Some texts to my brother and notes on celebrity and visual arts culture
Posted On June 4, 2022
So, I’ve been pondering artistic direction yet again (more bellyaching about that on another post so as to keep this one on topic).
And I was thinking about drawings me and my friends used to do in high school of celebrities and how there kinda was something to that, albeit not that we understood back then.
And I was thinking of paintings to do with celebrity iconography, etc. and I know Andy Warhol and pop art and was looking up about current pop art-like movements and following that rabbit hole and landing on a Wikipedia bit about “appropriation art” (via one about Jeff Koons) so yesterday at lunch in a nearby city I was reading that.
And basically all art is some level of appropriation but nowadays certain versions of it will get you slandered even long after your dead and even if you meant your work as a tribute while other versions of appropriation art get you millions in sales while other versions of appropriation art (ie, fan art and pop culture iconography art) might well get you sued.
Well, better that than the slander, I suppose. You can always just buy off lawyers, not so with rabid activists.
And then I went to a public gallery (names withheld because really it’s beside the point) and was amused that both shows they have currently running are very much appropriation in a sense, in that they picked a few local artists and asked them to pick works from the gallery’s permanent collections and then make new art in response to the old art.
And then had the fucking audacity to have signage blasting the likes of old Emily Carr for her appropriation (while displaying a bunch of her work, because tourists demand it and they know most people don’t read the fucking bullshit statement signs anyway) and blah blah blah… oh, the irony.
Anyway, I had a good snarky text conversation with my brother who is out of town and probably never coming back (lucky him) about it. Especially about one artist whose work seems rather self-flagellatory about the fact that she is a “white settler” and she works with parts of invasive plant species and I guess on the surface it’s supposed to be about her self-loathing as an invasive herself but then she’s also finding utility in the invasive plants in her work, but doesn’t seem willing to extend the same courtesy to herself yet.
Also, if she’s only a 3rd generation immigrant, um… well, if you feel so strongly that you don’t belong here, pretty much all European countries have a right of return up to the third generation.
I’m no fan of Canada, but I could go “home” to Poland since my dad was born there. Now, I don’t speak the language and I’m well aware that I will never be truly Polish even if I did return, but the point is that, based on what she said in her artist statement, this person can go back from whence she came, but where’s the virtue signalling in that, amirite?
We were born here and this is our society, as fucked up as it is. Maybe we should go home to Europe, but that’s being made increasingly difficult while the EU flings the doors open to pretty much anyone else who wants to move there. Why? Because the powers that be love division as much as they love cheap imported labor and they seem to hate the descendants of the people who built the civilization that they depend on.
Spiteful mutants, as one English ex-pat professor likes to say.
The funny thing is, that deeply disturbed sense of self-loathing, inflicted upon us from every angle by our media, our (mis-)education system, and our supposed betters in the culture scam, er, industry is indeed a major pressing issue in our society today.
Just not the issue/interpretation that was undoubtedly intended by the artist and the curators.
Moving on to today, I was telling my brother of an art print I bought from a gallery in LA’s online shop. Both the gallery and the artist do a lot of work with pop culture imagery and fandom. So here’s some of the texts from that conversation:
Funny thing is, this sort of work, while superficial and toy-like on the surface, actually addresses far more real and important issues in our culture than the shit at the art gallery yesterday.
Or at least, the issues the work in the gallery thinks they’re addressing aren’t the ones that really shine through for anyone with a brain.
That self-flagellating with the invasive species shit and lamenting that she’s a settler? That’s a major issue in our culture, but the problem is that loss of self-confidence and being reduced to whining self-flagellation instead of moving forward in any meaningful way. It’s snivelling and it’s disgusting and it’s self-indulgent, but that’s not the way they want us to interpret it.
Meanwhile on the surface it’s funny to see a Saint (insert your favorite celebrity here) art print, and it’s cute and cool, but it also speaks to deeper issues like the loss of connection to our roots and desperately seeking God, even if in the 40-year-old images of a now-pudgy singer.
We make celebrities our North Stars, and we look to them for guidance we would have once gotten from the traditions of our culture that have been severed from our daily experience or from clergy before they were all corrupted and then revealed to be corrupted, or from elders in our families before the nuclear family got nuked.
So, now we check Twitter to know what the patron saint of whatever our favorite celebrity cult is has proclaimed lately.
My brother’s response was “yes, false prophets, leading the masses to their doom”
Off the cliff with the lemmings, as always.
And I was reminded, since we’re talking about pop culture and music references, of the post-chorus of an old Hanoi Rocks song:
“Don’t follow me, I’m lost too.”
Well, ain’t that a refreshing bit of honesty. Ditto this classic from Ozzy Osbourne:
“Don’t ask me, I don’t know.”
Not that people accept that, of course. And so the nasty little cesspool deepens.