My state of confusion

Robert Genn

"You don't understand, Mr. Genn," said a tall, acerbic gentleman who rustled a 
chocolate wrapper as he spoke. He had the full attention of the auditorium. "Art is 
not about light and shade any more, or drawing, or composition, or little pictures 
of landscapes. That's dead," he said. "Art is now about shock and awe and protest 
and making a statement. The greatest artist living today is Banksy. Have you heard 
of Banksy, Mr. Genn?"

I allowed sufficient time so he might begin to think he had me. The audience sat 
nervously, as if an IED was about to go off. Then I said I knew Banksy's work and 
had been following his career. 

"Who's Banksy?" whispered a small woman in the front row. Since the question was 
directed at me, and I was the one who had the mike, I told them Banksy is the guy 
who arrives quietly by night in various big cities and puts up fresh graffiti, 
generally in the form of life-sized stencils such as a valise-carrying businessman 
with a sign that says "Will work for idiots." Another of Banksy's images is a stern 
policeman leading a muzzled dog that happens to be made of pink balloons. (FYI, 
we've put some of Banksy's work at the top of the current clickback)

The gentleman sat down, giving me the look of one prepared to take on new knowledge.

"Some property owners get upset when they arrive in the morning and see what's been 
done to their wall," I said. "Some will have someone come and paint over the Banksy 
art. On the other hand, some Banksys are put under plexi to protect them from 
defacement. Some are put under 24-hour paramilitary guard. One property owner 
reportedly took down his Banksyed wall and sold it to an art gallery for a couple 
of hundred grand."

The audience was now noticeably squirming. A guy said, "It's bull shit." He said 
it just loud enough for everyone to hear. Scattered laughter rippled. "But is it 
art?" asked a girl in a yellow frock.

"The world of art," I said, "is big enough for all flags to fly." I decided to 
invite another mind into the discussion: "Andy Warhol said, 'Art is anything you 
can get away with.'" The acerbic gentleman stood to his feet. This was good, I 
thought. It would be nice to give him the last word on the subject. "What you are 
encouraging these people to do," he said, "is to get away with making crap." I'm 
sure there were some people who had to agree. 

Best regards,


PS: "Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great 
goddess?" (Ludwig van Beethoven)

Esoterica: So much of the art that many of us like to make is "skilled" (for lack 
of a better word) art. For most, it's difficult to do. Sure it can be done, but 
it's difficult to do well. Skilled art may take a few years of private effort, 
studentship, technique development and maybe even apprenticeship. Shock and awe 
art takes imagination and courage.