Serious Modern Artists

I don’t normally repost every damn comment I write on some blog, but this is one discussion that I may come back to at some point in the future (if only as an example of what’s wrong with the world), so I might as well.

So, in the Guardian’s generally quite admirable “Comment is free” section, an artist called Tinkebell writes about the hatemail she got after an art project that involved killing her supposedly sick cat and turning it into a handbag. She then took the pages and pages of hatemail that she got, looked up the private information of the people who sent it, and turned it all into a book.

My response:

The major imperialist powers are fighting wars against small nations, our economic system is collapsing, countries are being sold to corporations by greedy politicians, democratic values are going out the window, the planet is suffering catastrophic climate change… and you turn a cat into a handbag and call yourself an artist? And then you mine other people’s data, not to defend yourself, but to turn into a book and make money with?

Oh, and your personal insults (she was fat! he was an amateur! they watch horror movies!) are at least as pathetic as the messages you are complaining about. In fact they are rather telling about how serious you are as an individual; unable to respond with reason, you resort to name-calling.

Publishing private data as you did, incidentally, is far worse than threatening someone – it is taking an active step towards making it possible for that person to be harmed. Publishing pictures of their houses? People have gone to prison for that sort of thing.

You said you wanted to “launch a discussion about hypocrisy” – well, you’ve managed to do so by being more hypocritical than all the people you criticize put together. I’m sure you tell yourself that everyone who disagrees with you is a violent, uneducated fool who cannot appreciate the high art you create. The truth is you’re simply a sad, untalented individual with delusions of grandeur, incapable of creating art that touches or transforms, instead resorting to the lowest of shock tactics to get some attention. You’re not alone in this, of course, since the advent of postmodernism has allowed a remarkable number of artistically incapable individuals to make a grab for fame by using its absurd tenets to justify their incompetent, grotesque and ultimately meaningless works as being radical, original, or thought-provoking, when in fact they are none of the above. You can try to disguise the crassness and shallowness of your work with airy claims about provoking discussion and breaking taboos, but the obvious fact remains that it is crass and shallow and intended only to get you attention.

I don’t want you to die, by the way, and this is not a death threat. I do want to fight you, though – in a metaphorical sense. I want to fight for a world in which self-important, passive-aggressive pseudo-artists like yourself don’t inspire anger, but laughter and ridicule, as they should. After all, what did you do? Did you paint the Sistine Chapel? Did you sculpt the Venus de Milo? Did you challenge the fundamentals of our society like a revolutionary, did you cast down hypocrisy with the fire of a prophet? No, you turned a cat into a handbag. You’re not an artist, you’re the parody of an artist from a Monty Python sketch.

(My username is my actual name, and I am a professional writer and game designer. My contempt for you is in no way anonymous. Of course you’d probably argue that games aren’t art and I’m not a professional because I haven’t killed any cats lately. Right before John Cleese would show up to announce it’s time for the next sketch.)

I have an urge to say more, to write pages and pages about the hypocrisy and false seriousness of all this, but I think I need to get back to work. Actual art requires dedication and hard work, not publicity stunts.

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