The Institutions of Art have been accused by the General Public of Propagating Crap as Art

Con or Performance!?

Written by Leigh McLaughlin, Staff Writer

– Opinion –

Armand Vaillancourt by Alexis Gravel


That one could consider animals in a zoo, let alone inanimate objects ‘performing’, brings up the extremes of inspiration and con even for so imaginative a person as I.  It seems wholesome to be inspired by the endeavors of people as they push boundaries, juxtapose disparate things and in this day and age, satirize.

Conversely, the negatively connoted ‘con’ is a thing not so wholesome that in my mind (as I look back to the reaction the general public had in relation to minimalism and abstraction) is different things depending who you talk to.  It has very much to do with intention; as I understand artistic practices, the intention is usually to elicit a discourse with the work as ‘anchor’.

Armand Vaillancourt’s ‘Performance is a Way of Life’ and Bert O. States’ ‘Performance as a Metaphor’ were intriguing reads for many reasons, namely because I’m left with the question of consciousness and how it is implicated in qualifying a performance and also the extremes of inspiration and con, not only in relation to Vaillancourt’s ‘Sculptures me-talliques n* 2’, but in terms inclusive to many other artistic endeavors.

Some objects, as in the case of Henry Moore’s ‘Two Large Forms’ in bronze (1966-69)outside of the AGO are ‘set up’ in a context and manner that enliven the inanimate through a metaphor the beholder/viewer(s) are presumed to deduce.  The two abstract forms seem to be taking part in the no-touch dance of ‘biala ban’.   In cases such as this, the objects and their placement may represent an extension of the artists’ consciousness.

Of course, just as one may project human characteristics onto a rock in a field, one may also imagine sufficed context and intention to see such things in a work.   But is it a performance?  Upon grasping the paralleled evolution of the words ‘culture’ and ‘performance’, the question of what qualifies a performance in relation to consciousness seems like it would be both a cyclical and divergent one.  How, you ask?  I know not, but the connectivity of things even extremely disparate is undeniable.  I resign myself, pending further reading and in good faith, that performance needs no qualifying, only the resolve for continually gathers points of perspective.

Perhaps the following may be an indication that  I have been tainted by the exclusive tendencies of academia but I feel like the education of all parties involved also has bearing on whether or not  ‘con’ may be used in describing a ‘performance’ piece after the fact.  The (art) institution has been accused by the general public of propagating crap, and passing it off as art, when in reality, the culture (art institution) propagates, to an extent, and uses a language that is deliberately exclusive and/or exclusive by nature.

As Vaillancourt “made his way through a labyrinth of metal objects suspended from the ceiling, banging them with different objects, to the accompaniment of pre-recorded concrete music” (Vaillancourt, 99), he had the intension of furthering a historical narrative, knowing very well the stories and characters.

The article indicates that John Cage, an avant-garde jack of many trades, was ‘inspired’, whereas a famous composer claimed it was a con. The famous composer speaks a different, not necessarily more technical language, but one which has a more popular and perhaps archaic history, a history that could be argued as a basis for the divergent, seemingly improvised composition that was ‘Sculptures me-talliques n* 2’.

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