A while ago, I was walking through the Tate Modern when a throng of people pushed past me, obviously eager to get to the next exhibit. I wandered after them, and couldn’t see a thing.
The room was completely bare.
Oh, except for a biscuit that was nailed to the wall.
Before long I began to suspect that the biscuit was, in fact, the exhibit.
Mainly because there was group of people crowding around, stroking their goatees and discussing it.
Discussing a biscuit with a nail through it.
Well, that’s not entirely true. One of them was sketching it.
Obviously I didn’t get too close as I didn’t want to be associated with them when the European version of Ashton Kutcher leapt out and shouted “I’m Johannes Von Haufenbrau and you’ve been Art Pünk’d!’
But Johannes Von Haufenbrau never appeared.
This shit was real.
I don’t use the term ‘Godzilla-sized mega-wank’ lightly, but this was definitely that.
There was a biscuit stuck to the wall of the Tate Modern (not even an interesting biscuit, incidentally. It looked like an Arnott’s Arrowroot. Possibly the most boring biscuit in history), and it had drawn a sizeable group of wankers.
What’s the technical classification for a group of wankers? A gaggle? A murder?
I hope it’s a murder.
I’d actually find some satisfaction in that.
I left the room in a hurry, but the Tate wasn’t done with me. The next exhibit was a pile of hollow metal poles scattered on the ground. Someone was explaining that the artist originally arranged the poles in the shape of a DNA segment of some famous free thinker, but to celebrate that very notion of free thought, she encourages galleries to arrange the poles however they want. She doesn’t provide instructions. She doesn’t even turn up. In other words, the most impressive part of her art is correctly calculating the amount of postage needed to send a tube of tent poles.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an attack on artists. Many of my friends are artists. Great ones. One of them can draw a really realistic human eye, and that shit is hard. This is more a commentary on the breathtaking levels of laziness that modern art is sinking to; the fact that, more and more frequently, artists’ efforts seem like the half-assed moonlighting of Macgyver, using whatever the fuck they can find lying around to assemble something vaguely art-shaped. Shoehorn in a ludicrous ‘narrative’, slap on an overly-lofty title that uses the word ‘Channeling’ or ‘Existential’, and they’ve got themselves a fairly impressive Tate Modern exhibit and a tidy little murder of wankers.
And that’s the problem. When art can be anything at all, it stops being anything at all. It elicits an emotional reaction as superficial as the work that went in – mild surprise, vague annoyance, brief discourse. An article written in a blog.
The financial response, however, well that’s a different story altogether.
Take the ‘Onement VI’; a painting that looks like a screenshot of the game Pong and sold for a cool $44 million.
It’s here that we enter fairly well trodden territory. Because suggesting that something like the Onement VI could have been done by that kid in art class that eats the glue, always ends the same way: with someone saying, “yes, but he didn’t do it, did he? The artist did.”
It’s a rebuttal that’s never sat well with me; that success and critical acclaim in modern art isn’t always founded on searing insight or, in many cases, even talent, but who calls dibs first.
So just to be on the safe side and secure my eight-figure paycheck, here are a few pieces that I’m officially calling dibs on.
“l’enfant ne veut pas le mamelon de la consummation. Part Trois.”
An Ikea sidetable stands in one corner of the gallery. It may look normal, but I was completely naked and really hungry when I put it together. So it’s not.
‘The Apoplexy of Wave-Length Trauma in D-Minor.’
To symbolize a widow’s wailing cry at the ever-worsening interrogation techniques employed by the Australian Government, specifically against Koreans, I park my Hyundai Tucson in the middle of the room and beep the horn continuously for three hours.
Oh! What Writhing Panic, You Fucks, You Sheeple.
I put a sign up on the wall saying ‘Wet Paint’, but the paint’s not wet at all. In fact, it’s not even paint. It’s a 1997 Panasonic TV remote blu-tacked to a photo of my mum. Take that, big pharma.
No doubt any modern artists reading this are wringing their berets in rage by now, feeling trivialised and demeaned. But that’s not my intention. Not at all. Rather, take this article as a wake up call; a catalyst to step up and make art mean something again. If not for me, then for future generations.
Because, in two hundred years, when Art History-bot 3000 tries to explain the meaning behind an Arrowroot biscuit nailed to a wall and explodes, maiming several school kids, their blood will be on your hands.