November 11, 2016

Art Trivia of Insignificant Importance: Furniture and "Accessoires"











Who would have thought that German language can cheer one up. It has a bad reputation, but German is actually a funny language. I attended a dinner party and a friend and I were talking about Laurie Anderson's latest art film - something to do with her dog. And then my friend said she bought the video so we could get together and see it. I asked her the specificities: how big is the screen she has? Is it a laptop? Or a flatscreen? It's not very big, she admitted, but she does have a "Sofalandschaft" which makes for a comfortable watching experience. A sofa landscape! Only the German language could deal so accurately with such a piece of furniture. Of course, the Germans might be considered to be the discoverers of the landscape as such, aren't they, at least the romantic notion of it: with the Rückenfigur standing on a hill and admiring it. Pop and German seem to be contradiction in terminus but it's a very pop thing to do, to metamorphose something as fleeting as a landscape into something as immobile as a furniture piece.  

Talking furniture, yesterday I was giving a guided tour at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the topic was "Was ist Kunst?" I had some young fellows in the group and they were testing me. One was very good at it and he told me that art was decoration. "You can call it accessories," he said. I was a bit baffled because, of course, it's true - it's in the first place used as a decoration next to your sofa. I had to think of Oscar Wilde, who travelled at the age of 27 to the United States for a tour to defend beauty in the age of industrialisation: "A picture has no meaning but its beauty, no message but its joy. That is the first truth about art that you must never lose sight of. A picture is a purely decorative thing." So that young fellow might be onto something, a new Oscar Wilde in our age of neoliberal "usefulness". A very capitalist thinking is dominating also in the art world, with the idea that everything should have a result and "use". I'm horrified of the idea of useful art. Then I'd rather prefer the decorative one. 


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