Art (postscript)

A few weeks ago, I had a little rant about art. Then, today, I saw something which made me laugh, and in many ways supports what I was saying about the way art is a pretentious medium in which people read meaning into a screen print of a can of soup.

Anyway, I found a website, called Artspace, which advertised ‘cheap’ art to members. Once I signed up (for free, of course) I browsed their portfolio of artists, and a photo caught my eye. It was while looking at this photo that I came across a fine example of art’s ridiculous inconsistency.

East Elevator Construction (8A), 2006

'East Elevator Construction (8A), 2006' by Edward Burtynsky

Have a look at the photo above. I quite like it. What do you notice about it? Is there anything that you think shouldn’t be there? Now read the quote below from the blurb about this particular photo.

This photograph of the ICA’s building while it was under construction shows the façade’s dramatic cantilever jutting into the clear blue sky, framing Boston’s skyline in the distance. It is a perfect example of the photographer’s fascination with “the intricate link between industry and nature.” On the left hand bottom of the frame, a shadow of the artist’s body intrudes on the composition, displaying an instance of rare self-portraiture by a primarily landscape photographer.

So, essentially, the artist has made a very basic mistake, and allowed his shadow into the picture. I’m pretty sure that had he been attending an art class or something similar, he would have been criticised for this. However, it isn’t a mistake, it’s “self-portraiture”. This is the attitude that turns a blemish into a beauty spot. I reckon he didn’t notice his mistake until after he got back to the studio, or developed the photo, and then either the moment to recapture the image had gone, or he simply couldn’t be bothered to try again and hoped nobody would notice.

I still like the photo, but knowing the shadow is there, and knowing the daft attempt that was made to hide it in plain sight rather spoils it for me. It does beg one question though: can I go and get my childhood photos from the box in the loft, and present all the ones in which the actual subject of my photograph is obscured by my thumb as subconscious self-portraiture?


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