CAC was the lead funding institution in California for
painters, sculptors, and other visual artists. It not
only provided opportunities for artists to teach at schools
and museums, but provided statewide funding for the majority
of artist residencies. Then came the state budget crisis.
The state Legislature
slashed the CAC budget from $18 million dollars to $1
million this year. In the year 2002 California ranked
40th in the United States when it came to per capita arts
funding... a ranking that in 2003 dropped to last place.
That means California, with the fifth largest economy
in the world, only contributes 3 cents per person towards
the arts. Compare that with the U.S. national average
of $1.10 per state resident. An even more illustrative
comparison would be the current European national average,
where no less than $5.00 per person goes towards arts
Enlightened people around the globe have always viewed
the arts as one of the greatest expressions of the human
spirit. Where painting, music, and poetry flourish...
brutishness, malice, and intolerance tend to recede. Without
art there is no life, only drudgery. The eminent British
art critic and social commentator of the Victorian age,
John Ruskin, once noted that "industry without art is
brutality." The California Legislature unfortunately is
working to bring Ruskin's observation to fruition.
blame for the sorry state of art cannot be entirely placed
at the feet of narrow minded politicians. The artworld
itself has also played a role in diminishing the relevance
of art. Witness the modern art competition now taking
place at the celebrated Turner Gallery of London. In years
past the prestigious Turner Prize was meted out
to individuals who had pawned off a pickled shark and
an unmade filthy bed as profound works of art. Contestants
in this years 20th annual competition offer a painted
bronze casting of a pair of large sex dolls engaged in
fellatio, displays of flowers and fruit designed to rot
over the course of the exhibit, and ceramic vases decorated
with images of child abuse and sadomasochism. The winner
of the contest receives the grand prize of $30,000.
Jake and Dinos Chapman are among the finalists competing
for this year's Turner Prize. The duo are favored for
having defaced a rare edition of Disasters of War, the
famed etching series by Francisco Goya. The etchings were
legally acquired but then altered by the Chapman's, who
replaced the faces of Goya's characters with cartoon drawings
of mouse eared clowns and puppy dogs. The Chapman's describe
themselves as "anti-humanists" who metaphorically spit
upon the idea of art being "uplifting or redemptive."
Instead the team insists that art is an inadequate and
powerless form of protest in the face of war. They have
even gone so far as to mock Guernica, the transcendent
antiwar mural by Pablo Picasso, for being "pathetic."
They deny their art makes a statement concerning the ongoing
war in Iraq, an unfolding tragedy the two greet with the
yawning indifference displayed
by many postmodernists.
Chapman exposed his politics when he remarked, that "there's
something quite interesting in the fact that the war of
the peninsula saw Napoleonic forces bringing rationality
and enlightenment to a region that was marked by superstition
and irrationality." That assertion sounds remarkably close
to the opinions held by Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso
Marinetti, who wrote the essay "War - the World's Only
Hygiene." Marinetti's path eventually led to Mussolini
and Fascism, but perhaps the Chapmans are already appreciative
of that fact.
think it revolutionary when icons of the past are shattered,
but such nihilism amounts to little more than the wanton
destruction of history... a conduct engaged in by barbarians.
No doubt the Chapman's bemuse themselves with the notion
that they are doing something groundbreaking by disfiguring
the works of Goya. Someone should remind them and their
devotees of Marcel Duchamp. He shocked the bourgeois artworld
83 years ago when he created a "readymade" artwork by
adding a mustache and goatee to a reproduction of the
Mona Lisa. At least for Duchamp it was an original idea.
the horror of September 11th it was said that the world
had changed forever. How is it then that artists continue
to work as they did before 9-11, creating art as if they
are above social reality and beyond the reach of politics?
The arts have always represented the very embodiment of
freedom, but escapism in a time of carnage and butchery
is not freedom.
is the antidote to the artworld's smug ivory tower twaddle?
An art theory and practice that's deeply rooted in community.
An understanding of art as necessary for the betterment
of humanity, and that humankind's spiritual needs are
more important than the enrichment of investors and speculators.
In short, a renaissance in the arts that rejects the dispassionate
and misanthropic cynicism of the so-called postmodernists
in favor of a new art practice for the 21st century.