You see it in movies and in art museums. It's in those pieces of sculpture that they put on college campuses and in front of highrise buildings. It's in most of the poems you'll ever read in English class. It's insanity. Or is it? They tell me it's art, and maybe they're right. Maybe there's art in the pattern of scuzz on a dirty plate, or in the arrangement of the little black things on a Tostitos chip.

Or maybe it's just an upside-down urinal, or some scrap metal some guy welded together on a whim, or a movie with a bunch of scenes involving unorthodox framerates and pictures of people's eyeballs. Sometimes I believe that some folk are just too willing to accept things as art. Why this is is anybody's guess, but I personally believe that those artsy types just get a kick out of being able to declare something as art and have everyone believe them. It's kind of a power trip thing with them, as I'm sure it would be for me if I had that kind of control over people's minds.

Poetry is the same way. Although I don't read much of it myself, I endorse poetry as a healthy mode of expression. However, I never will understand how people derive enjoyment from taking a poem about a flower and assigning a hundred different, non-flower-related meanings to it.

Surely some people, especially the poets and artists out there, will think I'm an idiot. Perhaps I am, but I try all the time to not fit into that category. I seriously doubt that I'm so completely out of it that I can't recognize art when I see it. I just think that perhaps my standards are a little higher.

There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.

--Antonin Artaud

This was said about Vincent Van Gogh, an infinitely awesome painter and a certifiably crazy human being. It could be applied to most any artist or poet (to use the occupations you mentioned) in order to explain their methods of expression. Art in its truest form is simply beautified insanity and the more accessible the madness the more people there are who can relate to it. It has nothing to do with the degree of culture and perception a person has, but with the experience he is willing to receive from the prospective exhibit.

That being said, I share your feelings on the state of modern art. A red paint bloch on a white canvas is not my cup of artistic tea, but it means something to someone and far be it from me to criticize their creative medium when I'm so imperfect. Who knows...I might see some exhibit featuring a toaster surrounded by barbie dolls from the 1950's and become racked with such intense emotion that I feint on the spot.

You said that some people are too willing to accept just anything as art...I think some people are too resistant to the idea of everything as art. I consider art as something that can compel a person to just stop and realize that the world around them is so mind-numbingly amazing...that way the definition of art is more up to the viewer than the creator. Even then, most of those who view a serious attempt at art will recognize the intentions behind the end product and at least respect the artist and his work.

Now all the non-artists and non-poets will think I'm an idiot...but whatever. I can see art in the way a homeless man stacks his empty liquor bottles...I can see art in the way a certain someone looks at nothing in particular...if you can see art in an upside-down urinal, more power to you, my friend.

Sometime in the 19th century, the practitioners of the Bohemian (a.k.a. starving artist) lifestyle began to think of themselves as a sort of oppressed elite rather than people who were unable to produce art that satisfied the market. By the latter half of the 20th century, they became an oppressed minority instead. They had the likes of Pablo Picasso and e.e. cummings to prove that art doesn't always have to be attractive to be popular.

Then they began to use that oh-so-common reverse logic: "If they can make art that everyone else thinks is ugly, but will eventually realize the genius of, then so can I!" And now we have thousands upon thousands of bad poets, musicians, painters, lyricists, sculptors, and the like making ugly, bad art "for art's sake" and believing they're just misunderstood geniuses.

This, of course, is just so much egotistical bollocks. There is the rare person in this world who really is a misunderstood genius, who is able to look at the world and present it in a creative but brilliant way that no one has ever done before. But they are truly rare, the Picassos and cummingses. The rest are just snobs who go around every day thinking they know something no one else does, when in reality they could make a decent living without compromising their artistic Muse if they'd just produce art that people would want to display in their living rooms.

Ironically, this attitude is equally predominant among geeks who think a clever idea is the only thing they need to become the next dot-com millionaire. The odds and end results are, sadly, also identical.

Excerpt from a letter I was smart enough not to throw away:

I am some days better than others, some days worse than before, but never bad enough that I can't dread the next day more. I wake up and I go to sleep and in between I either look back or ahead, wanting one or the other to keep me going.

I like my job as long as it's not too enjoyable because that wouldn't be anything I'd want, to be paid for doing something I need to do in order to survive. Work is work, it shouldn't be anything other than what it is, you shouldn't do anything you cannot abide.

What can I say? I get by, my day to day existence nothing more than a joy I have to endure while life passes me at top speed.

"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

The place I work has a technique we use called brainstorming where ideas are thrown out and recorded without judgement or value assignment. Then each idea is revisited and examined more carefully. It's a great way to get those random thoughts down..the ones that tend to get shoved into the recesses of our minds and forgotten.

Luckily there are some artists who are smart enough to realize this long ago, and created Dadaism to screw up the rest of the world, which explains urinals upside down, and the Mona Lisa nude, with a moustache.

Quite fun, assuming you aren't looking for a deep, hidden meaning. You'd be wasting your time. Or you're a masochist.

I could give you a hundred different metaphors on what art is, but then that would be idiotic. Trying to explain what art is is just stupid, because one has to use words, a flawed medium. I think people should think of everything as art. Anything can be art if it really wants to be. An upside down urinal. A fifty dollar bill. Just call it art, and it is. I'm not being sarcastic. It's art.

I don't think the artist needs to explain his art. I don't think the audience has a fundamental right to see art that they can understand or identify with. However if something is too obscure, or people just don't understand it, they won't like it. Or they might, you never really know with some people, but my point is that anyone can call something art. It's up to the people paying for tickets to a museum to choose what gets promoted as art.

It is wrong, wrong, to say that something is not art. I think it is mean to say that people have an egotistical agenda, or are just stupid to think a urinal so important. They can think what they want, and so can you. It's the beauty of opinions, anyone can have them. I think rarely is someone making strange art because they want money. There are more sane ways to make money. Usually people have some meaning. Piss christ had a meaning.

Art can be obscure, and hard to understand, but that doesn't make the artist an asshole. Shakespeare wasn't an asshole for using big words. People do what they want to give their life meaning. If you don't like it, look away.

When I was at University (studying Contemporary Musics (sic)), I was introduced to the concept of avante garde music, including what seemed like really weird things at the time, like sitting on a tall stool throwing ping-pong balls into an open harpsichord. I wasn't sure what to make of it. The more I was exposed to this style of performance, the more I accepted it. I starting writing pieces in this genre myself (one day I may tell the whole story of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Beethoven's 3rd Symphony", or "Pandora's Box"). They were insane. They were not pleasant to listen to. They were not clever. They did not demonstrate my understanding of a new medium. They had very little value of any sort, except possibly as bad jokes. They consistently got very high marks from my tutors.

I started pushing the envelope, getting weirder and weirder. Less and less thought went into the sound or construction of the music - my only aim was to be as outlandish as possible. My marks continued to be consistently high.

I realised that I was not learning anything remotely valuable. I began to take the piss, writing and performing pieces consisting entirely of nursery rhymes, or playing instruments in ways they were not designed to be played, or recording myself singing a single note for as long as I could and then multi-tracking it as many times as I could. Together with three friends, I formed a string quartet where every member did not know how to play the instrument they were playing. This culminated with a composition assignment we were given, where the only criteria was that it should be 15 minutes long. I wrote "Five Three-Minute Pop Songs" - a sequence of five pieces, each exactly three minutes long, consisting of a four-chord sequence being played at exactly 60 bpm, over and over again for the duration. The audience at the performance hated it. I received a very high mark.

Not everything can be art. Merely calling something art does not make it so. Thought, care and effort must be expended. This does not detract from the natural beauty of a chance occurance, a breathtaking landscape, the pattern of rain falling on a lake. These are aesthetically pleasing things. They are not necessarily art. An upside-down urinal may have taken effort to create, but the care and attention involved will have been focussed on the physical act of creation, not the ephemeral act of impacting another person. Art does not have to be beautiful - but it should elicit a reaction in and of itself, independent of its environment. A urinal does not elicit an emotional response when in a public convenience - and hey, if you actually look at the thing and study the curves, the line, the sleek surface, it could be considered beautiful.

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