The “Art” of Vandalism

On this web log I often rebuke the excesses of postmodernist artists, excoriate the state of modern day art, and berate the apolitical intellectuals and art critics who justify and praise every inane and dim-witted act carried out in the name of art.

It seems that almost every day we read about yet another imbecile whose “artworks” exemplify the utter bankruptcy of contemporary art, like UK “performance artist” Mark McGowan. This self-serving and narcissistic charlatan has already received more than enough attention in the press, and I only mention his name here as a challenge to those proponents of the “art for arts sake” philosophy.

Advocates and practitioners of performance, installation, and conceptual art disciplines should take some responsibility for having brought us to this point, because if they truly believe that “anything can be art” -then they must defend the likes of Mark McGowan.

McGowan, 38, will be exhibiting his latest “work” at a gallery in Glasgow. The exhibit will consist of a series of photographs that document his having vandalized 50 cars in London and Glasgow. McGowan roamed the streets and with key in hand, scratched the paint off of parked cars picked at random. An assistant photographed each car being “keyed”. The so-called artist said the owners should be happy they were part of his “creative process” and that “there is a strong creative element in the keying of a car, it’s an emotive engagement.”

McGowan expressed his desire that keying be embraced by other artists, who could make the act “as mainstream as graffiti.” The police said they consider McGowan’s acts to be criminal damage, and they’ll investigate the matter if allegations are made by vehicle owners. McGowan will no doubt be pleased to have criminal charges leveled against him, as it will once again place him in the limelight.

Already McGowan is claiming to be the victim of censorship, and there is confusion over which venue will present his exhibition -which could more accurately be described as a display of evidence. It seems the exhibit was originally scheduled for The Arches gallery in Glasgow, but they’ve apparently back out. McGowan said “If they don’t show my work, that is blatant censorship!” A spokesperson for the gallery said: “The Arches will not condone the exhibiting of one photograph where a piece of private property has been damaged against the owner’s will.” A spokesperson for the Glasgow International Festival said the Wasps Artist’s Studios would be showing the exhibit -but no one at Wasps would confirm this.

McGowan, a postgraduate in the history of art from the prestigious Goldsmiths University of London, is no stranger to the contemporary art world. He’s well known for his performance art, like his pushing a peanut with his nose for seven miles to 10 Downing Street to protest student debt.

In the window of a gallery in south London, he once sat for 12 days in a bathtub filled with backed beans, sausages wrapped around his head and fried potatoes stuck up his nose – in a performance piece that celebrated English food. However, I think his very best performance piece was when he literally nailed his feet to an art gallery floor… it’s just too bad someone pried him loose.

[ UPDATE: On April 20th, McGowan told the press the whole thing was a hoax, and that his photos of the “keyed” cars were staged. Whether this admission was from fear of arrest or not remains to be seen. However, the fraudulent nature of some contemporary art, and the gullibility of art critics and aficionados remains. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated? The swindle continues… and all is right with the world! ]

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