Sunday, April 29, 2007

All art is quite derivative

On the advice of Patroclus and LC, I've signed up to Very Short List, an e-mail service that offers a daily suggestion for one's cultural edification. It's a fantastic idea, and in the space of less than a week they've introduced me to several new avenues that sound enticingly cutty-edgy and chinny-strokey. And they've also annoyed me, but, hey, all great art should set out to be provocative and spiky and disruptive and potentially annoying, otherwise you're left with cultural Horlicks like Jack Vettriano and Dido.

My particular beef is that one of VSL's daily picks is the French photographer Denis Darzacq, who depicts Parisian breakdancers apparently falling through space:

which is lovely and all that, but surely it's something that's been done to death, not least by one of my favourite artists, Yves Klein:

and also by Philippe Halsman, with his hugely popular 'jump' pictures:

Now, none of this means that Darzacq's stuff is bad, and yeah, it's all very postmodern and maybe there's a subconscious hommage to Klein and Halsman and there's no copyright on shutter speeds and it seems that there's a political edge to Darzacq's work that YK and PH missed (something about the 2005 Paris riots, apparently) and yada yada etc, but c'mon guys - are there no big new ideas left to have? And if there are, shouldn't VSL be picking them, as opposed to these amusing but inessential retreads?

12 comments:

Annie said...

Yes, he should. I saw the V&A exhibition on Surrealism recently and it's amazing how some of those ideas and images are still subversive & carry a charge, (like Meret Oppenheim's fur cup & saucer.) It's because there was some genuine thought behind it. Now surrealism has become a bit diluted, and turned into a shopping opportunity...

(I like Yves Klein too. He used to get naked girls to roll around in his special Yves Klein blue paint and then roll around on canvas. I don't know if it's art but it sounds like fun.)

orange anubis said...

The Darzacq interview/photo-feature in the Guardian a few weeks ago managed not to mention the words hommage, pastiche, or any of the original, er groundbreakers you mention. So good point, I say.

Tim Footman said...

Annie: I think a post on Klein is long overdue. The likes of D. Hirst really ought to grovel before his memory.

And thanks Anubis, I hadn't seen that piece. As I said, I've nothing against work that refers back to other work, but simple good manners dictates that a debt should be acknowledged.

Anonymous said...

Variations on a theme they might be, but it's the context that makes the difference for me.

Disenfranchised youth floating on a sea of consumerism about to be transported away to be commoditised; bland pale armoured buildings and people shuttered against the disruptive potential of youth. Some look as though they're being sucked away from the ground, rather than about to crash land, streets cleansed with a futuristic vacuum cleaner of any challenges to homogenised coporate bliss.

An accesibly referenced update on the Klein maybe, but Jump looks like a different kettle of fish to me, a joyful technical exercise / provocative construction rather than a mirror / crystal ball political observation.

Thanks for posting I enjoyed seeing all three.

Tim Footman said...

Fair point, anon, and thanks for visiting. Of course they're not identical, and the contexts are different. On the other hand, Klein was interested in Zen, and the idea of transcending one's immediate environment - something at which Darzacq seems to be hinting.

Anonymous said...

Zen, Oh. I see what you mean then.

ps anon, above and here, is MistyUnsworth, (the Cosy one?) - I've forgotten my password so I'm locked out of my own site.

rivergirlie said...

could be an hommage - and provided you say it with a french accent, it's perfectly fine

Tim Footman said...

Hello, Misty. Isn't your password always the first pop star you had a crush on? Damn, that means everyone will be trying to hack my account with "annabellalwin".

Very true, rivergirlie, and I think there's a pattern there. "Pastiche" is a much nicer word that "piss-take".

Anonymous said...

Ha, never thought of it this way before, but my number one popstar crush would have been DickJob!

Andrew said...

I dunno....is surrealism as a whole a bit immature, art caught up in creating an effect, gimmicky, etc. Dali & the gang seem to pale beside Klee & Chagall at their best for me. The latter two being naturally playful rather than self-consciously "surreal."

Tim Footman said...

Ah, dear old Dickjob. Doomed to be best remembered as the voice of a cassette advert. "Peas sure sound divine..."

I sort of see your point, Andrew, although I still love Duchamp and Magritte. Maybe because Dada/Surrealism was a response to a specific incident (WW1), it's dated, in a way that others (eg abstract expressionists, and those you mention) don't.

Anonymous said...

I am currently writing a dissertation on the motivation to capture a subject in motion so will try not to go on. I have read this whole thread and do not want to resolve this whole discussion with some unanswerable questions and big words because quite frankly, I'm enjoying this too much!

Every since George Eastman invented the Kodak roll film, amateurs took to the streets with their Kodak Boxes and tried to their family and friends jumping. As I'm sure you are all aware that one of these amateurs was Jacques Henri-Lartigue who managed to defy every single "professional photographer" of his time (when he was recently re-discovered). He is now seen as a boy genius and all the pictorialists of his time are considered to have created somewhat boring imagery, trying to justify photography as an art.

Roland Barthes (roughly) once said amateurs stand closer to the noeme of photography. Ie only in photography could an amateur surpass the professional because photography requires an inquisitive even childlike mindset that many of us loose when hobby becomes job. So for all of you who agree that Darzacq in re-visiting an old theme... You're right! he is!

However, Both YK and PH staged their images, (PH wife is holding the leg of the chair that is cropped.) Yves Klein used wires! so in fact they are not good examples as Darzacq uses breakdancers to spontaneously take these positions. He also describes the moment in some whimsical longwinded text as being about floating between heaven and earth and asking how the subjects make this energy? so those of you who think there is no new reinvention of concept. I agree! You're right!

(I'm getting there I promise!)

My point is that even thought, Darzacq appears to be making no new cutting-edge photography, it is (first of all) important to remember the way he has photographed this series is in fact different stage direction to the previous examples of work mentioned as he has used "cutting edge dancers" not like I'm trying to defend the bloke but my actual final reason relates to a more general question about the work that perhaps you may have answered in your selves but may have not posted.

As I said I am writing a dissertation about this and happened to only have four days left until hand-in and am only about 5,ooo words along out of 10,ooo !! Believe me I am not scholar but can say that from researching and getting so fed up in this theme of suspended motion I still saw Darzacqs image on the site today and felt a magic. One that was evident a century ago and even though photography has changed. It is the camera which still catches movement in the same awe inspiring way. Therefore, I ask this?

Has the magic of instantaneous photography gone?

perhaps it was just my response to the impressive height this dancer has managed to achieve and that led me to believe Darzacq shared an interest i human motion much like Muybridge. I don't know.
Chris Palmer, (UCCA Rochester, Kent)