Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Surveillance Blog Week 3

Art and Surveillance: What is Art?

I believe that Art is subjective and is up to each individual to decide what Art really is.

"Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish." - Aristotle

"Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known." – Oscar Wilde

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." – Pablo Picasso

"Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can only be explored by those willing to take the risks." – Mark Rothko

Last weekend, a Mark Rothko painting exhibited in the Tate Gallery was defaced by a Russian man. The Russian stated that he is not a vandal, and that “Art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it.” He added that we should now “abandon and live art” and said in his defense that he was acting in the name of Yellowism. I had to look up Yellowism, as I did not know the exact meaning. I came across which includes a manifesto. Yellowism is an art movement, which states that "Yellowism is not art or anti-art," it is “an autonomous phenomenon in contemporary culture" which is "derived from the visual arts and despite this fact, is not classified as art, what is in accordance with its essence". Yellowism "brings together, in the surprising way, works presented before in the well known galleries, transforms them into the pieces of Yellowism". Once a work of art is tagged as Yellowism, it becomes a form of Yellowism and whatever original meaning the work had is removed.

This raises many questions such as: what is Art? Did the defacing of the Rothko painting add value? Is the Russian man an artist, vandal or a criminal? Should we put Art under constant surveillance and security measures? It is difficult to comprehend why the vandal didn’t just create his own piece of art and call that Yellowism, instead of vandalizing another’s hard work? He even suggested that he increased the value and worth of the painting! In regards to the issue of security at the Tate, the Russian man was shocked that he was actually able to walk out of the Gallery without being stopped. This shows that security at the Tate needs to be reinforced. However, there is already so much security and surveillance in place to ensure the viewers of the art do not get too close. For example, the rope sectioning off artwork and the guards and ushers who tell us if we get too close is for the artworks own protection. On the other hand, this protection can sometimes prevent the viewers from enjoying the art.

Initially, what came to my mind on this issue was a series of essays by Susan Sontag called “On Photography” in which she examines photography in relation to art. She argues that people should enjoy that moment in time, instead of taking a photograph of it. She says that “The painter constructs, the photography discloses.” She deems photography as an abomination stating that photography is parallel to that of stealing and theft, as when you are taking someone’s picture, you are taking a part of their morality. For example, “To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt." This is what I believe that the Russian man has done to the Rothko painting. By defacing it and putting his own tag onto it, he has stolen its original identity, which can never be replaced.

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