In the case of contemporary art, we should pull the plug
I love art. In fact, I believe that most people can come to appreciate art to some extent. From music, plays, movies and paintings, art is a part of our lives that all of us can relate to. Art is beautiful, art is expressive and—most importantly—art is provoking. So when I say that Paul McCarthy’s giant inflatable butt plug is an affront to artistic integrity, take those previous sentences into consideration and you’ll realize that I’m not just being surly.
Propping up a giant inflatable sex toy in the middle of Paris isn’t beautiful, it isn’t relatable, and it’s less provoking than watching reruns of Friends in slow motion. It’s tragically bland, carries no message and putting sexy things on display has been done a lot more gracefully in the past anyway. Quite simply put, it isn’t art, and it shouldn’t even be categorized as anything other than flushing down a load of money. It’s a tired fart joke, a farce that you might get a laugh from if you’re a teenager, or if you’ve never seen a butt plug before.
McCarthy’s anal stimulating balloon, named “Tree”, he says, was meant as “abstract” and “a joke,” or so he told CBC. When I read comments like this in regards to a project of this magnitude, I’m outraged. While hundreds of artists toil away at making a living day-by-day, working minimum wage jobs to survive while working undyingly hard on often beautiful projects, Paris decides to throw dosh in the direction of this abomination. The livelihoods of artists who are genuinely trying goes by completely ignored, while what we get on display is this travesty—this so-called “joke”—put forth by someone who obviously had no idea what to do when they were asked to undertake this project. I’ll say it again, this butt-plug isn’t art and neither is shitting in a bucket and calling it “abstract.”
I understand what avant-garde is, don’t get me wrong, but attempts like these skirt on the borders of pretentious. It doesn’t generate anything, culturally, it doesn’t provoke thought, hell it’s not even the least bit edgy. It’s just dumb.
Unsurprisingly, this tall, green ass-toy was defaced roughly a week ago. It was folded up, and taken away rather quickly, much to the grumbling of those who invested in this catastrophe. Fleur Pellerin, the delightful culture minister, called this “a serious attack on the principle of artistic freedom,” when in reality, that “sculpture” was an attack on the principles of artistic integrity. You don’t feel the need to deface proper art, because it reaches out to you. There’s no outrage, no cry for justice for McCarthy’s project, because unlike real art, it didn’t mean anything. It wouldn’t mean anything if they propped up a giant black dildo, an inflatable fleshlight, or a pair of silicon breasts. The butt-plug isn’t some deep metaphor for accepting the diversity of sexual pleasure, or whatever sort of garbage you can dig up from the annals of some artistic philosophy textbook. It’s a giant load of cash thrown in the direction of a big artist who simply didn’t know what to do this time around. Paul McCarthy’s a phenomenal artist—look up his sculptures like Boxhead—they’re incredible and well-designed, unlike this monstrosity.
Right now, though, I grieve for the loss of this green travesty. Not because McCarthy’s work was defaced and scrapped, but because the work of thousands of other artists was ignored in its stead.