Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Mediocrity

In one of the blogs I have discovered recently, the entry was devoted to the subject of mediocrity. The author quoted an excerpt from an article where the answer to the question why today there are no great artists such as Constable, Tchaikovsky, Wordsworth, etc., was,"Simple. In their day talent was rewarded above mediocrity, whereas today the exact opposite is true. Why would anyone dedicate a lifetime to perfecting a skill if they can get £1m for not making their bed?" (The author referred to the 1999 work of Tracey Emin “My bed”)

It is a common misconception that modern times cannot produce lions equal to Molière, Byron, Tolstoy, Da Vinci, Gauguin to name a few. In truth contemporaries simply cannot accurately assess the greatness or mediocrity of the artists of their own epoch. Only time can show who will remain standing and who will disappear into the mist of oblivion.

The standards for art have been lowered, there’s no argument about that. New technologies make it possible to produce interesting work without laboring intensely. Often young artists do cut corners and eagerly dive into the world of readymades, but those who devote their life to art are bound to dig deeper and work on their skills, otherwise there is no progress.

The lowering of standards for art has its upside though; it forces people to form their own opinions, view art differently, more freely, without boundaries of what should/shouldn’t appeal to the public. In short, it makes a viewer/reader/listener responsible for forming his own taste. Perhaps the question should not be how much skill was involved in producing something, but how much this piece moves a viewer.

Everyone’s imagination is piqued by different sorts of experiences; what is considered mediocre for one can be an eye opener for another. As long as a person can explain his opinion and doesn’t flatly dismiss the views of others, there is always an opportunity to learn something new.


Anonymous said...

Thoughtful, helpful analysis as usual ... and a good point about modern art demanding a certain engagement; this may also partly account for its increasing marginalization (at least among the general public in the US) since the 1950's. "Lay" people today feel "busy", thus ever less qualified to evaluate what seems ever more esoteric and irrelevant -- a real shame, since a key function of art is to keep us aware of dreams, values, goals and other higher motivations beyond the quotidian "carrot-and-stick" of our next meal or paycheck.

C&C said...

Thank you; it is just such an interesting and endless topic.