The artistic qualities of the everyday, the ordinary, are discovered – revealed and presented for inspection – not designed. It is unintentionally, unwittingly created. There can be no doubt that it has the properties valued by art: elegance, beauty, the play of ideas, strength of images, the compositions certainly have validity.
But is the element of Art inherent to the everyday or is it developed only through looking? It can be considered that through presenting the everyday, the ordinary, as art it is divorced from its very ordinariness.
It is the re-presentation of the ordinary that creates its value as ‘art’; the cultural capital is really created in capturing the everyday. That is when ordinary rockets up through the cultural strata, becomes high art, is subducted into a new and bizarre world. The subduction zone expands with the media, with the ever-progressing idea that arts should be shared, held in common, democratic, accessible – the Marxist approach to cultural capital. The territory open to artists is expanding, and they raid it.
(Matthew Collings, This is Civilisation, p.279)
Skill, refinement, art of tradition and training and education and cultural history, risks selective alienation. That is unacceptable: it is capable of sending a message of inferiority to those without sufficient cultural capital to ‘appreciate’ the art in an age where culture is, in theory, for everyone. Focus on the everyday, ordinary, common world and art cannot alienate through content. If it is incomprehensible it is at least a kind of universal, democratic incomprehensibility, wide open to interpretation by anyone. There is no real wrongness. Sophistication is in the eye of the beholder. We live in a world where everything seems knowable – the answers are out there, accessible yet utterly beyond us. Our freedom to travel, our exposure to art and its distribution through modern media is exceptional.
The result is demystification. The content of high art is no longer dignified through foreign-ness: art as evidence of travel, education, a select and sophisticated frame of reference, does not promise prestige – society has moved away from these codes.
To prove their sophistication artists have turned upon an under-captured territory. Look, they say. I can take ordinary things, same as you. But when I do it, in my hands, it’s art. And you have to respect art, right? Or you have at least to think about respecting it. Even denigration is affirmation of a kind. The art is in the looking.