96% of Ordinary People Know That Modern Art is Crap and Artists Are Pompous Narcissists

Belgian art lovers are shocked – shocked! – that 96% of passers-by on a busy street didn’t take much notice give much thought to a work of art by famous Belgian artist Luc Tuymans. (Fedora tip: BoingBoing)

“People enjoy Tuymans’ work in art galleries and museums all around the world – people who love art, that is…people who are already interested and know they are looking at art. But what would happen if we took away that context?”

What happened is that the vast majority of people took it for what it is: abstract, unappealing nonsense. In other words, it registered as visual noise. If you need a special artistic setting, like a gallery or a museum, for people to know they’re looking at art, it isn’t art (or at least not very good or interesting art).

For another demonstration of what passes for art these days, go to the Carnegie International exhibition. Then again, don’t. It’s a waste of time and money that will bore and confuse you with “sculptures” made of macaroni, action figures, and Christmas ornaments when it’s not disturbing you with low-resolution animation of transsexuals throwing feces at each other.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

7 thoughts on “96% of Ordinary People Know That Modern Art is Crap and Artists Are Pompous Narcissists

  1. Bitterman

    You’re rather unfair to art in general. For better or worse, art (and inevitably, art appreciation) is entirely dependent on both the audience and context.

    Yes, you can call much contemporary art “abstract, unappealing nonsense.” But that sentiment is true of many art forms presented to a non-appreciative audience. The Japanese tea ceremony would probably be seen as slow, boring, snobbish crap to most people. But then, isn’t Iron Maiden considered hellish noise to others? To some, romance writing is trite garbage. To others, science fiction is slacker daydreaming. I know people who see web comics as the highest possible art form. Others find art in a particularly snarky /. post.

    I don’t think that art is one of those universal things that we all enjoy. Maybe there are fairly universal pieces of art that our society generally enjoys, but that doesn’t mean that art is an entirely transcendental experience. Some stuff is going to work for some people and simply fail for others. That doesn’t automatically make it bad art.

  2. Funky Dung Post author

    You make a good point. Actually, similar thoughts had occurred to me after posting. However, what annoyed me most was the arrogant presumption that Tuymans’ work is “important” and that people either ought to be “woken up” by it on their own or “educated” to properly appreciate it. I think that more often than not art should stand on its own in a free market of ideas and expressions. If it fails to move people, perhaps it’s simply not moving. Art is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes, if the vast majority of eyes/visual cortices don’t register what they behold as art, perhaps it isn’t really art. Or, rather, it may be very poor art or art that only appeals to a small segment of the population.

    I can of course think of contrary cases based on my own biases (such as wondering how could anyone prefer Britney Spears over Pink Floyd), and I freely confess that contradiction and apparent hypocrisy. It’s something I need to think about further, I guess.

  3. Pingback: Self-Preservation and Job Security @ Ales Rarus

  4. kvs

    You make a great point. most modern art is crap, meant to allow people that are generally untalented to have a place to showcase their work. in fact, these “artists” produce art out of selfishness since they WANT to produce art and could care less that they have no talent. the only thing that matters to them is that they want to be artists. so they draw a yellow line on a canvass and add 3 blue dots and give it a fancy name “The soul doomed to existential demise” which the intelligentsia applauds and elevates since 1) it has been brainwashed to do so through its schools and artistic superiors and 2) there is a veritable dearth in real aesthetic art. For this reason, modern art lacks a permanence and cannot be appreciated by the majority of society (even after 100 years). people still turn to classical notions of art which ARE art and DO transcend time (i.e. a corinthian column is aesthetically appreciated now as it was 2500 years ago) and truly have an impact on EVERYONE’s spirit.

  5. brett

    there is vast amount of classic art that would be almost as difficult to appreciate as it’s modern equivalent. The classic western art aesthetic is very different from say a traditional African, Indian or Japanese aesthetic. What looks, feels or tastes or sounds good to an individual is very dependent on the cultural experience of that individual. Those with open minds are generally better equipped to experience and appreciate something with a different aesthetic sensibility than the one thery are accustomed to. To point out the Corinthian Column as the peak of western art and then discount all of modern art is pretty foolish. Admittedly, I don’t think Tuyman’s art featured here is that great, but there are equally mediocre or even yawn inducing pieces of classical western art out there.
    You can critique artist’s work on an individual basis, but to critique modern art in general simply shows ignorance to what art is. Btw… What are your feelings on Doric, Ionic and Egyptian columns?

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