Conceptual: Arty Party Comments

by Beauchamp Art

This image is taken from the social networking website ‘Facebook’, that features a photograph of two of my peers standing together at a social gather that I was also present at, displayed in conjunction with the comments, prominently my over-analysis of the picture as if it were an art piece; presented in a gallery or more formal setting, rather than on an online social format; breaking down the semiotics of the image and reading into the false implied meaning within the picture, as if one were reading too much into a benign art piece in order to seem more intellectual or in an attempt to assert one’s own validity as a critic through a complex deconstruction of a subject that could easily  be dismissed as inherently meaningless.

Red Photo Comments 1

Fig. 1

This was intended as both a parody of over-analysis and assigned meaning applied to artworks simply due to them being art works, as well as a reference to the appropriation of public-domain images popularised by the Dada use of collaged adverts, such as Richard Hamilton’s Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, and later taken up by the Pop Artists, such as Andy Warhol, and his various works in which he reused a photograph of Marilyn Monroe within his works; much as Marcel Duchamp made use of the ready-made in his Fountain, here I have appropriated a throw-away a digital photograph of two friends stood together at a party by writing an overly-serious, mock-academic comment of the image on the online platform the image was hosted on, then recontextualising.

By using the semantic field of Art; the art critic lexicon, such as in the final phrase “their intimacy to the view suggesting an inclusion of the audience, and the sustained autobiographical narrative of self-portraiture” that would not often be found in a non-art context, and is very unlikely to be found in every day speech, in addition to the implications of the John Berger quote, which serves not only to give the comment itself authority, but also to self-consciously satirise the comment – in a way biting one’s thumb at post-modern Conceptualism, but simultaneously embracing it).

However, what one defines as the piece is unclear, and where it concludes is even more so; whether it is the appropriate picture itself, the comment by me, or the subsequent comments made by other in response to this, or the image showing the web-browser screen displaying the picture with the comment. One could even argue that this text analysing the piece is an extension of it, as a self-aware response to the self-satirising over-analysis and appropriation of imagery. This may result in a circular argument, but the problematic nature of describing and reflecting upon art; images or otherwise is an uncertain field and very much runs the risk of being dismissed as either non-art or bad art, due to its lack of seriousness or boundary. This is symptomatic of art of the 20th and 21st century, as Grayson Perry, in his first Reith Lecture put it; “Modernism […] was self conscious about making art.” [Perry, 2013] Nevertheless, if one becomes to self-referential in art; making art about art about art (Stuckism squared), it becomes inaccessible, and may be perceived as pretentious intellectualisation. To a certain extent this may be considered, in part, a parody of ‘Internetational Art English’.

My comment read as follows:

“The colours are so vivid it takes on a painterly aesthetic, the deliberate use of lo-fi images as a reference to the casual integration and proliferation of mobile-phone integrated photography into popular Western social society. With the halo of the plastic cup in the foreground, and the connection between the drink and the spectacles, commenting on the mass consumption of both alcohol and images; the visuality of society that both simultaneously worships the notion of the image, and dismisses it in its abundance; this is not to say that within the picture is a dystopian presentation of the aesthetic culture, rather the image reflects the commonly understood hierarchy of the senses and seeing above other means of communication – as John Berger points out, ‘Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. [Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London. BBC/Penguin: 7] furthered by both the figures addressing the camera directly; their intimacy to the view suggesting an inclusion of the audience, and the sustained autobiographical narrative of self-portraiture, being redistributed through social networking.”

Subsequently, one of the individuals featured in the picture, Bryony Goose simply commented:

“…ART”

This not only shows an awareness of the ridiculousness of the original written response to what is simply a relatively straightforward picture, but also is a reference to the events of the social gathering; in which whenever something even remotely bizarre happened, someone would shout “ART” (such as when elaborate miming took place, impersonations of known peoples as grotesque monsters and rolling around on the floor for no particular reasons, writhing with laughter heckling the oddness of the situation, before raising one individual up in an act of impromptu crowd-surfing in a room of no more than six people), making light of ourselves as a group of Fine Art students, but also creating a sense of exclusivity within the group who took humour in the self-parody, but also resulted in the passive ostrisisation of others present at the gathering; more specifically, in the red-lit room which this picture was taken in, which I also satirically over-analysed in a separate comment of another picture from the same event featuring myself and two others stood together in the remnants of the costumes we had each thrown together.

 

Red Photo Comments 2

Fig. 2 

“The red room is symbolic of the passionate energy which it attempted to contain, the vigorousness of the dancing in response to a range of auditory outputs affecting a response from the figures within, who responded with hyperbolic bodily gesturing, with their pulses raised as the blood pumped through their veins collectively, echoed in the ruddy atmosphere of the space itself.”

This comment set to be a more direct mockery of the perception of the more historical colour symbolism in art, using a similar faux-poetic/Internation Art English language type. (The subsiquent comments were not intended in the same vane, but rather as general humor between myself and one of the other costumed participants.)

In conclusion, this was intended to be a non-specific ridicule relating to appropriation and ungrounded over-analysis (coequally known as ‘Bullshitting’, or ‘Arty Bollocks’) in art, as well as my own ability/habit of breaking into tangential narratives offering semi-deliberately bizarre monologues, and a tongue-in-cheek response to the over-reactions and hellish prophecies surrounding the potential consequences of the integration of social networks into to society; how this may affect one sees the world, the people and the pictures within it.

Given the gargantuan nature of such digital social networks, one cannot underestimate their value and how we choose to visualise them, as non-places: the communication platforms that serve to bridge the gap between individuals, or as an extension of the physical world. Kevin Slavin noted that “With the largest user base in the world, Facebook doesn’t resemble the virtual reality we were promised […] it looks like a website,” [Slavin, in Antonelli, 2001: 164] as opposed to some other fantastical landscape. The endless online gallery spaces of the Facebook archives Google images adhere to no linear narrative, like the guided tour around an exhibition rendered plastic, then melted and left formless.

Whether one considers this piece text-art, or some form of conceptualism, comments/dialogue as art, or not a piece at all, but simply a bad joke taken to seriously by its teller remains to be seen.

As an artist, I have deemed this as art; therefore it is so. Why would it be otherwise? (Is this more self-satire or is it sincere egotism, or both?) The context of a social networking site does not deem it non-art; Tracey Moberly’s art lies in text messages and organising gatherings – art does not need to hang to be. Again I refer to Perry in saying “Pretty much anywhere you might see art. Whether in the street or in cyber-space.” This piece, if it is one, is therefore reasonable housed on the Internet and need not be taken to a gallery to give it authenticity as a art work, but given the authority of the gallery in the popular perception of art (from the public, to critics, to artists themselves) some aspect must be presentable in a gallery-exhibition format in order to give it validity; for it to be taken seriously and for it to be marketable.

What I find interesting about making this sort of art is it is quite un-marketable; as what would one sell? The original picture; that is property of the photographer or of Facebook. The comment then; what value can such deliberately ridiculous words have if they are unpublished? The picture in conjunction with the comment; as this is presented online, its placelessness also means it is practically financially valueless, except possibly as advertising space, but then one would have to be measuring the traffic towards this web-page above other web pages as a result of my comment, which is likely to be infinitesimally small if not completely insignificant. This piece is, for all intensive purposes, valueless, but is it worthless?

One must ponder whether worth can be given to consequence as an act, as opposed to the activating element or the resulting outcome; especially if acting as a catalyst for nothing, besides a near-cannibalistic self-referential aggrandisement and mockery. Indeed, I could take this piece further by photographing the screen displaying the image and comment, in a similar style to my previous re-photographed images, then beginning a second parody of my own practice (which admittedly has already begun; as every time one of my peers uploads an image of himself, or changes his profile picture, I then proceed to downloaded, edit it, and re-upload it – though this act is not exclusive to me, I have started to included it in some experimental photographic works that begin to redeem their seriousness by their repeated processing [such as in my ‘Obscura – IV – Exterior’] Through this strange process, the deliberately ridiculous, basically edited picture may take on a greater sense of maturity, though still maintain some sense of humour.])

Moreover, if this piece is intended as a satire – a joke – and it is unfunny, then can it actually be considered a joke at all?

References:

  • Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London. BBC/Penguin
  • Perry, G. (2013) The Reith Lectures, ‘Democracy Has Bad Taste’, BBC Radio 4
  • Slavin, Kevin, Reality is Plenty, Thanks: Twelve Arguments for Keeping the Naked Eye Naked. In Antonelli Poala, (2011). Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects. The Museum of Modern Art. New York.
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