Monday, 15 October 2007

Art for art's sake?

While in Northumbria we visited Newcastle - primarily for shopping purposes (at least that's what Dolly D thinks!). Our first stop - after using the efficient park and Metro facility - was at the Baltic centre for contemporary art. I should say at this point that I am not an art expert, just an interested amateur.

I have a problem with the exhibits at the Baltic. One had been removed altogether - more of that later; for another you had to read a safety notice before entering the gallery, where the "F" word seemed to dominate and the materials used included razor wire; another was based on images from pornographic magazines superimposed on images of women doing everyday household tasks. Maybe, I'm a grumpy old man - I just didn't understand where the works were coming from. Does art only have an impact when it shocks? Isn't there scope for pieces that focus on hope rather than moral decay and anger?

On returning to work today, I was reading "Holyrood" magazine which had come in while I was off, and was intrigued to read an article (opinion piece) about the Baltic. It turns out that the exhibition was withdrawn after one photograph was removed - by Northumberland Police. It was a picture of two young girls, one of them naked. This begs another more complex question (which I'm going to bodyswerve) - about when is an image pornographic or abusive for the child? The Holyrood article by Shona Main said:

"I will gladly defend the right of artists to be free to confront, enquire and capture. But they are not outside of society, they are part of it and they must reconcile their practice with the culture they detail and expose."

I agree with this - but would simply ask for some more positive examples to balance the position.

I like the Baltic - I think that the space that has been created in an old flour mill is fantastic, and I will go back the next time I'm in Newcastle.

I also liked the first exhibit that we saw - "Square Dreams" by Kader Attia - more of which on another day.


His Girl Friday said...

no, you're not a 'grumpy old man'... I think art that shocks, is lacking in depth. What is the value of shock, if it has no further value than that? As in, really, what is it trying to teach, uplift, encourage?

That Hideous Man said...

You say "grumpy old man" like it's a bad thing to be!?!!