While the origin of A.R.T. Syndrome (aka ARTS) is widely debated, one thing is certain, its effects are without prejudice with regards to race, gender, national origin, etc. The impact of ARTS, when fully manifested, can be devastating. Once infected, an individual may find himself coming to conclusions that are embarassingly inane.
Consider the example of Exhibit 1201 (shown below), by artist David Hensel.
Judges at The Royal Academy of Arts, London, considered his work worthy of admission to their Summer Exhibition (2006). The trouble is, the item pictured above isn't the work of art that Hensel submitted. It's the base to work of art he submitted. It seems that his sculpture, and the base it was attached to, became detached and, therefore, were interpreted as separate submissions.
Below is a photo of the sculpture that Hensel expected to see displayed, upon hearing that his work had been accepted.
I think it a bit poetically ironic that the original sculpture is laughing.
One of the most disconcerting aspect of ARTS is that, upon being informed of its diagnosis (and its effects), many people enter into a strange, ARTS induced state of denial - sometimes retreating further into the depths of ARTS, whereby they actually use ARTS to justify the inanity ARTS itself has produced. Physicians commonly refer to this as Tautological ARTS, or TARTS.
TARTS behavior was exhibited by the judges at the Royal Academy of Arts when, upon being notified of their blunder, they responded with,
Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently. The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted; it is currently on display. The head has been stored ready to be collected by the artist. It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended.
You see, when afflicted with ARTS, you believe you have the ability to declare as art any object presented, despite the intentions of the artist involved. It should be noted that it only goes to follow that those afflicted with ARTS also believe they may declare as art objects created by individuals who do not consider themselves to be artists (and who, presumably, have no artistic intentions whatsoever with regards to the objects declared as art by those afflicted with ARTS). Makes sense, wouldn't you say?
Another symptom of ARTS affliction is the tendency to transform overt criticism of ARTS affliction into an opportunity to engage in further dialogue regarding the artistic merits of the very objects of criticism. This behavior was displayed in London (is there a pattern here?) in 2001 when artist Damien Hirst prepared an original work of art involving the theme Party Time. The work was composed of cigarette butts, ashtrays, empty beer bottles, torn newspapers, half-full coffee cups, partially eaten sandwiches, and candy wrappers. Upon completing the work, at the gallery, he and his admirers left to go celebrate the next day's opening. Yet, they forgot to mention the original work of art to the night janitor who, promptly cleaned up and dumped not the original work of art, but the mess that he saw. Not to be outdone with this bit of bad luck, the ARTS afflicted exhibit supervisor said that the janitor's actions had prompted "debate on the question of what is art." Physicians refer to this tendency to Wonder about ARTS as WARTS.
Yet affliction with ARTS is not limited to modern art, for even with regards to the ruins of history we see examples of ARTS. As I've posted recently, an friend from my past is traveling through North Africa and Europe as part of a sabbatical to provide curriculum for elementary school studies on ancient civilizations. In a recent post, Marty brought to our attention the depictions, in ancient Egyptian wall carvings, of ithyphallic representations of a few of their male deities (well, I guess if it's ithyphallic, then it must be male?). To put it crudely, these are depictions of Egyptian deities with full erections. Marty notes that, over the years, modest-minded Christians and Muslims had censored these depictions by chiseling off the business portion of these deities. Curiously, he refers to these acts as mutilation.
Are you afflicted with ARTS, Marty? At what point, if any, does such a graphic depiction move from that of vulgar to that of art? I would argue that if one were to post photos, the same size as the Egyptian carvings, of men in a similar state of excitement, it would rightly be deemed vulgar and offensive. Does the mere fact that the carving is old, and from a great civilization, qualify it to be revered? And, shouldn't we display some bit of tolerance for the actions of the cultures that mutilated the Egyptian art? ARTS can sometimes cloud one's vision with respect to the permanence of human artifacts.
Why build a miracle at all?
If all things must pass
Even a pyramid won't last
If all things must fall
- What Goes Up, from Pyramid, the Alan Parsons Project
Yet the conundrum Marty inadvertently raises is an aspect of ARTS that, all too frequently, cannot be avoided. Take the beautiful
Hagia Sophia Ayasofya Museum, in Constantinople Istanbul. Originally an Eastern Orthodox church, it was converted (forcibly) to a mosque, and is now an Islamic museum. Such a diverse history, though, has its own issues with ARTS. As found in Wikipedia,
Due to its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process. The Christian iconographic mosaics are being gradually uncovered. However, in order to do so, important, historic Islamic art would have to be destroyed.
Oh, the humanity.
We're now left with a choice to make - Do we recover the original artwork by destroying the later? How to choose? Does ARTS provide a coherent methodology with which to address this quandary? Does ARTS cause us to consider the Islamic art as mutilation of the Christian art?
How about, we just flip a coin?
ARTS also has the tendency to inflict the malady of political correctness on individuals. I recall once seeing, in a photography magazine, some "urban" photographs - those taken in and about an urban landscape. As is not too surprising, some of the images contained shots of urban graffiti. One shot in particular, of a concrete abutment under a bridge, had a swastika in and amongst the graffiti. The next issue of the magazine had a letter to the editor from an irate, ARTS afflicted subscriber, complaining about the photo which contained the swastika. The letter writer considered such a sign indicative of hate and, therefore, not worthy of inclusion in the magazine (a magazine, by the way, devoted to exhibiting so-called works of art). This is probably the most serious form of ARTS and physicians refer to it as Fake ARTS, or...
So, how do you immunize yourself from ARTS? While physicians are still unsure, the best I can figure is that you've got to move to, and remain at, the center-right. You've got to make the decision to think clearly. You've got to actively use common sense. You should also stay away from Trader Joe's (unless absolutely necessary, of course - I have, occasionally, made forays into its midst, and felt relatively safe from ARTS infection, emerging unscathed). If you walk into an ARTS house (e.g., Trader Joe's, some Starbucks, some emergent churches, etc.), and you feel like the "odd man out," then you're safe. Most of all, don't ever - EVER - take yourself too seriously.
Let's be careful out there.
(for another take, check ilona's post, Seeking Perfect Art)