Ways to understand contemporary art:
A common expectation associated with our consumer attitude is that art should be beautiful, should teach something, should disappoint or entertain.
We are used to the fact that the surrounding reality is arranged in such a way that they always want to sell us something, to impress us. In art, in relation to everything consumer, a kind of antibodies and resistance to the opinion of the majority are formed.
And even when everything (from advertising to the pop scene) begins to offer things simple and uncomplicated, artists will do the opposite, requiring effort and active involvement of the intellect. If everyone offers speed as a core value, then artists will, on the contrary, create long and drawn-out videos that have no beginning or end, with the sole purpose of making it impossible to consume art.
Art as the embodiment of the idea of beauty arose in the 18th century (the science of aesthetics appeared at the same time), but this ended very soon. Because the only thing that remained unchanged for art until the twentieth century was the ideal, but, as we understand, the ideal of the Middle Ages differs from our modern ideas.
Olga Balashova, curator of the course “Contemporary Art” within the framework of the “Cultural Project”
Trust people who have dedicated their lives to art
I remember my horror when, in my 3rd year (we were studying the Renaissance at the academy) for the first time, I went to an exhibition of contemporary art – Pinchuk’s First Collection at the Artist’s House – and saw borscht in a section with chemical elements from the Peppers group, ” Atomic love” by Ilya Chichkan, huge sloppy paintings. This shocked me.
After some time, talking with artists and critics, I doubted that in my 3rd year I could know more than people who devoted their whole lives to art. I became interested in their ideas and motives and very soon realized that no one was trying to deceive me.
It was possible to remain with one’s own opinion, and then my third-year student’s universe would still be indestructible. Without pushing ourselves beyond our own experience, we will never discover something new, we will never see what only artists can see, we will never feel the freedom that they have.
Learn “visual” language
Understanding art is like understanding a foreign language. You can go abroad and gradually learn new words for yourself.
Or you can buy a textbook or study with a teacher. However, the best option is to combine these methods. In understanding contemporary art, you need to rely on your feelings, and then double-check them by reading annotations at exhibitions, critical articles, texts on the history of art.
Having typed a kind of “lexicon”, it is worth starting to discuss, discuss. Good art is always a proposal for reasoning and discussion.
Jackson Pollock at work
Not everything created in our century is modern
We can call contemporary artists people who are trying to understand how the current world works, what challenges art, society and man face today. But next to them there are authors who adhere to the tradition of, say, academic painting, which appeared back in the 17th century. All Ukrainian art education is academic, it has nothing to do with modernity, it comes from the 17th century.
Despite the fact that we did not live in the 19th century, realism (as the main creative method of that time) seems to us absolutely understandable. But this is a superficial feeling, because we look only at the form that we recognize; we don’t really understand the cultural context in which the work was created. So, we simply consume it mindlessly. If we want to truly understand the art of the 19th century, then we need to take a serious approach to studying the features of this era: what people thought about themselves and their time, how they felt, what was valuable to them, for whom the artists created their works, how the the system of art, how society was organized, etc. It is much easier for today’s person to perceive contemporary art, because he is the one who lives, acts and feels in our time.
Trust cultural centers
When choosing exhibitions to visit, I am more guided by locations and institutions. These, of course, are Mystetsky Arsenal, PinchukArtCentre, Visual Culture Center, Izolyatsia, Bursa Gallery, Dukat Gallery, Closer. In Kharkiv – “ErmilovCenter”, in Odessa – the Museum of Modern Art, in Lviv the most interesting are informal exhibitions and galleries organized by the artists themselves. As for world expositions, it is worth keeping an eye on various biennials, for example, the Venice, Istanbul or nomadic European “Manifesto”, there is “Document” (takes place every five years in Kassel) – this is something that must-see, something where absolutely definitely worth going.