on artists & celebrity

Poking around in my bookmarked “articles to re-read”, I was taken in once again by this Guardian interview of JG Ballard about a year ago. His thoughts on today’s art scene struck a chord with me:

Today’s art scene? Very difficult to judge, since celebrity and the media presence of the artists are inextricably linked with their work. The great artists of the past century tended to become famous in the later stages of their careers, whereas today fame is built into the artists’ work from the start, as in the cases of Emin and Hirst.

There’s a logic today that places a greater value on celebrity the less it is accompanied by actual achievement. I don’t think it’s possible to touch people’s imagination today by aesthetic means. Emin’s bed, Hirst’s sheep, the Chapmans’ defaced Goyas are psychological provocations, mental tests where the aesthetic elements are no more than a framing device.

It’s interesting that this should be the case. I assume it is because our environment today, by and large a media landscape, is oversaturated by aestheticising elements (TV ads, packaging, design and presentation, styling and so on) but impoverished and numbed as far as its psychological depth is concerned.

Moving off topic, I want to learn more about the author and discover there’s a lot of material on Ballard to sift through, but Answers has a nice summary. JG Ballard is the author of numerous books, including Empire of the Sun, which was made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is one of my favourites that I’ve seen twice. Amazingly, the early part of the story has autobiographical elements and makes me want to see this very powerful and moving film again. (Maybe I should read the book too, something I don’t like to do AFTER seeing the film.)

June 14, 2005 in Being an Artist, Books, Culture, Films by Marja-Leena