone’s thinking the same thing, (pink elephant, blue tree), I hope there are fresh ideas coming through in discussion. I don’t see any difference between the way artists set up their installations, the way a set designer prepares the set for a stage play and how retail managers present their products. All three require the same considerations; design concept and layout for their aisles, product placement and setting, desirable atmosphere and ambiance including smells, lighting, proportional appreciation, locality, backdrop, and I’m sure, much more.
All will ask the same questions but perhaps in a different way and order- Where do you want the client to look, what do you want them to think, will it involve recall, how do you want them to feel? What can they touch -if at all and when they leave, what thoughts and feelings do you want them to be left with? It is designed to make sure that you come away with strong opinions of some sort, or of opinions that smack of the creators.
So is conceptual art turning in on itself a little instead of passing on the baton nurturing fresh thinking? Doesn’t it involve the desire of the artist to find others that think along the same lines as him or her? Either that, or a desire to find others who strongly react positively or negatively to artworks. Doesn’t that cage your thought processes an ickle bit? I suppose what the artist hopes for, is that someone out there can make the connection with the same thought process behind the work and the artist, but then to find their own meaning. There. I got there. But then, you probably already knew that, well before me.
Please note: No toes were injured during the making of this installation.