Apropos of my general theory of bullshit – outlined here – here are a few more straws in the wind. Consistent with the theory, the the signal to ideological noise ratio in political speeches has been falling precipitously lately – at least in the US. This has been interpreted as ‘polarisation’. Certainly in US politics, on account of one of the mainstream parties having taken complete leave of their senses, there is more polarisation. But people are everywhere pretty despairing of their mainstream politics, even when it’s not been becoming more partisan (in many ways Australian political debate has been less partisan lately with two neoliberal parties battling it out for the consent of the governed.
Then there’s this bizarre and intriguing story about a court deciding whether or not an artist’s word that he didn’t paint a painting is to be believed. Further:
Deborah R Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina school of law, said the case points to how closely the value of a work is connected to the artist’s name.
“This case represents what I think is a very interesting trend in the art wold: so much of the value of art turns on the brand name of the artist and artists really like to control the quality that their names are associated with,” she said.
I’d be very interested to know if this claim – that more and more of the economic value of painting is tied up in the ‘brand’ of the artist’s name. It rings true to me. In many arts the craft of creating the art is such a strong precondition of good art that if some great work that there’s plenty left if you discover the author was someone other than whom you thought.
Likewise to fake a great artist from pre-modern times, one would have to have sufficient skill to paint something that was nevertheless a considerable achievement. Today arts like music performance and ballet remain in this category. To use an old slogan of Edison’s, they’re 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Today a lot of visual art is ‘conceptual’. And a lot of the reception conceptual art is in the packaging. When I was cartooning I remember thinking that I could have done up my cartoons as large canvasses and sold them as conceptual art. Likewise, often when I see conceptual art in an art gallery, I think that its essential content could be conveyed just as easily in an op ed illustration – for instance by Spooner. But then that makes less money – and less splash.
All in all, we’re in love with the big stuff, whether or not that makes sense.