Museum of Bad Art- Is It Really?

The objective of the Dedham and Somerville based Museum of Bad Art is “To celebrate the labor of artists whose work would be displayed in no other forum”. Founded in 1994, its curators accept only the worst pieces of artwork, claiming that 9 out of 10 submitted for display are rejected simply because “they aren’t bad enough”. Curators claim that most of the collection consists of artists who display a certain level of emotion which they are not able to express with their level of skill, which brings up the question: does lack of skill in expressing emotion equate to bad art? Surely, blank canvas art and monotone artwork do not require much skill- do they? While the physical output of the artist may be little, the mental input; the intention of the piece requires much skill, for who would be so bold as to display something as outrageous as a blank canvas at an art exhibition? It’s cliché but true; it’s the thought that counts. The social connections and authority of each of these artists definitely play a role in the acceptance or recognition of their works. In relation to the critics, authority also affects their judgement of the piece. Who are they to assume that the artist intended for an emotional message superseding their skill be displayed in their art? Or Perhaps the artist intended for there to be of a lesser ‘quality’. And so the question arises, what role does authority play in determining the value of an object?


Does Art Have to Have Meaning? Can Art be Meaningless?

Meaning is a two-fold aspect of art, in which both the creator and the spectator are involved. First, the difference between meaning and purpose must be outlined, as artwork does not necessarily have purpose. Purpose involves action, while meaning is the message portrayed alone. For example, the meaning of blank-canvas art is one of minimalism, which may involve the meaning of appreciation of simply objects, appreciation of one’s surroundings, or even simply mockery. There, is, arguably, no purpose to such minimalist art, as without means of method lacks motivation in taking action on a particular message. A piece of artwork is always intentional on the part of the artist, and with intention naturally comes meaning. Even in being meaningless, there is meaning, which is precisely that. In Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings, the lines seem to be arranged in meaningless disarray. However, though there may not be a particular order or specified placement in which the blots and lines are scattered about the canvas, Pollock manages to make these pieces of art appeal to a many. This is skill, and this: order within chaos; is the general meaning that he attempts to convey in his artworks. Whenever the audience is experiencing artwork, there is always meaning to it. This is because there is always a filter that adds personal input to raw sense perception. There are always different takes on a piece of artwork. An extreme in music would be secular music of the renaissance, in which secular music was deemed as unholy by the Catholic Church, while the non-christian common-folk would regard it as lively music about love and other ceremonies. In short, in art both sides- the author and the audience; in both creating art and experiencing art, there must be meaning. It is impossible for something to be called art that is lacking in either one side or the other, that is to say that all art must have both meaning of the creator and public interpretation.

What responsibilities -if any- does an artist have when they create a piece of art work?

When a mother gives birth to her child, it is her responsibility to look after her child until it is of a mature age- that is, when it attains the ability to sustain socially and economically in a society. A piece of artwork is a baby. In the same sense, an artist, like a mother, is ethically liable to take into consideration the consequences of his or her piece of artwork before producing it, since an artwork is something that is intentional. However, because artwork produced by well known artists have such a large influence in the community, particularly through various means of media, the responsibility of artists may even exceed that of a mother. Specifically, one of the largest responsibilities of an artist when producing artwork is targeting a specific an audience. Many films are rated ‘R’ for a reason- that it is not socially appropriate for the young to withstand graphic scenes of such violence or sexual nature. Yet artists continue to produce these films, as they target a mature audience. Artists are also responsible for their intention for or the message of their artwork. Though it is up to the audience to interpret whatever message may be presented by the art, an artist’s personal input always has an affect on his or her audience, as with intention always comes a desired message. An extreme would be Nazi propaganda posters, which openly portrayed all Jews as evil, greedy characters, and thus, further fueled public support for the genocide. Artists, however are not responsible for the actions of the audience and whatever they choose to do with the message portrayed in the art. Indeed, many may claim that an artwork greatly accredited to a particular event, just as a correlation does not equal to a relationship. The audience are also expected of responsibilities in interpreting the piece of artwork, in making sensible decisions in what action to take with the message. Returning to the issue that is still largely debated amongst many, the Columbine High School Massacre. The teens who committed the killings were reported to have committed the act out of their hatred for society. Though many of Marilyn Manson’s songs evoked such themes, what actions Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made a conscious decision of taking, can neither be ethically or legally linked to Manson’s music.

What is art?

Art is whatever its creator wants it to be, and also to an extent whatever the audience interprets it to be. Anyone can be an artist, so long that they proclaim that their work be art, and the idea of it is completely sold to themselves first. Whole revolutionary artistic movements are based off of this principle, for example the impressionist and expressionist movements completely revolutionized classical artwork, transitioning into modern, abstract artwork. Relying on a few bold individuals and their social connections, the definition of art was forever changed. Prior to the late 19th/early 20th century, artists sought to accurately portray scenery and or people. This was no longer the case, as pieces by the likes of Monet did not go for a photo-realistic approach of painting, but instead a more impressionist approach, that is, by expressing one’s own perception of nature before nature itself. Furthermore, artists such as Picasso created works of abstract expressionism, which did not strive to accurately portray an image at all. In a sense, art was redefined due to this change- that not only painters but also musicians bravely suggested to the community that this new phenomenon, completely disjunct from the established norms of artwork at the time was in fact artwork. Indeed, one may say that many artists that did not gain fame may have failed in the process of convincing the public that their work was in fact artwork, and that is why they do not withhold merit and are recognized. However, these artworks all contributed to a particular movement, which in turn made for the furthering of acceptance and integration of such radical ideas in society.

Truth in History

Histories are the collective sets of past truths that historians study attempt to reach a conclusion. This process is known as history. Truths  may be defined as a perception of reality, thus because there are often and always multiple perspectives of history, in history there is no absolute truth. Well, actually there is- just that it differs  from the truth that other areas of knowledge such as the natural and human sciences aim to reach in their scientific process. While the truth aimed at attaining by the natural sciences may be a much more concrete theory  when compared with the human sciences, in both areas of knowledge a theory’s validity is often supported by repeated experimentation. This however, is impossible in the field of history, and thus historians may not produce a thesis that withholds the same type of truth as the sciences. Rather, a historian examines objects or past events in a way that a more general argument about the particular area of study may be formed. Truth is maintained in this argument in publishing it as a book or a paper, in which other historians may choose to agree or disagree with the study at hand. If the history reaches the point where it has sustained criticisms from other historians and the historians may defend his claims, in addition to many individuals accepting it to be the truth, then it effectively embodies the truth. However, not a single historical ‘theory’ existing today is able to attain this ‘truth’, but instead, in history absolute truth may not be attained and may only be aimed at attaining. Thus, history is the study of a collection of past truths, in which the individual truths of arguments made from these studies may help in their social influence, but do not contribute to an absolute truth.

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