Parody and Laughter as Criticism
Sometimes parody and laughter serve as the best criticism
A civilized and nondestructive way to express ones frustration with MAA is by doctoring reproductions of famous works. Tampering is a form of satire, an anti-sentimental act which serves to remind us of the frailty of greatness and often eliminates a need for lengthy explanations. Shocking philistine behavior some might at first exclaim, but I assure you that it is quite traditional.
Artists, especially surrealists have tampered with famous paintings for various reasons. Dadaists when they could afford it would even doctor original Academic works, as did Miro and others. Both Duchamp and Dali did some famous tampering with copies of the Mona Lisa and Picasso in some sense did little else.
I have always used the method of tampering, to give new vitality to certain artbooks. My silliest coffee-table books would otherwise have ended up being little more then shelf-potatoes. One can not make better use of these well intentioned gifts. Indeed, this is one way just about anyone can make his own personal statement about MAA without becoming uncivilized or destructive.
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With the advent of computers this has become a simplified task. Right now it is the computer which is doing far more than any book to expose the mediocrity of MAA For with computer power almost anyone with a little practice can easily produce mess-free, endlessly indistinguishable variations on much MAA, aping its simplicity and even its accident prone incompetence. Computers, especially to the surprise of MAA aesthetes, will reveal that there are no great numbers of artists with the skills of an Ingres or a Raphael. Artists from Norman Rockwell to Walt Disney will be no easier to imitate. But computers will serve to sharpen competition and create singular unique images, especially since ordinary images can now be produced in ever greater profusion.
With a computer it takes perhaps an hour to do a Kandinsky imitation, a Rothko in less then quarter of an hour and a Mondrian in two to ten minutes, depending how far things have been previously set up. One can also write a Malevich program that can spit the things out with incredible speed. It should also be noted that once you produce an imitation of any one masterpiece you can knock out variations at high speed. No one who has seen these demonstrations ever asked me for a printout or was aesthetically impressed to a degree that they felt this work had possibilities. On the contrary it was always good for a laugh because the computer can instantly demean the efforts of so many so-called great modern abstract artists.
The computer can also simulate many former tools and mediums. It allows the artist to make entirely new moves which in skilled hands can produce the finest artistic work. The artist will need many of his former skills along with new ones in order to use this new revolutionary medium. Artists are beginning to produce new artistic dimensions with computers without resorting to revolutionary manifestos, excessive coffee-house conversation or overblown aesthetic theories.
Before the advent of the Internet this kind of criticism was impossible.
Copyright 1997-2002 Mani de Li