Monday, June 23, 2008

If a Tree Falls, Is It Art?

If a gallery exhibits art and nobody comes to see it, is it art? In this post-post-modern world where art requires a viewer, possibly not. The participation of the viewer is part and parcel of contemporary art in all of its incarnations. Education as it applies to contemporary art is no longer about teaching people how to paint. It is about bringing people into the gallery, setting up dialogues, facilitating the interactivites that make the art real. Education is also about outreach. People have to know the art is “there” before they can decide to be part of it.

In most parts of this country, the fear factor is still operative. Fear of walking into a white box and not knowing what what to do. Fear of having to meet an artist and not knowing what to say. Fear of seeing an installation/painting/video and having no idea what it is about. When I was four, my grandfather died, and was laid out at home. I really wanted to see him so I could know what a dead person looked like. My parents, trying to reassure me, urged me to go upstairs to his room, because they said, he was with Jesus. But this only made me afraid. I pictured Jesus sitting on the windowsill waiting for me to make conversation with him. What would I say? I was too scared to find out. Now I know it was just a misunderstanding of what was actually in that room. Education, experience, involvement and perspective have changed my thinking.

Contemporary art forms, like great musical symphonies, are not revealed all at once. Consider the richness that is yours when you broaden your perspective. Walk inside that Serra. Experience the double videos that are Shirin Neshat’s view of Muslim societies. Turn yourself upside down in a Kapoor. Unravel a Meheretu. Get down with Contemporary Art.

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