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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Don't Know Anything About Art, but I Know What Is Sufficiently Wacko. Ch. 1 - "Striped Socks"

Does the American auto industry need a government bailout, like the financial sector? Is Victoria Beckham's new "poxie" hairdo better of worse than her 2007 platinum brushover?

Push aside all such piddling questions and meditate, instead on our City of Edmonton's decision to erect a 20-foot-high sculpture, a whimsical pair of brick clogs and striped socks, at the new Southgate Light Rail station, scheduled to open in 2010.

The story, with artist's conception (in color) graced (if that is the right word) the cover of today's Edmonton Journal, praised by their culture critic Todd Babiak along with the city's new downtown winter-lights program. Well, hell, Todd is an old classmate of mine whom I owe at least one favor (hi Todd) and God knows I am not averse to whimsy.

Did I not once imagine, in print, in detail (occasionally phallic), a male "Poker Party" to rival Judy Chicago's feminist "Dinner Party"? Would not a sombrero of 100-metre radius be a fine umbrella to place over Churchill Square and all its summerfests?? C'mon people, trip the light fantastical!

All the same, I have the uneasy suspicion that Sandy Public is going to holler this whopper down, as a lump of Clownishness Unparalleled, perhaps unaware that CU is currently the dominant movement in the 3D arts. Acres of forest will be reduced to cheap newsprint in the churning debate, and radio and TV announcers will exhale vast amounts of CO2 doing the same. And part of my schizo self (possibly the section of my genome containing the neoclassical alleles) will sympathize with Sandy Public too.

I dunno. In any case I am enough of a veteran of public debates to predict that they will settle nothing, and enough of an arts critic to disbelieve Todd's optimism that public art is going to transform Edmonton into something unique and wonderful. We homo borealis hereabouts will still be the same mix of stodgy businessmen, sturdy working stiffs and flailing anarchists that we always were. Has our already sizeable scattering of public art (much of it better than decent) changed Redmontonians even one whit? I ask you!

Maybe it is the art racket that needs a bailout. Of the ideology.

In the interests thereof, let me offer City Hall some privatized help, in the form of a quote from Will Cuppy's The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, on the subject of all that iconic (sorry for the buzzword) Greek art:

...Pericles was able to make Athens the City Beautiful by building the Parthenon and other things on the Acropolis and adorning them with a great deal of art. The average Athenian citizen, if he so desired, could daily contemplate the most magnificent specimens of architecture, painting and sculpture the world has ever seen. The effect of this upon the citizens was the same as the effect of art upon citizens today.

Hahaha ouch! Cuppy particularly cites the Greeks' looting problem (nothing on grafitti, which probably didn't survive; the looting reminds me that someone in Edmonton once stole a huge sculpture containing four giant steel cylinders, and first nobody noticed it missing, and then when it was rediscovered years later with only three cylinders, nobody noticed the fourth, wonderfully horizontally-extended fourth cylinder missing either).

There is a moral there somewhere. Anyway, sic semper civic sophistecture.

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