Call me Rilke Junior. An art student emailed me in desperation, her art school has a godawful New Genres program – usually an excuse for faculty to kick back and students to jerk off and pontificate about nothing. Any way, she was losing faith in art. So here is my response:
If it is any consolation, your perceptions are right on and shared by most people in art school – but they get to the point you are at about a week before graduation.
The critique that “it has been done before” is a great cop-out. The first guy who tells you that about something you make in a crit you interrupt him and say “Fucking chicks has been done before, are you gonna turn down an offer to get laid?” Be aggressive, as most big-mouths in art schools are complete wusses and the teachers are usually ecstatic when the pompous asses get taken down a notch.
“It has been done before” is a diminishment, an insult. WHERE? WHEN? It is a destroyer of faith, an admonition to not try. People analyze recent art history try to find the only art that can evade the death-ray like powers of the “it has been done before.” They come up with shock art and art that is a clever and conceptual one-liner. Art is so much more than this bullshit.
IF EVERYTHING HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE HOW COME NOTHING HAS BEEN SOLVED OR RESOLVED? (Kurt Cobain diaries)
Great art is when you find a medium that carries your voice. When you see the world and you present or re-present what you see in a way that only you can do.
Art does not necessarily have to fight or prove a point or defend a position, the whole concept of the “crit” deludes people into thinking this and influences the fundamental construction of their art. A therapist who works with artists once told me she was shocked at how many artists come to her because they are making art to win an argument with a long-ago art school classmate, or are still painting like a professor demanded they do even though they don’t want to anymore – if they ever did ever at all.
When these new genres allegedly critique American culture, I am always reminded of a saying by Warhol about the bourgeoisie, I can update it for you: You can spot a true yuppie, they are always dissing the yuppies. You can spot a true American, they are always repulsed by American culture.
When someone tells you that it has been done before you can always ask:
or “JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T GET MY PIECE IS NO REASON TO ASSUME I A MIMICKING SOMETHING THREE DECADES OLD. I AM MAKING ART, NOT PARROTING ART HISTORY TEXTBOOKS.”
The fact that you hate the crit and do not want to participate is a sign that you are beyond needing something to react against. Crits are to be hated but over time people have made them a whole lifestyle of conforming their art to pass the crit. You should fail miserably in a crit, a genius is always apparent when a group of dunces is conspiring against her.