Sunday, October 14, 2007

Everyone's a Critic...

Entartete Kunst is in the eye of the beholder apparently; a group of Nazis recently invaded the Kulturen Gallery in Lund, Sweden and smashed up a number of Andres Serrano photographs with pickaxes. The group left leaflets claiming to be "against decadence and for a healthier culture," and filmed their performance for a video on YouTube, the ideal medium for videos of idiots smashing things. The video was scored to thundering death metal, pretty much negating that thing they wrote about being for a healthier culture.

Anyway, yes, it's horrible that axe-wielding thugs are traipsing around, smashing up art. But, it's not exactly a terrible turn of events. For one thing, they destroyed prints, which can be easily recreated. Not to mention the fact that they revived Serrano's standing as a ''controversial'' artist, which was starting to lag. And, frankly, aside from their shock value, the photos really are pretty lousy. Serrano has done some beautiful work, but he tends too often towards the kitschy and provocative. This particular exhibit- shown here- has some nice portraits, in an Abercrombie and Fitch sort of way; but it also features a good amount of both utter kitsch and ''shock art'', mostly intended to excite and provoke people, which leads me to wonder if the Nazis' reaction doesn't amount to a sort of rave review.


Holly said...

Erm, gotta disagree with your policework there, Lou. The idea that photographic fine art prints can be easily recreated is a fallacy, possibly perpetuated by folks who still reject photography as a "real" form of fine art.

While it's true that it's easy enough to reprint from negatives that were developed at printed entirely in the machine at the FotoMat... art prints often come through a painstaking process of individually supervised development, meaning customs mixtures of the chemicals, particular temperatures, and timed specifically to the image on the negative. Also, the negatives are usually larger, and not infrequently developed one at a time. Once they're fixed and dried, the negative may be altered--at any point during the printing process, in fact--and sometimes the prints themselves are exposed repeatedly, or multiple negatives are used. There are a variety of techniques to customize the print, as well, selectively increasing the exposure to localized areas of the image. After that, the print itself is developed, fixed, and dried, and there are numerous occasions in that process to introduce alterations, either intentionally or accidentally.

Artists who release editions of their prints--pulling multiple prints from the same negative(s)--generally get a rhythm going, where they're making the same moves over and over, but there's no way two prints would be identical in that case, and it's even less likely that a new print made even from the same negatives many years later would look the same. Occasionally, like printmakers, photographers will destroy the negative when they're finished printing.

Now... for all *I* know, Andres Serrano had his film developed at the FotoMat in the parking lot of his local KMart, and printed "straight" (ie, by the book, no editorial effort, no fancy moves)... and even if that's true, which I doubt, that doesn't make rampaging around smashing them any less of a dick move. Worse, I'm reasonably certain that these asshats will continue to do this crap if they're not caught soon. Or, hell, even so.

Rufus said...

I had no idea it was so difficult. Well, you learn something new every day, Chief.

Anyway, I'd imagine that these guys couldn't be that hard to find. They clearly want attention, which means they've probably told everyone they know about what they did. And I'd guess that, after this, a lot more galleries will have armed guards.

Holly said...

I have to admit, I actually spent some time wondering if maybe it was a set-up, something to re-kindle a little edgy-ness for Serrano.

But then I realized I'm getting paranoid in my old age, and quit thinking about it.

Rufus said...

No, I thought the same thing. But I figure it's probably uncharitable to think that, so I'll drop the idea.