This is what I think about conceptual art (which these days has morphed into almost all forms of art except the purely decorative): everyone should ‘get’ it and if they don’t then it has failed.
The term ‘conceptual art’ automatically turns a lot of people off. It shouldn’t. It is often viewed as self-absorbed, intellectually snobbish and abstract. In other words: there can be an immediate prejudice that anything labelled as conceptual art will be pretentious crap. Perhaps a lot of it is, but not all of it.
Until recently, I didn’t view myself as a conceptual artist but since returning to the world of education I have come to the conclusion that that is exactly what I am. My art tends to stem from a concept. The concept comes to me at 3am or during Zumba, the craft follows. I spend an awful lot of time thinking and conjugating before I put pen or pencil to paper. But more than anything else, I want people to get it and to be moved by it. I want them to think I have skill but I also want them to understand and think.
I don’t want to be intellectually superior and to confuse, or worse, be ignored. In an ideal world, it would be nice if my art could move both the thinkers and critics and my mum.
What exactly is conceptual art? It is the process of playing with an idea. It is a method rather than a medium. It is a thought. It is a provocation. It is humour. It is a play on words or a play on images. It messes with normality. It refracts accepted notions. That is why I love it. I think it is a largely misunderstood ‘genre’ (if it can be called that). I love anything that is quirky and odd. Conceptual art is odd.
However, isn’t everyone these days a conceptual artist, at least to some extent? In this data-driven age when everyone is online, then anyone who has a camera phone or a sense of humour and time to point out the oddness of life is a conceptual artist.
A bad piece of conceptual art renders you wondering if the idea it is analysing is worth pondering. A good piece will enter your thoughts for days after and will keep you searching. It will inspire you. If it inspires an artist or an art student, result. If it inspires my mum, gold star.
Ideally, good conceptual art doesn’t require explanation. It should be evident. Or at least, there should be several evidents. Everyone, after all, sees art differently but they should see something.
The main problem with every day conceptual art is that it has no tangible, economic value. If I want to be a conceptual artist, I won’t be able to give up the day job (project manager and editor, and occasional writer, in the book publishing world). I don’t foresee a fortune in my art. But I will keep doing it regardless. I will keep having ideas and exploring them for whoever is listening.
Are you listening? I hope so. And if you are, I hope you get it.