Saturday, March 10, 2012

Céline Dion playing the bagpipes while riding a hippo


In his rather wonderful Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, essentially a book that asks why cool people loathe Céline Dion and what that says about them, Carl Wilson discusses the work of the Russian-born conceptual artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. For their People’s Choice project they commissioned polls in 11 countries to determine what exactly people wanted from visual art. Preferences varied in small details according to location, but in every country there was a distinct fondness for large, predominantly blue pictures featuring historical figures and animals. So for the Americans they created a big landscape with a lake, George Washington and (you can just about make it out to George’s left as we look at him) a hippopotamus.

But, you may ask, what the ruddy flip does this collision of conceptualism and chocolate box have to do with the angular, honking, forever-entwined-in-our-collective-consciousness-with-interminable-maritime-calamity Québécois songstress? Well, for their next trick, Komar and Melamid asked what people liked and disliked in music. And what they liked was a song about love, played in a modern rock/R&B style, at a moderate tempo, featuring guitars and saxophones and drums. And it had to last about five minutes. Essentially, they liked the sort of songs that Céline sings. What they didn’t like included accordions, bagpipes, banjos and tubas, rapid transitions between extreme tempos and pitches, atonality, rap, jingles and lyrics about cowboys. And they didn’t much care for songs that went on too long. Inevitably, after the artists asked their musician friend Dave Soldier to create songs that matched these specifications, it was the 25-minute cowboy song that people preferred. Which really means that the next time someone says that they don’t know much about art/music/poetry but they know what they like, they’re only half right.

4 comments:

Dan said...

I know I'm getting off your point a bit but do you know anyone who does know a lot about art/music/poetry but doesn't know what they like? I'd like to hear someone say that.

Rog said...

The Sindy Dion is quite appealing. Sorry that should have read. "appalling"

Tim Footman said...

Dan, I think if you analyse any art form too closely, you completely lose touch which such mundane, bourgeois concepts at "liking" and "disliking". So, yes, pretty much anyone with a higher degree in an arts subject, I reckon.

But still better than the original, Rog. No?

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