18 October 2009


on lo-fi art

The idea that art should possess act as a vehicle for social reform is a commonly held belief. Art that imparts an idea that can and will somehow improve or at least critically discuss contemporary issues carries a certain authority. This is art that is viewed as valuable and as value-adding to everyday life.

In contrast, art that is seen to be lo-fi, naive and childlike (which should not be confused with childish) requires a deeper engagement that extends beyond the few seconds one usually takes to view an artwork. It is a style of working that doesn't immediately deliver its message upon first impression, which leads many to assume that the work isn't typically 'serious' and perhaps not worthy of the careful consideration one would give to say, a politically-charged image of a riot (Marco Fusinato's Double Infinitives exhibition at Anna Schwartz comes to mind).

The visual language of today's world is based heavily upon immediacy and the rapid dissemination of information. The best example would be the visual language of advertising. As a result, we often apply this approach to a variety of other things, including art. Lo-fi art's requirement that the viewer takes some effort and time to actually engage with the discourse of the work goes against this language. The message of the work is obscured by an apparent flippancy, an approach that is easily dismissable as slapdash.

Patience is another important aspect in reading this type of work. While a concerted effort may be made to engage with the work, this does not necessarily mean instantaneous gratification. It may, and probably will, take a while to carefully consider the work. This is difficult to do, especially when a work looks like it was thrown together in a few minutes. The viewer feels shortchanged, like as though the exchange between artist and viewer is one-sided: "Why should I invest my time and effort into trying to figure this out, when its composition is so arbitrary?"

I guess at the heart of it, we'd like to be able to view something, go "OK, this means that, and that is a reference to this. I understand it", and move on to the next thing.

We are quick to concede defeat when met with the style of difficult art. It is much easier to dismiss something as just being that and nothing more than it is to try and understand it. It is also just as easy to attribute this lack of understanding towards a frequently repeated artist's statement that the work is abstract; it means nothing.

But then again, "meaning nothing" is something in itself...

I'm going to leave this for now, think about it, and come back to it later.

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