When an artists ‘does art’, what are they thinking? Are they merely in the moment or are they constructing some sort of story (narrative for the remaining post-modernists out there)? I continue to have a problem with art that is mute, because it makes me wonder if the artist was also mute, perhaps without thought even. The challenge for artists is convincing dispassionate viewers of their work that they have engaged cognitive faculties within the artistic process.
What would it be like for there to be art without mind behind it? Easy. Attach your computer printer to a computer running a programme that produces various images, pictures, etc. in an automated mode. Digital art, without the evidence of intelligence behind it. A bit like the room full of monkeys at typewriters (remember those?) inadvertently producing Shakespearean prose.
The problem art critics have is that they must assume that there was intelligent life in the studio when art was being produced. The evidence that this is not always the case is the never ending efforts by critics and art historians to find the artistic merit in often quite mediocre works. Indeed, to ascribe high artistic values to work of technical quality, perhaps (I’ll grant them that), but of quite mindless content. Academics can slag off mediocre writing by calling it journalistic; other writers can be accused of writing pulp. Bad visual art is, what?
So the evidence for me that some artists do not think is that in other fields of human endeavour we have ways of making sense of this, but in art, it seems anything goes.
Do you recall the film, The Moderns, where the actor John Lone as Bertram Stone says: “I don’t give a damn for your silly opinions on the value of art. There is no value except what I choose to put on it. This is art because I paid hard cash for it. Don’t you understand? Your precious painters mean nothing to me. I could have Natalie’s mutt shit on a canvas and if I pay five thousand dollars for it, you critics would call it a masterpiece.” The joke, if you know the film, is on them.
Maybe Bruno Frey is right.