I may be irritating, but I’m not sure that makes me art

Unable to focus and confused, I read an interview with U2.
The Observer New Review led with a Bono quote.
“It is the job of art to be divisive”.
And presumably, it is the job of art to force a manufacturer to distribute software to aid the deletion of some art that has been thrust upon all its users.
Not that I really cared about that.
“oh boo hoo, what will my hipsters say when they see we have U2 on our itunes.”
It is the contemporary equivalent of unwanted post, the album of equivalent of the Innovations catalogue that used to drop on the doormats of the twentieth century.

I am not sure it is the job of art to be divisive. Is the artist meant to look at the canvas and ponder, “now, what can I daub on this which will create a fatal game of British Bulldog in the Tate ModernTurbine Room? Perhaps if the satanic child with the dripping face of Rose West is hatching from the duck egg full of blood in that corner of the painting, someone will pull a blade in the reading room, and Brian Sewell will cock his flintlock at Jonathan Meades, and then the Thames will flow will these corpses of feuding subjectivity who sought something certain”.

If you create some art, and you really mean it. It is an attempt to summarise something in your mind more than it is something to sell (though you hope that happens too), then some people are going to look at it and say, “I hate that. I’d like to stick those brushes up the artist’s arse”. And in the act of sticking the brushes up the artist’s arse, you accidentally get nominated for the Turner Prize.

The act of creativity, and then the gall of placing it in the public domain, will be divisive, but is it the actual job of it all, or the inevitable bi-product?

For a while, offensive comedy was very popular, a good angle in the race to get noticed. While “light entertainer” Paul O Grady was mixing vicious pops at the government and the status quo, in between acrobats and interviews, the rebel comedians were not forgetting there were a whole heap of people who were poor and ill and needy and different that hadn’t been punched enough. Once the “edgy” money of late night Channel 4 was not enough, they cooled their style for primetime ITV. It didn’t matter, all product.

Some of it was pretty funny, a lot of it I found spiteful and superior. In watching it, I think I updated my own rules of what I would allow myself to say. Some of these comedians were described as “saying the unsayable”, they played to increasingly big rooms of guffawing people, so maybe it was sayable after all. Now, it doesn’t seem much fun to just come up with a joke whose prime purpose is to divide and offend. The best of the offensive and divisive artists seem to be those who are offending and outraging because they are offended and furious. The work from their wretched mind won’t succeed if it is just a laugh or hiss, they are scratching their own scabs and other people’s as well. The divisiveness goes beyond huffily turning away from the gallery, it keeps creeping under the skin.

Maybe the job of good art is not to be divisive, it is just that somewhere in the beauty or squalor, it will divide and irritate.
But just because something is irritating, does not mean it must be art.

I also read an interview with Eric Fischl.

“The reason artists do what they do on some level is to say, ‘don’t look at me, look at this thing I made and you will know the true me’”.

Not for the comedian, “look at me, look at these things I’ve made, then you will know the me I would like to be, but may only be on stage, before walking off into the street, hood up, and don’t look at me”

I may be irritating, but I don’t think that has made me into art.

Most, but not all, of my dates for the rest of this year and 2015 are up here http://www.robinince.com
Southport, Manchester, Henley, Bridgwater, Goole, Bristol, Nottingham, are all imminent.

and the Brighton Comedy Festival https://www.brightoncomedyfestival.com/event.php?id=1024

and link to next gig in Bristol – http://www.thecomedybox.co.uk/site/301.asp?catID=1220

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3 Responses to I may be irritating, but I’m not sure that makes me art

  1. liliannberg says:

    here we are again trying to answer the impossible – what is art? It’s as if you are in the middle of it, living it, breathing it , art is ineffable, can’t be explained or analysed. It’s only when you step away from it you start to wonder about it, why we do it, why it turn out this way or that way. I look back at what I have painted or written and often feel utterly alienated from my creations, as if someone else have done them. You have methods, approaches, inspirations but they are of the moment, or so they should be, I think. Only then do they arrive with some truth or some worthwhile message. Whether they are divisive or not is irrelevant. But I do not agree with Fischl that you will know the artist by looking at his artwork, there is too much artifice, too much pretention and way too much undeserved attention given to art in a world where only a few are allowed to shine.

  2. Peter Stamp says:

    Isn’t ONE aspect of art to make us look afresh – see something in a new light? That may be funny, or beautiful, or arresting – or even divisive. But it’s not THE point of art to be divisive.

  3. Peter Stamp says:

    Oh – the QI Elves just posted this quote: The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. – PABLO PICASSO

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