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Paul McCarthy’s Myth of the Artistic Greatness [The Other Politics in art] By Rosina Ivanova

In 2009, world-famous conceptual artist Paul McCarthy made his ‘Complex Shit’, an inflatable sculpture the size of a house but the shape of feces. McCarthy showcases a very particular and daring equation of shit with society. Even though his act is very focused and straightforward, does his comment give us a resolution of the problematic society or is this just his representation and therefore the reproduction of the problem? McCarthy's
inflatable
 sculpture
"Complex
 Shit"(2009).


The constant questioning of normative order inherent to art and the refusal of order by artists makes artists unable to provide the viewer with a focused image on the subject of social reformation. Most artists constantly deconstruct and fragment the world rather than providing with one unitary vision of it. The challenging of social conventions results in three problems for artists. First, it challenges their very credibility to provide with structural organization of art practices; second, it questions their ability to resolve what would be the structure of an art piece that could involve citizens in public dialogue and third, it challenges their credibility to guide and function as visionary leaders. Similarly, in his video, The Painter (1995) McCarthy turns the qualities to the function of art itself. As usual in McCarthy’s works, the protagonist is a fake painter, played by the “real” artist. The fake artist is a sick, dysfunctional social figure - a buffoon doing random splashing of paint, moaning nonsense, and walking in circles with no apparent logic.


Paul
McCarthy,
Painter,
1995,
performance,
installation,
video,
photographs,
photo:
 Karen
McCarthy/Damon
McCarthy,
©
Paul
McCarthy,
courtesy
of
the
artist
and
Hauser
 &
Wirth,
Zürich,
London






The reenaction of The Painter’s unstable mental state is a desperate attempt to create art. The Painter goes randomly back and forth in a single room to create nothing but an action painting of a circle and then repeats the same circle on top. McCarthy makes the piece obsessed with dysfunction and creates the image of hazardous artistic figure unable to control himself.

Paul
McCarthy,
Painter,
1995,
 performance,
installation,
video,
 photographs,
photo:
 Karen
McCarthy/Damon
McCarthy,
©
Paul
 McCarthy,
courtesy
of
the
artist
and
 Hauser
 &
Wirth,
Zürich,
London





The fact that our senses are infected and intruded with every error of logic while watching this video makes us “continually contest” what we see and think. It makes us confused, anxious, unable to find sense or logical order, lacking the greatness of meaning. Meaning is limited to one mentally damaged individual. McCarthy presents us a world of an isolated artist, therefore lacking purpose as a social member and the ability to produce meaningful work for others. The image of the artist and the purpose of his art becomes mixed and blurred between different thoughts of knowledge. The justification of what one sees becomes unfocussed fragments of an impossible totality. When the Post- Modernists closed the door of the Enlightment (reason and science), to open the passage towards multiple possibilities, it gave us the dissatisfying ability to see many realities, as deceptive cultural myths (called the Grand Narratives) by post-modernist. The Grand Narratives are made out of smaller myths, nothing more than multiple stories that shapeshift with their context, which further fragments the modern mind. According to them everyone lives in a fairytale defined by his/her cultural conceptions and thus there is no single truth. There is either “harmonious identification” or “continuous tension”, the conflict between which denies any cohesive form of ideaThis approach of the post- modernists denied any unified form of a universal idea. What this fargmenetd mentality leaves, is a conception of opposition that produces the myth of unity and therefore the doom of the possibility of the artistic to unite people with a vision. The Artist then becomes a figure without a social function, a wacko with obsessive-compulsive disorder, driven by individual purposes, not a collective one. It was widely accepted (one of “Grand Narratives”) that art deals with the nature of beauty, specifically defined as a judgment of taste (aesthetics), rather than art understood as a critical, logical or objective tool for applying structure or new processes for social transformation (politics) - another “Grand Narrative”. From these rises “the formation of the alarming antagonism between the quality and equality” (aesthetics rather than politics). It is obvious that questions of quality make people judge what is beautiful (better) or ugly (worse) and that the idea of hierarchical quality is the very reason for inequality; it makes people judge according to status or individual preferences. This harmful idea of quality descends to peoples’ everyday interactions in the form of value, when determining what object or what person is better than other. Another implication of aesthetics is that one gets stuck on the individual reception of artworks, rather than the possibility to exercise political judgment from art. To replace the old justification of art (questions of quality) with the capacity of Art to involve us and rethink our relationship to the world and others (questions of equality), art must give up the individualistic focus for a unitary purpose. The function of the Artist would not be individual expression but an intellectual who can provide with collaborative art to pull people together.


“Cultural policy is a way of strengthening the social bond” and the way this is visualized by the artist to make cultural treasures available to the masses, is through increased accessibility- higher attendance at galleries, etc. In addition to that, the artist must make less distant works and shape complex issues that communicate meaning to broader masses in favor of a communitarian vision (equality). This is, by no means, to say that issues (the art) discussed will be less serious, nor is it to say that simplicity is a matter of quality. Art must evolve and must function today as part of the solution on the international and multicultural scene of global problems. It has the responsibility to address problems like social unity, inequality, racism, etc. In that case artist are inspiration-makers and visionaries for alternative structures to pull people together to interact with society and its problems. Artists are no longer single individuals that express themselves. Most are now tailors of new forms of social consciousness and creative thinkers of new designs for organization inside interactive groups. Art pieces are living groups made up of artists and viewers that evolve into active partakers.

Kenning, Dean. “Art Relations and the Presence of Absence”.Third Text, Vol. 23, Issue 4 (2009): 435–446 Rush,Michael.Video Art.Thames and Hudson. 2007, pp.69-72 
 
 
 
 
 



Paul McCarthy’s Myth of the Artistic Greatness [The Other Politics in art] by Rosina Ivanova