Limits of Art?

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei – Cao/Humanity. Photograph: Courtesy UTA Artist Space and photo by Jeff McLane.

What kind of change his or any political artist’s work can actually achieve remains an open question. In his book 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, the art critic Ben Davis argues that political art is not a force on par with real-life organizing and the in-depth analysis of policy. The shortcoming of aesthetic political gestures is that while they present us with a problem, they rarely offer a course of resolution. Quoting Susan Sontag, he writes: “Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses. Or, simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen.”

(Janelle Zara, “Ai Weiwei hits Los Angeles: ‘I cannot accept anything which is not precise,'” The Guardian, 10-10-18)

(c) 2018 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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4 Responses to Limits of Art?

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    Here’s a 33 minute video I made early in 2016 making this point in depth: https://youtu.be/aEIAhSJumNc

    • JMN says:

      This is an excellent video! It addresses so many issues about conceptual art, and Ai Weiwei, that are intriguing to me. Among many things you say that stick with me: Perplexity in lieu of righteous outrage is more constructive; works by Ted Nugent excepted because they suck! Yes. Moving contrast between the dirtiness of the Sichuan earthquake, and wrenching tragedy of the children’s deaths, and the pristine, cerebral nature of the shiny backpacks in the installation. This is a well pondered, reasoned, generous, judicious, eloquent presentation of ideas about art and politics set to video. Admirable work. It helps me a lot.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        You watched it! Thanks, man. It has so few views that I feel a lot better about having dedicated the time to making it if just one other person watches it and appreciates it. I would have made more videos if there was something like 6 or 7 people liking it. There are less good art videos than articles.

        Now I’m pretty much focused on making my own work and avoid the art world as well as politics. I developed an allergy, so to speak, a while ago to Facebook and social media in general, but recently it feels like politics and news are cancerous. Before, I felt like I needed to know what’s going on in order to grapple with reality. Now I feel I’m being fed all sorts of false impressions, and I may be more engaged with reality if I just disengaged from the news.

      • JMN says:

        Yes, again my compliments on the video. It’s very courteous of you to put the length out front when citing it. It tells the potential viewer what kind of commitment is involved. I’m happy to have seen it. I share your allergy to social media. What’s good there seems vitiated by what’s corrupt and trivial and malign. Keeping it at arm’s length seems like a healthy response. I hope your own work keeps benefitting.

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