The massive orange columns fluttered as if with giant leaves ready to fall. On closer inspection, these were not leaves at all, but thousands of lifejackets hung at the entrance of Berlin’s Konzerthaus. A large life raft is hung over the front door of the concert hall. (See the pic and the story here.)
There’s nothing like a controversial refugee crisis to spur artists and writers and musicians to take to their respective media to rail against the inhumanity. Ai Weiwei, creator of this installation, is no stranger to political outrage, having to flee to Berlin from his Chinese home. But he follows in a long tradition of eschewing realistic painting, drawing, and other more accepted methods to get ideas across with a bang.
OK, so I can agree with a lot of Paul Joseph Watson’s recent YouTube rant about much of conceptual art being sh**. (Don’t watch if you’ll blush from language more colorful than that.) Yoko Ono screaming; oversized black canvases; random benches that art patrons will no doubt try to sit on. Yes, and anything with feces or other bodily fluids trying mightily to shock us.
We’re all not steeped in art history, or theory, or what sells in the hoity-toity art scene. And why some “art” gets valued at stupid rich levels is not for me to say. My nephew, who shared the rant with me, has some art cred, with drawing and painting talent aplenty. (More on him later.) What I loved about his post more than anything is the conversation it spurred among artists and other family members alike, with a range of artistic appreciation but passionate views about what should be valued.
Ah, THAT’s the point. Renaissance painters argued over the number of nymphs, Picasso was a jerk to some for rejecting proper form, Warhol a hack for featuring Brillo boxes, our elementary school teachers horrid for making us color within the lines.
I won’t go to the old adage, “I know what I like”; at this age, I've formed a lot of opinions, but am still thrilled at new approaches. But isn’t art that which spurs our mind, and work that should never be thrown together simply for a sale? At its base, it should involve passion and deep thinking, and not insult me. So I look at the single lightbulb in a box, and refrain from saying, “I could do that.” Maybe I could, but I didn’t—it didn’t occur to me, and it did make me think about the light under a bushel basket and all that.
In short, it doesn’t really matter if a piece garners millions at auction or you can hang it over your sofa. Your reaction to those lifesaving leaves may be different from mine, but if they set your thoughts to flight, Weiwei has succeeded…and the art world is better for it. But that’s just my humble opinion.