A few words on consumerism and the arts.
I am lacking in enthusiasm for anything at the moment. We live in dull times. I know the occasional firework display from our American cousins make it seem that these are exciting times but I beg to differ. There is very little to get excited about. Technology continues to reinvent the wheel whilst the media conspire to persuade us that we need this gadget and that thingamabob in order to remain at the cutting edge. Progress in the world of breakfast devices is to be admired by everyone. A kettle that allows you to see the water boiling. A kettle that changes colour when the water has boiled. A kettle that filters out the microscopic nastiness that the water companies should be removing but seem to neglect to do. Unless of course these tiny threats are not real in the first place. A kettle that incorporates all three and does a triple back flip whilst reading out your stars from the daily rag is on my virtual as-soon-as-it-hits-the-shops-I-am-having-one list. I can’t wait. That will be an exciting day. I could raise some enthusiasm for that.
As my very ordinary kettle boils for the fifth time with no sign of a cup or tea bag threatening to get in the way of a sixth successive boil, I wonder where this all began? As a child, I distinctly remember that we mended things and made do. Objects were replaced when they were beyond any use to anyone and even then, the decrepit item was often filled with dirt and entered the afterlife as a tasteless garden ornament. A receptacle for pansies, geraniums and tab ends.
Stick thin, orange skinned women change electrical goods when they redecorate. Working items are cleared out when a new advance makes itself available. How did you cope before the addition of a muffin warmer? As cretinous as you seem, you are not entirely to blame. Goods are poorly made. If it refuses to toast another sandwich-stuffed to the hilt with cheese and beans that reach an inedible temperature- within a year of purchase, simply buy another one. Our ‘white goods’ are expected to fail. You love the thrill of the chase; an excuse to enter the blandland of the retail park. The choice is not actually that huge. You think it is. You think we live in times of consumer power and more choices than previous generations ever had.
Wander along to the retail park and count the shops offering electrical goods. Three at the most; two ‘white goods’ stores and a national catalogue chain. Each one offers a very similar range, the only difference being the price. Some goods are cheap, some boast more applications and the price rises and a few are top of the range. Fuck me, Designer. Masturbate over the named brand or even better-a celebrity endorsement. Trust Nike or Mary-Kate and Ashley to make better toast, sexier toast. Loaded with butter that oozes and drips suggestively, turning a mundane ritual into an experience. Chrome and stream lined, horny.
What has this to do with culture, the high arts or with any sense of refinement? It is a perfect analogy for modern culture. It typifies the slump in craft, the loss of wonder at invention and true progression. Stack it high and sell it cheap. If it has mass appeal it must be good. Starbucks culture. Why make use of the talent of an artist to make a unique piece of work and affect his practice in a positive way when a mass produced print will do? It is a popularity contest where everyone, except decency, wins.
The artist as a ‘white good’; the artist that feels pain, the artist that denies feeling anything, the slacker artist, the artist that experiences so many layers of hurt that the resulting work is too precious to be sold. The art student with inbuilt obsolescence; a bright flame that will burn fiercely for such a short time before becoming yet another lump of charcoal, forever at the edge of the fire.
The Chasers and the Players; artists that respond to the brief given by funding bodies. People who tailor their angst to suit. A pallid body of nothing-work carefully constructed over a long time to give maximum impact when described by curator-friend in florid prose and cross-cross referenced to luminaries of the past. All work and no play, makes Jane a dull but well financed artist. This is regional art. Stoked by the well meaning but clueless.