Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday March 04 2013

Recently I recycled, at Samizdata, some thoughts about Art from favourite blogger of mine Mick Hartley.

On the subject of “as found” art, the sort when it’s Art entirely because the Artist says so, without having done anything else himself besides stick the thing in an Art gallery, Hartley said this:

The logical conclusion to this line of thinking would be that if anything can be art if its maker wishes it to be art, then anything or everything can be art – and we don’t need artists any more. Curiously this is an argument that artists themselves seem reluctant to make.

I just know that there is a connection between what Hartley says there, and Hartley’s (and my) habit of taking photos (and showing the photos of others) of industrial clutter, outdoor gadgetry (such as the communications kit you see on roofs), decaying infrastructure, etc., that resembles abstract art.

The point of such pictures is that you do not only perceive the objects you are photo-ing as things doing a job of some kind, that is, the way their original creators mostly, presumably, perceived them.  You see them almost as disembodied effects, quite distinct from what the kit was originally built for, and often no longer even seeing what the objects once were or still are.  You see them the way you see abstract art.

(Related to all this is that I like cranes, but what I really like is how they look (like very superior sculpture), rather than: how they work, which is best, which sort does what, etc.  (Here is a Hartley crane snap I just found.))

I say you see all this stuff “almost” as disembodied effects.  But I think a lot of the fun is that you can also see what they are originally, even as you observe their aesthetic pleasingness or oddity, or resemblance to some particular work of art or type of art.  The pleasure you get is a bit like with those pictures which could be two different things, like an old ugly woman or a beautiful young woman, depending on whether you see that bit as an arm or a nose, or whatever.  Is it what it merely “is”?  Or is it Art?

Hartley is particularly fond of bright colour effects.  As are many more recent sculptors.

In connection with all this, here are four snaps taken by me on Tuesday Feb 19th, when I went on a trip to check out Blythe Hill Fields:

imageimageimageimage

Top left was taken on the way, through a train window.  Bottom right was taken on the way home, at Whitechapel tube.  The other two were taken in the Blythe Hill Fields vicinity.

Those Artists surely do still have a role in all this, because we photographers of abstract-art-like stuff are responding to their challenges.  We are saying: We don’t need you.  We can see our own Art, thank you.  Mondrian rectangles?  I’ll give you rectangles.  Big crazy sculptures made of industrial waste?  Why not photo … industrial waste?  And so on.  We are both acknowledging the power of and (some of us – like me and Hartley) seeking to diminish the power of the Artists.

The artists have been telling the rest of us to see and enjoy the real world in new and interesting ways, and we are doing that.  They started this.

The question is not so much: Are the Artists necessary?  They have been, to the process I have described.  But: Can they stay ahead?  Can they keep on setting new challenges, or do I and Mick Hartley and all the other As Found Art photoers end up being our own artists?

I am groping my way into this subject.  The above may be a muddle.  But there is something interesting in among all this, I think.

A final Hartley photographic link that also seems relevant.

I recommend trawling back through his blog, as I just did.

LATER: And, as if he’s determined to illustrate all of the above further, there is now this.