I don’t often find myself dwelling on art. Certainly my own personal limitations as an artist were ruthlessly exposed in Primary School.
However, recent events in England have set me off thinking about art again.
And it is all the fault of Anthony Gormley.
Gormley is a British artist who got the brainwave to create a ‘living monument’ in Trafalgar Square in London.
What this entailed, was getting ordinary members of the public to occupy a column in the square with one member of the public occupying the column- or ‘plinth’ as it is refered to- for an hour before giving way to the next person.
Now I would not want to cast any aspersions on the artist in question, but I suspect alcohol was involved in the decision-making process at some point.
However after a few days, attention has shifted away from it and it now seems nearly normal.
Now an ordinary member of the public sitting on a column scribbling into a notebook while being watched by hundreds of curious people in the center of London is now somehow not weird anymore.
But the innevitable question: is this art? I can sort of understand what Gormley is doing, although it gives me a headache if I think it over too much.
By having a cross-section of people occupying a public installation, he creates a constantly changing art piece which seeks to reflects British society in all its’ variety.
After all, it’s a composite of its’ people, chosen entirely at random. At the very least, you certainly could not accuse him of not being bold.
On the other hand, you could argue Gormley has created a basic idea that is being touted as art simply because a famous artist has designated it so.
Surely this project interesting but ultimately quite trivial- does not really qualify as art? Even if we approach art with a very open-minded approach, isn’t Gormley crossing whatever line separates art from things masquerading as art?
I am not an art expert, but I struggle to see the artistic merit of this project.
But this isn’t a new thing. British artists have been pushing the envelope of what could properly be called art for quite a long time now. A few years ago, another famous artist Tracy Emin entered her unmade bed as an art piece for the Turner Prize. Surprisingly, it was taken seriously as art.
That set the bar pretty low as you can imagine. Another odd project entered for the same art competition was by Martin Creed.
He presented an empty room with lights going on and off at regular intervals and gave it the admittedly direct title of ‘The lights going on and off’. Quite amazingly, he won the prize.
When I read about Gormley’s project, I thought back to all these other pseudo-art projects. Was his effort really any more credible an artwork than the other examples in this paragraph?
Maybe the questions about whether Gormley’s project is art aren’t as important as whether it is a worthy project in the first place.
It strikes me that it will not really reveal anything about Britain as the artist would want it to do. Surely it will only attract the more attention-seeking members of society? And even if it did represent ordinary Britons, it won’t exactly capture them in spontaneous moments.
Gormley’s concept may not only fail to achieve the status of an artwork, but it may be condemned to an even worse fate: not being taken seriously.