Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Corporate “Art”

Remember that scene from Fight Club where a bunch of the Project Mayhem members bring in a very dead Meat Loaf and explain how he was shot during an operation to destroy a piece of corporate art? Do you also remember what that piece of corporate art was?

Yeah, it was a giant sphere that they rolled into a Starbucks. And while it was awesome and did end with one of my favorite guilty pleasure singers of all time with a gaping head wound, I remember thinking at the time, “that is not art”.

Fast forward ten years to today when I walked out into my buildings atrium and noticed the giant piece of artwork that hangs from the third story all the way to the first floor. I stopped and stared at it, trying to figure out what the hell it looked liked. It took me a few minutes, staring at it’s shiny silver surface until I realized that it looked like a giant fish skeleton. Because nothing says “Welcome to Executive Towers, where we do business” like a giant metal abstract fish skeleton.

So it got me thinking of a lot of the corporate art I see when I walk into buildings downtown. And I came to the conclusion that referring to any of it as art is damn near an impossibility. Now I am all for abstract shapes and concepts, but when it looks like the artist took a giant piece of sheet metal and wrapped it into a cylinder and plopped it down in a marbled lobby, I can’t put that in the same category as say, the Mona Lisa.

I think the only thing more depressing to a creative mine than these giant instillations is hotel room art, and at least that has a frame around it…

~The Office Scribe


Callisto said...

Though I have not seen your fish skeleton, I have to say, as an artist, that stuff peeves me. I could sit for days and sketch a portrait and not make a dime off it. At the same time there are people out there digging into their dumpster, gluing some crap together, saying it's "abstract", and making ten grand off it.

Right now our Town Hall has a sculpture on its lawn of a man being shot out of a cannon. Your business-fish is not alone in sending confusing messages.

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I would say that anything involving Brad Pitt is art.

Megan said...

You're getting in to some very squishy modern art theory concepts on this one.

I guess the central question is 'what is art?' No small task in answering that one. People have been trying for centuries to pin that one down.

Here's a general and loose theory I have as it relates to what qualifies something as "art." For this, I will bust out my impressive but ultimately useless and expensive art history education.

Simply put, anything can be art. Regardless of how one feels about Marcel Duchamps, that was exactly his point in putting a urinal on a pedistal in a Paris gallery back in the early 1900s. Duchamps wasn't asking if this object is art, but rather, he was asking us to consider what makes something, anything, art. Further, he was asking if those same elements; the application of creative thought, line, shape, balance, intent, the ability to evoke an emotion could also be applied elsewhere, and if they can be applied, wouldn't they then make what they are applied to art?

The answer is, yes, when one thinks about the components and skills that go in to making anything, be it a toilet or a sculpture intended to coax some life out of an otherwise mind-numbingly tedious office building atrium, or a renaissance masterwork, all of these things are in fact art.

That changes the quesiton from "what is art" to "what is good?" That qualifier, "good," is almost as open-ended as the initial question itself. It depends on personal preference, how much one values the materials, skills, and message of the piece in quesiton, how one's opinion of the piece changes and so on. All things being equal, there really isn't anything in particular to differentiate your fish from Duchamps' urinal from the Mona Lisa. They all required the same things to achieve the end result. The only differneces are in context and materials, two things that make no difference at all because they can be changed. Keeping that in mind, it then demands that each thing be considered as being exclusive of the others. Considering your atrium fish, Duchamps urinal, and the Mona Lisa all together is comparing apples to oranges.

So, what can we take away from this wall of text? Well, everything is art, whether we like it or not.

On a side note, there is one solid rule to film art, and that rule is yes, anything with Brad Pitt does indeed qualify as "art."

David said...

Her name is the Office Scribe.
Her name is the Office Scribe.
Her name is the Office Scribe.