OK by now anyone who watches "reality TV" knows that the only reality they show are people forced into stressful situations, usually in the company of strangers, being followed by large camera crews. Unless you're Lindsey Lohan this is not "reality". That being said I looked forward to Bravo's new reality show Work of Art "The Next Great Artist". In fact I blogged about it here, hoping to increase viewership. The show's idea was to take 14 up and coming artists and follow them through a series of competitions, giving us a look inside the creative process. How bad could it be?
How bad could it be? From what I can tell the show is single handily trying to kill art, that's how bad. Everything that I ever learned or observed about the artistic process is being debased, demeaned and degraded.
The constraints put on the artists are so preposterous that there is no chance of art ever being created. Each week the artists who have expertise in a particular medium are asked to create works of art in a medium of the show producers choosing. That would be bad enough but they are further asked to pair up with another artist contestant and work together. These are very different artists with very different aesthetics and skill sets. How often have you heard of an fine artist being told what the subject of his or her next painting should be and then being told who to collaborate with on the piece?!? Then the real constraints begin. After being told what the subject will be, the medium and who to work with, the artists are told how much they can spend on art materials, how long they have to shop for those materials and where (usually $100 in 20 minutes at Utecht Art Supplies). The producers give them no more than 24 hours to complete their work and will not let them work at night. The show even controls where the artists live and when they go to sleep. All the while the cameras roll. One of the judges, the socially uncomfortable and total bore, Simon de Pury stops by the studio every episode and critiques the artists work in mid process. Where did they come up with these rules? How did they ever think art would come from this process?
The strangest part for me is the complete lack of acknowledgment of the constraints put on the artistic process. At the end of each show the completed work is hung in a gallery and judged by a panel of "experts." At no time do the judges or any of the artists concede that the whole process is deeply flawed. In fact the judges are usually critical of what the artists had no control over. Comments like; "the materials you used looked cheap," "your piece looked rushed" "you did not collaborate well with your partner" or 'I did not see you in this piece" have me pulling out my hair wondering when one of the artists is going to scream, "you only gave me $20 and one day to complete the painting", and "if you want to see me in the painting let me pick the subject!" Or, "I'm a metal sculptor, why am I being asked to collaborate with a graphic artist to do an oil painting about Audi's new sports car?" Oh yea the subject of some of these art projects are cute product tie-in's like the new Audi.
If this was Bravo's idea of bringing art to the masses by giving us a look into the artistic process it has done the opposite. It has turned one of the most fascinating organic activities of man into a freak circus of command performances. Artists do not work like this, live like this or think like this. There is no reality in this show.
Sorry Bravo the next great artist is busy working on what speaks to them, in the medium of their choosing, with few if any self-imposed constraints. GL