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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Annoyance art

George Wyllie and his Robins
One reason I like learning about art from my student son, rather than the experts, is that I can understand what he says. Mostly. 

Art critics seem to favour a style that packs the least meaning into the most words. You get the same thing with French intellectuals, as I've mentioned before.  

It's called obfuscation. It's not big and it's not clever. It just sounds that way if you're easily impressed, as some of them even admit themselves.

So when the lad starts talking about relational aesthetics, which I've never heard of, I try to concentrate, but it's not easy with my sis fussing around and offering us heaped dishes of the food she's spent the past week preparing for our first dinner at her place with Dug and Linda.

"Relational aesthetics is the idea that art has to engage with people," Dug says. "It was supposed to be a move away from elitism. Goes back to a guy called Bourriaud in the 1990s, who saw artists as facilitators and art as information exchanged between artist and viewers."

"Do you want some of this," my sis asks, offering him a huge dish of golden meringue. 

"Yes please," he says and she drops a lorry-load on to his plate. 

"So I'm like, I don't think so," he says. "Why can't art be about annoying people?"

I laugh and he says, "No, seriously."

"You mean making people think?" my sis says.

"No I mean making them annoyed," he says.

"Oh, right," she says, dubiously. 

"Winding them up," he says. "I think a lot of good artists are slightly piss-takers, you know? Kinda wind-up merchants."

"Would you like toffee ice-cream with that?" my sis says. "Or chocolate sauce?"

"Both please," he says, and the same it's nice-to-be-appreciated smile appears on her face that I used to see on my mum's, when I scoffed everything she put on my plate and went back for more.

"People like George Wyllie and Ian Hamilton Findlay," he says. "They've all got that gleam in their eye."

"George Wyllie?" I say. "Surely not. I used to see his stuff in schools. He was child-friendly. Started out as an engineer and only got into sculpture in his 50s. Teachers liked him."

"The Arts Council hated him," he tells me. "He didn't conform to their ideas about art."

"Ice cream or chocolate sauce?" my sis says, hovering over my plate.

"I'm trying to cut down," I say. "I've put on weight since the operation."

"That's neither, then?" She starts to walk away.

"Both please," I say and she looks smug.

"Could you two put each other down for five minutes?" I tell the young couple, since they're holding hands again and looking into each other's eyes. 

"You mean when the old people are around?" Linda says. "Don't be so Victorian, Douglas!"

"Nothing wrong with the Victorians," I tell her. "They had standards. People knew their place in those days. Women did what they were told and weren't allowed to express opinions when the men were eating."

Silence falls. A dog barks in the distance. The wind moans in the old chimney, left over from the days of coal. Linda stares at me through narrowed eyes and I sense my sis standing behind me holding something heavy. 

"See that's exactly what I'm talking about," my son says, breaking the tension, and I make a mental note to buy him a beer at the first opportunity. "You took a little grain of truth, combined it with a load of bollocks and managed to get on everybody's tits. 

"We'll make an artist of you yet." 

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