Is THAT Really Art?

Along with all of the wonderful artists that I am discovering through doing my degree there are also ones that I have to research from time to time that just make you shake your head and ask yourself “Is THAT really art???”

Some ‘art’ that I have come across recently just makes me shake my head and wonder if perhaps for some artists it is the shock value and notoriety that they relish.  One example of this is the work of ORLAN.  Below is an image of a work she created using her own blood during an operation that was filmed as ‘performance art’.  To me this is really macabre and disturbing.  ORLAN has also created a work of art using her own menstrual blood.

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(Image from website of ORLAN)

Now I know it takes all types to make the world go around, and there is some art that I do not personally like but can still appreciate what the artist is trying to do – but how far is going too far?  Personally I think any type of body fluid art is a bit too far for me – I mean ick!  I am also not into self-mutilation or, in the case of one example I saw, – chaining up a dog and letting it starve to death in a gallery.  Making a point maybe? or is it just exposing those artists in dire need of help with their mental health.

 

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Discovering New Artists

One of the joys of studying the Fine Arts and Visual Culture degree is discovering ‘new’ artists.  They are not necessarily new in the sense of just becoming prominent but they are new to me.  Like a lot of people most of the art I see on a day to day basis would normally, before the degree, have consisted of calendar art (lots of Impressionist works!), advertising and a little street art or local public art.  I have always enjoyed visiting galleries too, especially when on holidays and having the chance to go to see some of the paintings I have only ever seen in a book or on a screen.  Doing the degree has encouraged me to learn about artists I had never heard of before – including a lot of contemporary artists.

One artist I have recently discovered is Vik Muniz.  His work is truly inspirational.  A couple of weeks ago a documentary called “Wasteland” aired on TV.  I would recommend this documentary to anyone – it not only gives an insight into how Vik creates his famous photographs but also tells the story of the catadores who work sorting the rubbish in one of the largest rubbish tips in the world.  Vik Muniz captured the quiet dignity of the people as he worked alongside them to create some truly startling images all out of ‘garbage’.  The series of works is titled “Pictures of Garbage”.

I really love the image  “The Gypsy Magna–Pictures of Garbage”.  The photograph captures the strength and beauty of this woman in a sensitive way.  Looking at the photograph from a distance you would not be able to identify what medium Muniz has used to create the image – it is not until you get close that you notice that the image has been created out of broken plastic bottles and other discarded plastic products.  In a way I think this also makes a comment about how the catadores are sometimes treated in society – they are often ‘not seen’ – until you get close up as Muniz did in the documentary and hear their stories.

Photograph by Vik Muniz, courtesy of Vik Muniz Studio