Friday, March 13, 2009

Why Jonathan Jones is wrong about art
To accuse art of killing culture is to lump all art-making into a monumental mass. It's far more complicated than that

by Michael Archer

Now, here's a trite comment: "All the shallowness of modern mass culture began in avant-garde art 40 years ago. We're Warhol's ugly brood". This was Jonathan Jones in his art blog earlier this week, lamenting the fact that modern art has "killed culture". This was the day after he told us that, anyway, "art as we know it is finished". Jones was bemoaning the absence of the sad, the severe and the serious, dimensions to experience that we were once regularly forced to encounter and deal with in art. I read his words at the end of a fortnight in which I had discussed with my students a range of contemporary artists whose work variously deals with economic exploitation in west Africa, the fraught politics of Israeli-Palestinian relations (from a number of perspectives), the quality of urban experience in India, the indelible trace of the holocaust in central Europe, power relations between central America and the US, and much more. All this work had been exhibited in Britain within the past year or so. All of it, too, was able to speak as it did of the human dimension to these issues through the command of the artists concerned over the possibilities inherent in the imagery and materials they used.