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This Is a Blog Entry

Posted by Wang Fire, 31 December 2014 · 1,733 views

Art is one of those odd words that gets thrown around a lot and people have a reasonably solid idea of what it represents, yet we have a hard time defining not only the word itself, but what qualifies for that label. What is art? What qualifies as art? What art is worthy of our attention? This is most apparent when talking about the subject I want to tackle today, that dreaded beast that many call

Yes, modern art.  The words that can be used to legitimize anything from a room full of jars of urine, to an hour of film which is nothing but a still shot of the Empire State building (yes, these are both real).  Because of this these two words have become a source of scorn, used to describe things that snobby art-types slap together with no effort and then get a huge paycheck for simply because "it's art" and anyone who says otherwise "just doesn't get it".  Here's the thing though, if you actually take the time to explain some of the things that fall under this category the reason that people hold them in such high regard becomes apparent.  Take for example the movie This Is Not a Film by Iranian director Jafar Panahi.  All it is on the surface is 76 minutes of the director sitting around his house being bored. That's it.
If you read that description and walked off, then you're doing yourself a huge disservice because Jafar Panahi is a BADASS. No, he doesn't punch guys out or match wits with Professor Moriarty or tame dragons while sitting around his house (though he does have a pet iguana), in fact he only uses an actual movie-quality camera and acts directorly in one scene. So why do I affix him with the title usually reserved for the likes of Chuck Norris or Mr. T?  Because the reason that Jafar Panahi doesn't leave is that he CAN'T. The man is under a six year house arrest and twenty year ban on filmmaking, all for saying he MIGHT make a movie speaking out against the Iranian government. This Is Not a Film is a protest against Iran's government quashing anyone who speaks out against them; filmed on inexpensive equipment, then edited by Panahi in his home, stuck on a flash drive, hidden in a cake, and smuggled out to the Caan film festival to premier.  Don't get me wrong, I have not seen this movie. I plan on doing that later tonight (maybe) and expect to be very bored most of the time, I don't expect it to be a cinematic masterpiece. But I already love this movie because the idea is represents is so powerful: Anyone can make a movie in this day and age, you can't stop people from expressing themselves, and the idea of banning filmmaking is as laughable as it is unattainable.
Another example is this painting, IKB 191 by Yves Klein:
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It's blue.  Oh it's a pretty blue to be sure, but that's all there is, it's just blue.  I still think that this painting is an important piece of art history. Not because it's the first time someone tried this, the Russians had been doing solid color paintings of thing for years when IKB 191 was made, but because Yves Klein basically invented a color to make it. This painting is a solid field of International Klein Blue (IKB), a color that Klein and friend who worked at a chemical company invented and patented as an easier way to get a very rich, uniform blue color.  This painting (and a lot of the stuff he did after it in which he went absolutely NUTS putting IKB on everything and everyone) is basically Klein saying "guys, holy crap, we live in a time where you can make something this blue and it won't cost an arm and a leg, do you have any idea how awesome this is?!"  Because in this day and age we are SPOILED for color.  Al you have to do is turn on your TV or monitor and you can see whatever colors in whatever combination you want, and synthetic dyes like IKB can make pretty much any color under the sun. But in ancient times lush colors like this were exceedingly rare and expensive, blue in particular.  So again, it's not really that the piece is particularly "artful" or creative that makes me appreciate it, but what it represents. The technical aspects, not the artistic.
So next time you see a piece of "modern art" don't just dismiss it immediately. I'm not saying that everything will have some deeper meaning to it or even be particularly good, because as these two examples imply pretty much anyone can make "art" these days.  But every now and then you'll find something like This Is Not a Film, and those things are awesome.

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