Sunday, 23 January 2011

Derivative art doomed to be poor art

At the Beaux-Arts Ball of 1931 in New York, two dozens 
or so architects came dressing as buildings they designed.

William van Alen as Chrysler Building in company with 
unnamed female.

My memory proved me right that the image of people dressed up as buildings had crossed my mind before.  Oskar Schlemmer at Bauhaus was close but not the one.  It was the Beaux Arts Ball in New York, 1931 that I found in close resemblance to the work by Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong (黃國才).  The skyscraper attire was in every detail a derived copy of the Beaux Arts Ball costumes.  See images below.


"Drift City" in London.

"Drift City" in Egypt.

"Drift City" in Helsinki.

"Drift City" in China.

"Drift City" near the polar region.

Can it be purported to say that an artwork, ripping off from some notable piece, can be excused from due criticism?  Yes, only if one acknowledges the original; or it is a good art that transcends its precedent.  Minor art or parody can get away with murder but this is not the premises the artist seeks.  Wong claims that the work is arrived from the idea of an unnamed skyscraper pending demolition but suddenly disappeared overnight and found drifting around the world.  Perfectly solid but uninspiring, this postulation can be considered as one among many debates on lost identity in overdeveloped cities worldwide.

What is curious with the subject – a skyscraper awaiting demolition, is in fact a modern building not an historical one.  Maybe someone who dressed like an old building simply does not look as attractive as someone wearing a tall and slender skyscraper costume.  It could be the case that any thought of major changes from the original would debase a shaky concept.

Incidentally, keeping an old building can be a contentious issue and the issue is too complex for art to decide if the bulldozers should be called upon.  This also reminds me of what Rem Koolhaas said about people hypersensitive to preservation that even ordinary buildings of recent decades are being defended frantically.  Stripping out of context especially the urban fabric, an isolated discourse on preserving any building can be sentimental if not downright feeble.

Amélie, the 2001 film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, coincided 
in timing with Kacey's snapshots around the world.

By any standard, the idea of “drifting” building does not worth the effort of spending ten years; and Wong claims that this is how long the project has taken from 2000 to 2010, posing with the costume around the world to demonstrate a fallacy.  It is absolutely a waste of resources from he himself and his sponsors.  The means does not justify the end no matter how much efforts and how long a time it takes.  The overworked photos only exacerbate the self-inflicted ridicule of the project.

Artwork of "Drift City" doomed.

Updating in June 2011:

Publication of the book - Drift City 10 Years 2000-2010, an unnecessary persistence on a dumb and pointless pursuit.

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