Why Some Art Needs Explaining
And in language that doesn't leave you scratching your head
I recently watched a video featuring the British conceptual artist Ryan Gander. He was talking about his art and the ideas he’s interested in exploring in his work. Gander is really engaging. He’s brimming with ideas. And he’s quite provocative in the statements he makes about art.
Conceptual art is a category of art that turns some people right off because it can sometimes be quite hard to get a handle on what it’s all about. The value of conceptual art is in the concept or the idea rather than in the aesthetics of the art. Any sort of demonstration of artistic skill from the artist is not necessary. The hand of the artist is not important. But it can be hard to separate those two aspects of an artwork when you’re standing in front of it looking for something to grab you and you’re not sure what the idea is.
Gander talks about how he values the process rather than the outcome, what he calls ‘the journey in the taxi rather than the taxi receipt’. Often I find his taxi receipts don’t grab me, but I really like listening to him talking about the journey. That’s when his art becomes really interesting to me. The video of Gander talking about his work is about 17 minutes long, so it’s a commitment to watch. But there are so many interesting ideas packed in it and I’d love to know what you think about any of the ideas that grab you.
Here’s my question though. If Gander wasn’t so articulate and engaging, would I even think he’s an interesting artist? What happens when the taxi receipt doesn’t communicate the wealth of ideas behind the artwork?
The fact is that some art needs a good explanation. And often galleries and artists do not provide that accessible explanation in language that makes sense, which contributes to the general feeling that contemporary art is highbrow and hard to understand.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts about this in the comments!