Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Conversation That Is the Art of Our Time

Art historian Owen Duffy (pictured above) concludes his recent Momus review of The Eccentrics exhibition at SculptureCentre with a line that brings to mind Canadian Art editor David Balzer's impatience with the under-producing exhibition review. Duffy writes:

Perhaps a crucial step toward not having to justify art through quantifiable means like economic impact and market performance is identifying and critiquing the very idea that art is expected to perform in collusion with the quantified world. 

In a similar vein, Vancouver-based artist Marcus Bowcott published an open letter in the North Shore News last month in protest of Capilano University's recent shut down of its visual art studio program:

Dear Editor:
“It’s the creative industries, it’s tourism, it’s business, it’s legal studies.” -– CapU President Kris Bulcroft, 2016
The final art class at CapU is in honour of the president’s choice of ‘creative industries.’
Last week we considered how convex forms imply growth and how concave forms hint of collapse and implosion. In this final class we will consider strategies of learning about art and the humanities in an imploding ‘re-visioned’ (artless) university, a university in which art has been sacrificed on the altar of business.  
If you are a student who wants to continue learning about art your only option now is to seek instruction in other disciplines. I recommend the business program. Business has become the final authority on art and culture at CapU. Consider this: during a recent CapU board meeting, a business faculty board member stated that the sculpture of protest by a studio art instructor “should be removed, I don’t like it ... it’s disturbing.”
This business instructor is an authority on art precisely because she is a business instructor and business has the advantage of making art a ‘currency’ relevant to advertising and branding.
Art is business and business is art. If Pablo Picasso were alive today he’d be a venture capitalist interested in derivatives and the bottom line. He certainly wouldn’t be making controversial sculptures.
He certainly wouldn’t ask: “What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far, far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.” (Pablo Picasso, March, 1945),
Ahh, sadly, that quote is from an old lesson. Now, back to today’s class: the manipulation of form and colour in the pursuit of influencing public opinion for better business.
Studio Art class dismissed.
Marcus Bowcott
North Vancouver

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