Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Arts

I encountered 2 interesting tales of art lately, one the novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, the other a film, Exit through the Gift Shop.

Jeff is a novel in 2 parts.  the first part features a "lost" writer who's life has become meaningless, who travels to the Biennale in Venice to supposedly write an article on a painter's ex-wife, get some photos, and obtain permission to use a secluded work of art. He fails on all accounts, but falls in love (very graphic, hot sex), attends parties (where the true artist of the Biennale is toasted -- the drink Bellini), and critiques art.  His new girlfriend actually has one of the better lines in the book, although there are many, when she states that art has become so banal it has achieved a new realm of meaning, like a new physics (paraphrased).  This section has some wonderful moments, particularly if you like the wry, ironic, overly cynical (but with moments of sentimentality) British take on things.
 In the second part of novel, Jeff travels to Varanasi, India to write a travel piece.  Again he fails, but settles into life in Varanasi, and comes to some weird sort of enlightenment.  This section is far more detailed and atmospheric than the Venice segment, which paled in comparison to an Aurelio Zen mystery I recently read (Dead Lagoon).  The "spiritual" element of the second part is very strange, evolving through illness, an altered perception of time, and the absurdities of life in Varanasi.

The movie, Exit through the Gift Shop is a must see for anyone who has doubts about the authenticity of art in these current times.  I found myself on the edge of my seat, pumping my fist in the air at times.  The imagination, courage, passion, political stance and non-commercialism of many of the street artists portrayed here is truly heartening, and has given me a direction for when I retire.  Another great line (again paraphrased) is said by the artist Space Invader: I hope to create meaning based on repetition, the thought being that the more a piece is seen in different places, the more it assumes importance and meaning, thus creating meaning out of something meaningless.  The film itself, has elements of a cosmic joke, turning itself on its head, or the head of Thierry Guetta, who supposedly shot much of the film, and decided to become an artist himself using the name Mr. Brainwash.  Is a Brainwash a hoax?  Is he Banksy?  Or is he who he says he is?  The jury is still out.  Meanwhile, he's designed a Madonna cover, and sold extensive amounts of "art."