"Found" Art, November 7, 2013

I last wrote about "consumption media," or "Garbage" art (sic). Some further thoughts about the use of "found objects" in works of art.

It can certainly be pointed out that Picasso and Braque included cigarette wrappers, tickets to concerts, menus, wallpaper snippets, cane from chairs and other stuff from their environment in collages and paintings.

Kurt Schwitters raised the discarded to the status of precious icon, washing each piece of paper found on a sidewalk, drying and collaging into very small works of art in his "Merz" series (German, for "cast off"), as if to say that even this is precious. It was a metaphor for the neglected human being. (He was a refugee from Germany, and died in England in 1948.)

And, to this day, such artists as Anselm Kiefer have used human hair, the cast off leaded roof from a cathedral, trees, grass, hay, sand, minerals, and so many other untraditional media in his paintings and drawings.

My objection to what I call "consumption media" is that its use is a seamless connection to the pervasiveness of materialism in our culture.

Picasso and Braque used collaged elements in a formal manner, creating jarring disconnects between the "real" and abstractions of the "real."

Kiefer uses materials from nature to underscore the fragility of life, and our inextricable mineral connection to the Universe: we "are" the Universe.

These ideas are profound.

"Garbage Art" using consumption media is all about consumption. The people who are attracted to the purchase of such shallow examples are part of the complex which drives consumption. They purchase the art (sic) which celebrates their success in doing so.

Art has a higher mission.

Art challenges, comforts, inspires, entertains, and even decorates our lives, giving us moments of transcendence, deep compassion, identification with Humanity, fulfilling our deepest needs to connect with other human beings. Art makes us think. Art changes our perception of the world around us, revealing its fault lines, leaving us moral choices in its wake.

Consumption consumes. Art is the Eternal Present.