Art Outside The Box

Art Outside The Box

Sometimes it looks as if with modern art the rule of thumb is “the weirder, the better”. Do you agree with that?

Voiced by Chad Albright

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I'm an average Joe: I'll take baseball over experimental theater any day. Frankly, I find modern art far-fetched and overrated. I think it only exists so that art critics could earn their keep. However, my wife insists on us being cultured and always drags me along to various “radical” exhibitions and shows that leave me – at best – confused and regretful of the money ill-spent.

Take contemporary dance, for instance. At the heart of it lies the principle that any movement is dance, and any person is a dancer, regardless of whether they've had any formal training. So if you go to a contemporary dance performance don't expect any coherent composition or sophisticated choreography. Instead, brace yourself for nonlinear, abrupt movements, wild jumps, skipping and leaping, all set to some cacophonic score or to no music at all. The primary focus is the dancer's personal experience, rather than the audience's visual one. To me, this is rather infuriating. It strikes me as rather selfish of the dancers.

The only thing more offensive than contemporary dance is postmodern theater. When I go see a play I expect there to be a plot that I can follow, characters I can relate to and a clear ending that makes sense of it all. Postmodern doesn't have any of that. The narrative is incomplete, disjointed and paradoxical. Characters are fragmented and moving only in the sense that they make you want to move as far away from the theater as possible. Everything that's going on on the stage is open to your interpretation; the audience is invited to reach their own understanding of the play. I'd say it's quite tiresome. I come to the theater to be dazzled, not puzzled. What puzzles me most, though, is that the stranger the performance, the more chance there is for a standing ovation at the end.

Modern art is a special kind of hell, though. It's often hailed as remarkable, controversial, exquisite. But the only boundaries it's pushing are those of my patience. It looks as if with modern art the rule of thumb is “the weirder, the better”. Take shadow art, for instance. Shadow artists carefully assemble random objects so that they can point light at them to create projected shadow images of people, words, or places. Sometimes these objects are metal scraps, mummified animals, and even heaps of garbage. Is this memorable? You bet! Does it make a statement? For sure.  And this statement is: you've just wasted your time and money.

Installation art makes the same statement, in my opinion. It makes me think of how our tastes and norms of beauty have changed. With installation art "ideas" and "impact" are more important than the quality of a finished "product" or "work of art". Almost any type of material or media can be utilized, including even live performances. Put a few chairs in an empty room, and you have yourself an installation. I suppose the message is, anyone can be an artist? Even so, I'd stick to my guns: I want my art inside the box. I want it to be dazzling, memorable and, above all else, understandable!