When Exactly Did Art Die?

At least the latest travesty in the art world comes Down Under rather than the US, but that only shows how global the collapse of art from a meaningful form to an anti-Christian realm of bigots has become. The latest examples are entrants in the Blake Prize competition in Australia, which features a statue of the Virgin Mary in a burqa and a holographic image of Jesus that transforms into … Osama bin Laden:

THE artist behind a controversial work depicting terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden morphing into Jesus today asked people to look deeper into the work.
Queensland artist Priscilla Bracks denied she had deliberately set out to be offensive.
“Absolutely not, no, no. I am not interested in being offensive. I am interested in having a discussion and asking questions about how we think about our world and what we accept and what we don’t accept,” she told ABC radio. … Ms Bracks said one issue behind her work was the glorification of Osama bin Laden in some parts of the world.
“What I was thinking about is, well, what would happen to the stories about this man over thousands of years. Could that possibly lead to someone with a cult-like status,” she said.

Right. So Osama is somehow the Jesus of our time. I get that, too, because Jesus went around killing people as a show of his power, and directed his followers to go out into the world and kill everyone who didn’t believe in his teachings. Oh, wait …
You’ll notice, of course, that Bracks didn’t take the obvious comparison of morphing Mohammed into Osama, as Andrew Bolt points out. Not only is the point more germane with Mohammed, who actually did lead an army that conducted wars on infidels, but Osama is (obviously) a follower of Mohammed. Why not have Mohammed morph into Osama? Because any depiction of Mohammed is considered profane by Muslims and can get an artist killed. Just criticizing Islam got Theo Van Gogh murdered in the street in Amsterdam.
It’s much safer to demonize Christians. They don’t try to kill people.
Artists discovered this quite some time ago. Dropping a crucifix into a beaker of urine became a celebrated work of “art”. Flinging elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary and surrounding the image with pictures of genitalia got NEA funding here in the US. The art world found out that it could generate outrage by explicitly venting hatred towards Christians, establishing reputations for courageous iconoclasm while neatly avoiding any criticism whatsoever of Islam, which could result in physical violence.
It’s become too easy to see through the charade. Art has lost all vigor, as it celebrates works that become increasingly puerile and bounded by bigotry. Its obsession with Christianity as an evil presence has cost it its relevance to the modern world, and it has become nothing but a masturbatory exercise only for its own circle of mechanics. (via Memeorandum)
UPDATE: Fausta notes the complete lack of rioting among Christians over this “art”.

39 thoughts on “When Exactly Did Art Die?”

  1. You know, I am a huge Monet fan, but, strangely, I never felt the need to have a discussion, and I’ll bet he didn’t either. Simply looking at a masterpiece is good enough.
    Bracks is obviously looking for attention, and is getting it.

  2. The problem with ‘Art’ today is the under current of message that has to be part of the presentation. No longer it seems is it merely the appreciation of the work considered germane.
    Why is that? Well my suspicion is that when someone does not have the talent to be a Rembrandt you have to have a gimmick. So putting an image of Christ in urine ends up being the result.
    Oh, you wanted a date didn’t you. My guess — the day some critic considered the Andy Warhol cambell soup can lithograph ‘significant’. That was 1963 or 64 if I recall. The Art world has been downhill ever since.

  3. Captain Ed…Art has lost all vigor, as it celebrates works that become increasingly puerile and bounded by bigotry. Its obsession with Christianity as an evil presence has cost it its relevance to the modern world, and it has become nothing but a masturbatory exercise only for its own circle of mechanics.
    You are painting with a pretty wide brush here, Captain Ed. I work in an art gallery, and I am exposed to the work of many, many artists. While I agree with you about Priscilla Bracks and the other handful of artists who provoke for provocation’s sake, the vast majority of working artists create wonderful works that inspire us.
    The “provocation” school certainly exists, but most people discount these artists as juvenile hacks who feel they need to antagonise people to make a name for themselves. It worked once again. You just gave an unknown Australian artist attention that many other more talented artists deserve.
    Captain Ed, if you want to be inspired by art once again rather than be repelled by it, I suggest a visit to your local museum of art. You could also visit your local art galleries. Most cities have a gallery night where you can go enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres while speaking with the artists and enjoying their work.

  4. The true God is powerful enough that I don’t have to fight for Him. As He states, Vengeance is mine. I will repay.
    But, as a Christian, I don’t get to revel in that concept and instead must pray for those who would blaspheme the Lord that they be enlightened before payment comes due. I have to work on that one; my human side gets in the way.
    As for the artist, what a coward!

  5. “When did Art die?”
    When the Artist believed itself more important than the Art. The ego of the do-gooder Poet, who is the unacknowledged legislator, is what has confined the artist inside the restrictive black box called ‘social justice’.
    I watched “The Lives of Others” the other day, beautifully crafted work of Art which digs deep inside the belly of do-gooder artists whose pious ego eventually creates a society of socialized misery. Ironically, the artist suffers so much from his own imposed do-good artistry that he eventually becomes human again and risks his own life to create his Art.
    While in the theater I often wondered why Artists were so attracted to ‘social justice’ when this ideal was what would eventually cut out the Poet’s tongue. To this day none in the Artistic community will ever admit that their ego-driven do-gooder insanity is what brings about totalitarian misery.

  6. TGWSHark – I totally agree with you! It is too bad that Christianity is always the butt of this so called ‘art’. I guess that’s because Christians don’t rise up in revolt and threaten to kill, maim and burn in the name of religion.
    I always think that the the fastest way to hell is to tick God off! Don’t ever want to do that…

  7. A “masturbatory exercise” for a “circle of mechanics”?
    Um . . . ok, Ed. Did you really say this? Actually, never mind.
    Have to admit, as predictable as this posting appeared to be, I wasn’t expecting that last part.

  8. Another observation about the Artist:
    “A soon as man began considering himself the source of all meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.’ Vaclav Havel

  9. TGWSHark – I totally agree with you! It is too bad that Christianity is always the butt of this so called ‘art’. I guess that’s because Christians don’t rise up in revolt and threaten to kill, maim and burn in the name of religion.
    I always think that the the fastest way to hell is to tick God off! Don’t ever want to do that…

  10. Some say the deed began during the Iconoclast debate, when reformed theologians argued that art violated the commandment against “graven images” and therefore was not the proper function of the Church.
    Thus was the domain of aesthetics gradually ceded to the secular world, where it remains. Even today, some evangelicals smash statues of saints and the Virgin Mary, and to that extent they are complicit in surrendering art to the pagan domain.
    Of course, modern theologians like Hans Urs von Balthasar have attempted to right that wrong, I think with great success, but that’s for history to judge.

  11. Take a look at numbers 22 and 23:
    COMMUNIST GOALS:
    1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”
    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.
    45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court from seizing jurisdiction over domestic problems. Give the World Court jurisdiction over nations and individual alike.

  12. Latest Art Outrage: Jesus Bin Laden

    Via Andrew Bolt:
    More artists being “brave” in the usually cowardly way:
    John Howard last night condemned two entries in the nation’s top religious art competition, labelling them “gratuitously offensive” to Christians.
    A statue of the Vir…

  13. Art has “lost all its vigor” because it is “obsessed with Christianity?”
    Well, my goodness. Who knew?
    Actually that’s a lot like saying conservatism is dead because George Bush is in the White House. Of course there will always be odious, self-seeking, thoughtless people who briefly cast a shadow over the movements they claim to represent.
    But the truth is, people will come and go. Beauty, creativity and integrity will endure through the ages.

  14. I’m not particularly interested in defending this artist’s position, but it would be a shame if all funded art had to please everyone. That would make it boring and fairly pointless. I credit this artist for starting a conversation. If all artists were putting out work that was simply meant to be shocking, I might say we need to increase the variety – but a handful of obscure artists just trying to piss people off doesn’t bother me in the least. I think the world needs it. And Christians, while they don’t usually kill people, are pretty ripe for critique anyways.
    For that matter, can we stop the whole “[insert religion] bigot” thing? The implication that religion should be tied up with more intrinsic characteristics like sex or race is silly. A religion is a set of (usually ridiculous, but that’s beside the point I suppose) beliefs and associated ways of acting. Calling someone a bigot against Christians is the same as calling them a bigot against Green Party members or Scientologists. It’s a way of shielding religious beliefs from critique, and it’s bogus.

  15. When did Art “Die”? I don’t think it ever has. Perhaps a better question for an admittedly ignorant layperson such as myself (so flame away -I couldn’t care less) would be “when did art start getting crappy?” Perhaps when it started getting subsidized by the taxpayers? When did the National Endowment for the Arts come in to existence? It was in the early 60’s right?
    How much of the truly timeless and everlasting works of art – paintings, sculptures, novels, poetry, etc., were created in America prior to the mid-1960s; and how much of it has been created since the mid-60s? Perhaps the term “starving” artist refers to someone who is actually hungry enough to create better art? As opposed to someone who can get a grant?
    Just a thought. Maybe a really dumb one – if so, I’ll be the first to admit it; as I said, this is out of my realm.
    But my wife laughs at me, because as a man with ZERO and I mean ZERO artistic talent, I have this little expression I use when viewing objects (paintings, sculptures) presented as “art.”……”If I can do it, it ain’t art.” So for example, if we’re driving along and see some modern sculpture in front of some building and it happens to be something like a rusty chunk of a bent steel beam, or a crooked coat hanger, I’ll turn to her and smirk and say “I can do that,” and she’ll know what my opinion of that piece of ‘art’ really is a piece of. 🙂
    Yeah, back on topic – Obama morphing into the Prophet would have been a germane. And daring. But the poor artist would have had to immediately go into hiding, now wouldn’t she. Jesus is the easy choice – one can get all “deep” and all, and get another grant, and get tenure at the local art college, and positive critical reviews – while staying perfectly safe the entire time. Worst thing that can happen to the pissChrist, ElephantDungMary, Obama/Jesus types is to get vilified by angry Christians who are going to write some VERY unkind letters! She runs a very high risk of getting her feelings hurt. But that sure beats getting beheaded.

  16. In a review of Schlingensief’s Parsifal at Bayreuth
    Alex Ross wrote in his review entitled “Nausea” which appeared in The New Yorker, Aug. 9 and 16, 2004 that it was “stupid, repulsive, irritating, befuddling, and boring things on opera stages over the years, but Schlingensief’s dead-rabbit climax was something new: for the first time, I left a theatre feeling, like, ready to hurl.
    The trouble with this sort of provocation is that if you criticize it, even with an involuntary emetic reflex, you end up playing a role that the instigator has written for you. You are cast as the reactionary, the sentimentalist…,”
    The “artist” who deliberately taunts the viewer with offensive works is in a win-win situation, praise for the work is a winner, criticism and disgust is also a winner.

  17. In a review of Schlingensief’s Parsifal at Bayreuth
    Alex Ross wrote in his review entitled “Nausea” which appeared in The New Yorker, Aug. 9 and 16, 2004 that “stupid, repulsive, irritating, befuddling, and boring things on opera stages over the years, but Schlingensief’s dead-rabbit climax was something new: for the first time, I left a theatre feeling, like, ready to hurl.
    The trouble with this sort of provocation is that if you criticize it, even with an involuntary emetic reflex, you end up playing a role that the instigator has written for you. You are cast as the reactionary, the sentimentalist…,”
    The “artist” who deliberately taunts the viewer with offensive works is in a win-win situation, praise for the work is a winner, criticism and disgust is also a winner.

  18. Funny but to a muslim it is offensive to portray any prophet INCLUDING Jesus and Moses in any representational for, and for the artist to morph the preeminent infidel Jesus (although the muslims pay lip service to Him as a prophet) into that preeminent muslim OBL, should cause another whine and seethe party among the ROPers.
    This is such blasphemy to call one of the most ruthless followers of islam a disciple of Christ (for what else can the artist reasonably intend by the morph), that it could only be done in a country living in Christian principles of love, mercy tolerance and forgiveness, principles which are noticeably absent from his signature creature OBL.

  19. In a review of Schlingensief’s Parsifal at Bayreuth Alex Ross wrote in his review entitled “Nausea” which appeared in The New Yorker, Aug. 9 and 16, 2004 there have been “stupid, repulsive, irritating, befuddling, and boring things on opera stages over the years, but Schlingensief’s dead-rabbit climax was something new: for the first time, I left a theatre feeling, like, ready to hurl.
    The trouble with this sort of provocation is that if you criticize it, even with an involuntary emetic reflex, you end up playing a role that the instigator has written for you. You are cast as the reactionary, the sentimentalist…,”
    The “artist” who deliberately taunts the viewer with offensive works is in a win-win situation, praise for the work is a winner, criticism and disgust is also a winner.

  20. Ed,
    Was “Piss Christ” really “celebrated”? The only people I remember mentioning this travesty were the people who were so vehemently against it. Even people who defended its display seemed to do so while holding their noses.
    On the other hand, the treacly Thomas Kinkade is beloved by many Americans, which just goes to show you that, even if art is alive somewhere, appreciation of it is truly dead.

  21. nitpicker… did you know that Kinkade also “writes” books? I kid you not. There are banks of them on the shelves, all sporting Kinkade paintings on the dust covers and created by Kinkade ghost writers. I assume they are about puppies and blossoms and True Love. I’m told they sell like hotcakes.
    On second thought, maybe art is dead after all.

  22. CE:When exactly did art die?

    Not sure I agree that it is dead — if the question is when did the avant-garde turn from wanting to inspire towards wanting to provoke then I’ll guess … 1912.
    That’s when Marcel Duchamp — the culprit had to be a frenchman now, didn’t he 😉 — said “I want something where the eye and the hand count for nothing.” And in 1917 Duchamp submitted a urinal to an art exhibit and called it Fountain. His point was that he had selected this readymade art and gave it a new meaning, whether he created it or not was unimportant.

    CE: … it has become nothing but a masturbatory exercise only for its own circle of mechanics.

    Sometimes literally. Vito Accnonci exibited something he called “Seedbed” in 1972. He installed a ramped wooden floor in a NY gallery and spent eight hours a day, three days a week listening to footseps above him, fantasizing about the gallery visitors and masturbating. He installed speakers and a microphone so visitors could hear is heavy breathing.
    I think the avante-garde definitely skewed into a frequently worthless direction and the art elites seem to be happy that they’re not liked by everyone. I had an artist teacher who believed that “if everyone likes my work I’m doing something wrong.”
    My own snobbish opinion: Art should make you feel something, whether it’s a painterly little landscape sketch or a gallery installation. And if some folks can set aside their need to see a demonstration of the artist’s technical skill then they might actually enjoy a wider range of art. But art like this that delves into stupid political or social commentary is cheap and won’t stand the test of time, imho.

  23. Nitpicker and filistro, you had to mention the “K” word, didn’t you? I hesitate even to call Thomas Kinkade’s work art. Any number of mediocre artists can do the same work that he does. His genious lies in marketing.
    That being said, I always challenge myself to find something good to say about a piece of art, no matter how bad I may really think it is. So, about Kinkade, If a nostalgic work that uses light well makes a collector happy, then he or she should hang Kinkade’s work on the wall.
    About Priscilla Bracks work, if her blasphemous comparison of Osama to Jesus outrages a Christian, or better yet a lapsed Christian, and rekindles his or her faith, then Bracks will have done a great service. That is not to say that her work is worthy of respect or even worth showing in a gallery, but rather that I can always find something good to say about a piece of art, no matter how repugnant.

  24. Morphing bin Laden into Christ isn’t really a very compelling work of art. Sure, it’ll annoy most Christians and enrage a few, who will write letters to newspapers or call talk radio.
    Now if the artist had any guts and really wanted to start an interesting dialog, she’d morph a Koran-clutching Mohammed into Hitler holding a copy of Mein Kampf.
    In the present age of moral and intellectual confusion, however, it’s courageous to pick on those who never do more than raise their voices to defend themselves, and it’s wrong to try and stop Bronze Age savages who state explicitly that their goal is to conquer the world through mass murder.

  25. Yeah I’m pretty sure soulless commercial shit like Kinkade does more harm to art than a handful of artists trying to mess with people.
    Also, I think that nothing “timeless” has been created since the 60s because things take a while to become timeless and everlasting. A lot of the things we celebrate as classic weren’t viewed as such in their time.
    Finally, in regards to the “if I can do it, it ain’t art” school of thought – while I agree that talent and execution are part of art, there’s a reason it’s “art” and not “craft”. Most of the value is in the idea.

  26. In a review of Schlingensief’s Parsifal at Bayreuth Alex Ross wrote in his review entitled “Nausea” which appeared in The New Yorker, Aug. 9 and 16, 2004 there have been “stupid, repulsive, irritating, befuddling, and boring things on opera stages over the years, but Schlingensief’s dead-rabbit climax was something new: for the first time, I left a theatre feeling, like, ready to hurl.
    The trouble with this sort of provocation is that if you criticize it, even with an involuntary emetic reflex, you end up playing a role that the instigator has written for you. You are cast as the reactionary, the sentimentalist…,”
    The “artist” who deliberately taunts the viewer with offensive works is in a win-win situation, praise for the work is a winner, criticism and disgust is also a winner.

  27. I tried to post several times this morning and the blog didn’t like me, it really didn’t like me. I hope it gets fixed soon.
    I recently reread “Lives to the Saints” which includes many stories about early martyrs of the faith who were tortured and killed for refusing to denounce their beliefs. This did not stop the propagation of the faith. So something like this? An offensive picture? Please. If a silly painting is the best this guy can do, Christianity has nothing to worry about.
    Christianity has survived far worse in its history and yet it still goes on. Perhaps this endurance is what perplexes its opponents so much. They try so hard to shock and mock and yet the faith survives.

  28. Art–for those of you who didn’t get the memo–is most assuredly dead. What we’re witnessing is the last gasp of the Romantic movement. It was born during the French Revolution and is heaving its last sigh even as we speak.
    Thank God.
    Every movement has its day: its beginning, its middle and its end. Romanticism has run its course, come inevitably to its logical conclusion.
    Roger Kimball wrote an excellent article called “Why the Art World is a Disaster’ in June of this year. (Sadly, no longer on line.) In it, he suggests that the Romantic ideal is completely tapped out in creative terms. These days, everything that is presented to us as Art is a cliche–actually, worse than a cliche–the aesthetic equivalent of the Soviet tractor.
    This is the Golden Age of Nothing At All. This is a decadent society. This is the end, my friend.

  29. Art–for those of you who didn’t get the memo–is most assuredly dead. What we’re witnessing is the last gasp of the Romantic movement. It was born during the French Revolution and is heaving its last sigh even as we speak.
    Thank God.
    Every movement has its day: its beginning, its middle and its end. Romanticism has run its course, come inevitably to its logical conclusion.
    Roger Kimball wrote an excellent article called “Why the Art World is a Disaster’ in June of this year. (Sadly, no longer on line.) In it, he suggests that the Romantic ideal is completely tapped out in creative terms. These days, everything that is presented to us as Art is a cliche–actually, worse than a cliche–the aesthetic equivalent of the Soviet tractor.
    This is the Golden Age of Nothing At All. This is a decadent society. This is the end, my friend.

  30. Art is supposed to raise our hearts and minds to the Divine and make us look within to what we can be if we soar upwards. Real art = real beauty. Its not supposed to make a point & state an opinion – this piece of ‘art’ is just propaganda or worse, pornography.
    AS a Christian I look at the wider picture – this picture & the Mary statue won’t last a hundred years because they are tied to this age and society. In 150 years people will wonder what it meant and throw it away – or, better, only scholars will know about it.
    To answer you, Captain, Sir,I would suggest the self-obsessed 1960’s and the new atheism killed art. When there is no God – no greater desire for the Divine Mystery or the Glory of human virtues – no great art can exist. Man as ape is not an artist, man as soul, is. Art takes us out of ourselves, breaks our obsessions & the best art causes us to sigh a “yes”.

  31. Art, if you mean painting and sculpture, is like professional boxing in this country — it’s a mess although probably for different reasons. If the great boxers or artists are not recognized as such are they still great?
    If I had an extra million to budget for the purchase of paintings I’m confident I could fill the walls of my mansion with meaningful and beautiful paintings. Don’t believe me? Let’s do an experiment, everyone send me whatever you can afford, $500, $250, $100. I’ll travel the 50 states making my purchases and keep you apprised.
    Btw, our greatest art form, cinema, is a little battered and bloody but still breathing.

  32. A New Mohammed Cartoon

    Well, more of a sketch, but it is enough to set the Muslims off, ya know
    (By Lars Vilks)
    From The Local (Sweden may be known for hot blondes, but, geez, let’s work on the paper’s title, folks)
    Pakistan has added its voice to that of Iran …

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