Tuesday, July 07, 2009
I sort of gave Antony Gormley the benefit of the doubt when I interviewed him about his scheme for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. I usually do this when I interview people because I feel I should give subjects their say rather than just spraying attitude all over them. But, in this case, I can't help agreeing with Nige - this particular work of art is an invitation to the exhibitionist streak in the British public. What it cannot be is a picture of British society, as Gormley intended, since those who appear are, by definition, self-selected show-offs. It's also an example of the 'art is what I say it is' movement which began with Marcel Duchamp's strokes of genius and now ends with a dull freak show. Art cannot be what 'I' say it is because both art and 'I' are entities embedded products of a culture that is defined by millions, dead and alive, never by one. Duchamp worked because he drew attention to the heart of the modernist crisis which was, in essence, a fear that art had become impossible in the absence of any coherent culture. But the assumption now is that art can be what I say it is because the culture's coherence derives solely from a set of atomised individuals. A deeply pessimisic insight has been morphed into a shallowly optimistic one. The assumption that there could be such a culture is wildly irrational. But that, alas, is where we are.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:42 am