Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Art Lesson

There has been an outpouring of shock and rage over the burning of a $100,000 Birkin bag for the sake of 'art' by Tyler Shields and his girlfriend, Francesca Eastwood. If that last name sounds familiar, it's because Francesca is the daughter of Clint Eastwood, a well-known artist in his own right for having acted and directed in great films. Sadly, he has not made an effort to educate his own daughter on what makes art, or else she wouldn't have agreed to participate in such a silly venture.

The argument that is being used by her boyfriend artist is that material wealth is worthless and destructible and by destroying it himself, he is demonstrating this point to the masses. It's a sort of 'everything burns, nothing lasts' art philosophy that can be used, intelligently enough, to demonstrate our own mortality. The impermanence of people and things within the world, etc.

Here's the main problem with this artistic statement: it's not art to destroy. It's art to de-construct, it's art to re-configure, but it is not art to destroy things. In fact, the very premise of art is to create something, something out of nothing, that is indicative of skill, perception, reflection and often hard work. Art is supposed to teach us something about ourselves or serve as a mirror reflection of our society in a way that is subtle, disturbing or even skewed. Any idiot can light something on fire and burn it.

Assuming that Shields is a true artist and believes in his message, there are other ways to bring this point to the world. It's difficult, however, to believe anything he might want to say on this subject, considering that he is viewing it from a perch of unbelievable privilege. With a famous girlfriend and access to God knows how many riches, Shields is far from being an objective source of a rather simplistic message.

There is no originality in destruction of expensive things for the sake of art. There is no originality in the message that material wealth, like life, like beauty, is fleeting in this world. Shields could put his considerable resources towards something important in his self-development and his career. He could take that $100,000 and put himself through art school. He needs it.

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