Thursday, April 24, 2008

Richard Lacayo wrote a nice post reflecting on Gregor Schneider's call for a terminally ill person willing to die in front of a gallery audience. Pieces like this usually provoke the expected I-can't-believe-they-call-that-art response from the peanut gallery--see the comments under Kriston's piece defending Aliza Shvarts's right to pretend to give herself lots of miscarriages. One reader doubts that Kriston even exists (he does!), pointing out that his name is an anagram for "Crank Pisspot".

Lacayo points out two things worth thinking about in situations like this. First, the question of whether or not a particular performance in a gallery setting counts as art. It's a moot question: At this point, given the correct context (and perhaps a bit of explanation), any thing, action, or residue from an action can be presented as a work of contemporary art. The key question becomes: Is it any good?

Second, he points out how the emotion of art is a different thing from the emotion of life--something T.S. Eliot insisted. It can be as powerful, to be sure: He admits to tearing up in front of a piece by French video artist Sophie Calle that documents the moment of her mother's death...but then he shuffled on to see the next exhibit at the Venice Biennale. The event became art, and art is a different thing than life, no matter how much you blur the distinction. I know, this is an obvious point--but it doesn't make the phenomenon any less mysterious to me.

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