For Art’s Sake

It’s happened. I have made the shift from liberal to conservative. People warned me this would happen, but I didn’t believe them. Conservatism hit me like a wrecking ball last night. And I simply let it knock me down.

It began innocently enough. A friend had forwarded me a message about an art opening. The 10th anniversary celebration of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. “Wild… exciting… not-to-be-missed…” these were some of the words used to describe the event.

In addition, I received an email at work. It turns out the company I work for is a sponsor of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, so all headquarters employees received a special invitation to attend the opening, free of charge. Why wouldn’t I check it out?

I called a friend and asked if he wanted to join me. He was up for it. We entered, watching the people looking at the art as much as the art itself. It was mostly a young crowd, the twenty and thirty-somethings who personify urban hip. Women with short, spiky, bleached hair and heavy dark cat glasses. Men in all black, sporting bowling shirts reminiscent of the 1950s and trainers. Girls with teased raspberry hair, outfits disheveled enough to betray the hours spent getting ready.

The exhibits were disappointing. A sock puppet, recorded, the loop playing over and over, the dvd mounted on brown paint sample chips. Uninteresting photos. Video snippets that made no sense. And the live art. The exhibit that encouraged my new found conservatism to blossom.

We entered the crowded room, making our way counterclockwise from exhibit to exhibit. There were 4 or 5 scenarios, each with live artists. I witnessed shock tactics parading as art. In one a man, poured into a merry widow, stared into a mirror and cried, his mascara coated false eyelashes leaving jagged black residue on his cheeks. In another, a naked woman brandishing a Mexican flag whipped a naked man picking grapes. My friend turned to me, “See, that’s commentary on the trade agreements between the US and Mexico…” Without meaning to, I rolled my eyes and replied, “That’s bullshit.”

We walked to the last exhibit. A woman, clad in nothing but a black silk hooded mask, wrapped strings around her neck, pulling tighter and tighter, attempting to hang herself. A naked man stood erect beside her, writhing in assumed pain. I turned to my friend. My voice, with more sarcasm than intended, produced, “And what would *this* be commentary upon?”

We left the exhibit; I was consumed with both anger and curiosity. How many grants were awarded to these asinine artists? What were they trying to convey? How many homeless people had I passed on the way to the exhibit? How many people would one of those grants feed? Or house? I left the museum angry.

My friend tried to convince me that the exhibits had succeeded. They created a reaction in me, negative as it may have been. I disagree. In order for art to be successful, the viewer must feel a strong affinity for the viewing or the installation. Which did not happen at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

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