Sunday, October 2, 2011

Visually unconvincing

…and therefore probably not true!

Following on from my previous post on the Mona Lisa, I was interested in the total disconnect between the alarmist broadcasts about the impending hurricane Katarina pounding New York a few weeks ago and the actual live images that were being simultaneously broadcast. At the start of these alarmist news broadcasts, I thought that the accompanying drumbeats (on the BBC) made sense for once, implying as they did some catastrophic event. But the live scenes broadcast simultaneously with the reports from on the spot correspondents told a very different story. The 170 km per hour winds did not square with the picture of ordinary people hailing a taxi quietly or chatting and laughing, apparently totally unperturbed. Nor were the umbrellas upturned and the almost vertical downpour of the rain gave the lie to the declared strong winds. In fact, the visual picture was of nothing more than an ordinary rainy day.

The drumbeats sounded ridiculous, in retrospect. And, by the simplest of all tests, namely the visual test, all these news readers came out as being extremely gullible and silly.

I wonder – do they actually see the pictures that are projected while they read the news.

Which means that TV news stations should be a good deal more careful if they want their reports to have credibility. In such instances, it is perhaps best (from their point of view) to stick to reading the news without accompanying pictures.

It is not quite that easy to cheat the visual brain.

£60,000 for self reflection

Next week in London, a canvas by Bob Law entitled Nothing To be Afraid Of V 22.8.69 is to be auctioned and carries with it an estimate of £60,000.

Law apparently “had applied the seductive idea of nothing to a canvas, and asks the viewer to reflect” (according to the auctioneer’s catalogue).

Metro reports the artist David Hockney as saying, “It seems to me that if you make pictures there should be something on the canvas”.

The idea of “blankness” is not new, and not only in painting. I gather that in some Noh performances (which date back to the 15th century), the actor appears before the audience and says nothing for about half an hour. Half an hour, during which the audience’s imagination can be stimulated.

But I have very mixed feelings about this empty canvas by Law and its price tag.

On the one hand, it seems an awful lot of money to pay, when you could have the same thing for much cheaper, for example by painting one wall in your house in white (see my post about my stay in a Tokyo hotel). You could then project your imagination daily on the empty space. If the space is large enough, one could project films regularly on it, thus turning an empty space into a source of infinite variability and fertile imagination.

On the other hand, given the huge sums spent in auction houses on what I believe is very shoddy work, I would prefer a blank canvas. I can project my concepts on to it regularly, whereas I would have to view a bad piece of art daily, were I unfortunate enough to spend so much money on it.

But of course I defer to those knowledgeable about art. Metro reports the head of contemporary art at the auction house as saying, “Bob Law is the most underestimated and overlooked minimal artist in Britain …[who] didn’t get the recognition that he deserved”

Well, he may now. I hope that the purchaser will enjoy enriching his imagination daily.

As for me, I will stick to a white wall.