Miriam Elia illustrates a point
In America, older generations than mine grew up with “Dick and Jane” books. The simple words and clean cut imagery of these works were meant as a teaching tool for young readers.
It seems the British version was “Peter and Jane.” The names might have been different, but the intent was the same: an educational experience for kids, presented in an easily assimilated, non-threatening format.
As society grew more cynical, succinct statements like “Look Jane, see Dick” took on an unwholesome, ironic taint. The images now evoke a whole vanished era, a time of earnest naivete and lost innocence.
UK artist and writer Miriam Elia took full advantage of this gentle nostalgic vibe in 2014. She released “We Go To The Gallery,” appropriating the traditional format associated with the British publisher of children’s easy reader books. But in Elia’s version, the kids are being subjected to the soul crushing ordeal of viewing contemporary establishment art.
In panel after panel, Elia skewers the nasty nihilistic productions of the decadent cultural elitists.
Along the way many recognizable conceptual art works are referenced, with the Mummy character spewing the stale turpitude so essential to post modern poseurs. The corruption and presumptions of culture industry hacks make them ripe targets for such mockery.
On her site Elia advertises a lecture on “learning principles”:
-Helping children understand there is nothing to understand
-Ensuring the child’s own opinions match those of the arts elite
-Preparing young people for a lifetime of crippling uncertainty
She’s presenting this as a joke. But when I realize that is exactly what our institutions are actively doing for real, I find it less amusing.
I’d love to have this book, but it currently isn’t available through any of my conventional resources. It seems the traditional publisher didn’t appreciate the satire and some legal shenanigans have ensued. In some of the images on the internet I see character names have changed to John and Susan, and I wonder if that isn’t an effort to bypass some of the copyright concerns.
There is an extreme disconnect between the feebleness of contemporary art and the attitude of sophisticated superiority the elitists display. Irony was once their weapon. Now it is their shield. Soon it will be their tomb.
A generation’s worth of careers, reputations and investments have been built in a dead end, a pitfall of decadence and power lust. Outside of their carefully screened zones of consensus they are meaningless. But we can’t cede the custodianship of our civilization to these perpetrators. It’s time we start invading their enclaves and confronting their failures both as artists and as human beings.
Concise observations like Elia’s, presented with inescapable deadpan humor, will be the death of the current art bubble. Smart people are looking for the exits already.