Saturday, May 24, 2014
When conceptual art catches fire
When I heard about the fire at the Glasgow School or Art I felt a number of conflicting things; relieved that nobody was hurt, sorry for the students who've lost pieces of work and whatever else, sorry for the fire brigade and the taxpayers who will ultimately pay in different ways for the disaster, sorry in some vague historical way for the things that are gone and can't be replaced. I also thought that I've never really liked Charles Rennie Mackintosh's style or his signature pieces now turned into Chintzy mirrors and jewellery and the great red building itself. World famous, much lauded and loved as it is, it really means nothing to me so why should I care? Of course it's just not cool to say you don't like something that sits up there on some well established plateau, like a religion or an ideal or modern jazz or opera. So for me it's yet another historic building in Glasgow that I've never visited and probably never will and for the next 10 years it'll be covered in Heras Fence, scaffolding and Hi-viz workers. There will be a special, reverent programme on the BBC, media types with bad hair and strange clothes will mull over the consequences and a nice wee wuman in the street will give her views.
Then I thought a bit more about art, it's value, it's meaning, it's importance, it's often exaggerated status and position and the many misunderstandings and arguments it can generate when coupled up with popular culture. I wondered the extent to which I was ever an artist, a charlatan or just an aspiring poseur with no real artistic education and (possibly) poor taste and no proper appreciation other than "knowing what I like". I guess I'm like a lot of people then; confused and conflicted by the world's imposed taste and standards. So what is the meaning of art when it's burning? More than a book bonfire or less? Does whatever it meant when conceived now change as it changes in the fire? Is it better now that it's gone, transformed and only living on as it was in memory or photo or filed in some USB device or hidden in the cloud? Of course it could be rebuilt, redone, repainted and fixed. More thought and time applied, it just might be a bit better and in the end it might have a bit more meaning.