Tuesday, April 11, 2006

But Is It Art?

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t wish to shock you, but you are currently looking at the internet: that well known democratic resource of infinite information dedicated to a single purpose – looking at people without their clothes on. Well, that and blogging. In my most recent effort to convince Tim that, given the general quality of readers who come to us via Google, we should capitulate to the dominant paradigm and have Sterne concentrate on bringing you a daily dose of hardcore pornography, he reminded me that, no, the internet should be about bringing art, culture, big ideas, not debauchery and material for self-abuse, to the masses. And though I gently scoffed at this after he left to go and check out a site that claimed to have mpegs of Primo Levi performing a striptease to the Bolero, it soon dawned on me that with surprisingly little effort, I could combine blogging, art and indulgent degeneracy into a single, highly tasteless, package.

Now, lest I be accused (quite rightly) of plagiarism, let me point out that Sorrow at Sills Bend should be your first stop for intelligent, articulate analysis of sculpture; inimitable bloggist and upstanding citizen Lucy Tartan regularly spends her Fridays examining Melbourne’s public statuary, and I highly recommend you head on over there. That said, since Lucy has confined herself to local artworks, and since intelligence and articulacy are not regular features here at Sterne, and since I come into constant contact with ‘art’ during the course of my job (cat burglar), I feel surprisingly little shame in sharing with you a brief eyeful of this.

Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston

My gods, is it not glorious? Those of you who are up to date with your Woman’s Day reading will be well aware of who Sean Preston is. For the rest of you: that’s Britney Spears crouched upon a bearskin, pudenda waving in the breeze as she prepares to squeeze forth the spawn of Federline in highly improbable fashion. Note the many references to the quattrocento Florentine tradition - the concentration on a slick, marbled finish; the balanced rounding of the figure; the preternatural calm gracing Ms. Spears features (surely Mary could have had no less an expression of sublime unconcern as with gentle smile and faint blush she pushed out the messiah) bespeaking an idealisation of form – combined with grace notes towards a Mannerist celebration of motherhood – widened hips, swollen ankles, evidence of water retention. Mind you, this doesn’t stop the whole thing being monumentally tacky.

But does this mean it’s not art? Well, no. Were I more of a smartarse, I’d say that any object which is intended to or interpreted as conveying significance within an aesthetic frame of reference qualifies as art (i.e. any old tosh). Does that mean that it’s not good art? Again, no. As a testament to Motherhood, it falls well short: the ridiculous bear – so redolent of vapid 70’s porn - takes care of that, even if you can strain credibility far enough to allow for a. Britney Spears, b. birth in that position, and c. the apparent lack of travail (while thankfully having no first hand experience since my own entrance into an appalled world, I’ve seen videos of childbirth (internet again) and absolutely no-one involved in the process is that tranquil – no-one). What makes it good art is the title. The artist, who previously brought us The Ted Williams Memorial Display with Death Mask from The Ben Affleck 2004 World Series Collection, is an extraordinarily good deadpan piss-taker, who, amidst the inevitable controversy subsequent to the work’s unveiling, has said that he couldn’t give a damn about the political pro-life group – he’s just all for life, in general, and his sculpture is a celebration of this (although if the anti-abortion movement would like to use it as a symbol, he’s fine with that; especially fine since the anti-abortion movement appear to find any association with the Britney statue undignified and irritating). Fair enough: one of the better ways of celebrating life is to laugh at its ironies.

This is what I like about the tomfooleries of Postmodern – for all its faults, and let’s not kid ourselves: they are many and often grievous - it is probably the only art movement to regularly give me amusement. Face it, sublime though the Renaissance might be, or as stimulating as Cubism might, can they raise a belly laugh on command? Hideous and ridiculous though it be, but Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston has brought a little ray of sunshine into my morning, as I hope I have to yours. That, after all, is my ‘art’; that and making small children weep with fear.


Tim said...

Apparently the rear view shows another grizzly bear head, this one emerging from between Britney's parted vulva.

TimT said...

Brings new meaning to the phrases 'bearing a child' or 'too much too bear'.

Lucy Tartan said...

You have no idea how many people have emailed me that thing. I'm very glad to know that about the bum view Tim, it's a shame the photos doing the rounds conform to bog standard American squeamish prudishness.

Puss In Boots said...

Too bad she actually had a c-section.

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