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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Death of Whimsy

posted by on January 22 at 11:12 AM

New public art along the nearly completed Fire Station 10.
Why is this art weak? Because it is whimsical. Whimsical in the sense that it is playful. It plays with the idea of a race of fire hydrants. This red race is much like the human race—it is has kids, mothers, father figures, and so on.

So, what is wrong with whimsy? Elsewhere I have advanced the concept of an art criticism that must find its foundation in Tardian sociology (people/mind/body as social, as associations, as a network of clusters, pathways, and patterns). To expose the history and truth of this funny race of fire hydrants, however, one only needs basic Marxist tools. What these tools help us to see is that whimsy once had its place in what Marx and Engels called the “bad side”—the side that is opposed to power, to a ruling order. In the case of whimsy, the opposition was the rigid regime of the business elite, of profit calculations, charts, statistics, Taylorism in the factories, organization men in the office—the science of capitalism. Whimsy was to the order of scientific capitalism what romanticism was to the order of Newtonian enlightenment. In Seattle, the capital of whimsy was (and still is) Fremont—the defining locus for artists who found in whimsy a weapon against the ruling determinations and aesthetic of the business elite.

Today, whimsy is far from revolutionary. It has been absorbed by the order it originally opposed. Once a weapon for change, it is now a tool of control. For example, the videos that dominate commercial enterprises like MySpace and YouTube are whimsical—a dog on a surfboard, a homemade catapult, a drunk doing something drunk. Whimsy has no power because it has no enemy. It is now nothing more than a form of mindless distraction, a form that is not on the bad side of business interests.

The main reason the sculptures in front of the Fire Station 10 are weak is they reproduce and enforce the regime of whimsy.

-11.jpg This stone sculpture, also in front of the fire station, at least has the honesty of being heavy.

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This stone sculpture, also in front of the fire station, at least has the honesty of being heavy.

And non-combustible!

Posted by MvB | January 22, 2008 11:35 AM

Whimsical art is the opiate of the middle class

Posted by vooodooo84 | January 22, 2008 11:35 AM

Can you write 500 words giving a Marxist interpretation of Anne Geddes' photography by Friday? That would be awesome!

Posted by dreamboatcaptain | January 22, 2008 11:51 AM

This is just filler between the usual tit posts.

Posted by Rotten666 | January 22, 2008 11:57 AM

Giant butt-plugs! I hope public arts funds paid for them...

Posted by Andy Niable | January 22, 2008 12:06 PM

That's a lot of filler, Chuck, just to describe a place for dogs to pee.

Posted by DaiBando | January 22, 2008 12:31 PM


Posted by a | January 22, 2008 12:38 PM

chaz suffers from tardism.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 22, 2008 1:30 PM

Most public art is lighthearted. Most of it is politically motivated. Depends on who is running city hall and views of the age group and their views that decides upon these things. Most fall into the clasifaction of "Baby boomers". Comfortable powerful individuals that want things to be "nice" whimsical and inoffensive. There is Graffiti and there is public art. One is produced by Anonymous artists trying to make a statement the other is produced by artists that are known and have to jump through hoops set up by bureaucracy. We end up with tons of public art reflecting those in power at the time and never end up with something that is powerful and loved by many. Something people would stand up for if it was to be torn down. Banksy is an artist that has crossed over into that realm in which the people love his work but it was never chosen by panels of people in power. It goes against that decision making by powers that want safe whimsical art.
Public art today is for tourists. Public art in the past was above the thinking of the average person heading to work in an office high above the street only to come out for lunch and sit next to a Henry Moore unaware that its' power was playing on their minds while they sat and had coffee and lunch outside next to the art. This whimsical art is plain and safe. "Vertebrae" or "Knife Edge" wasn't.


Posted by -B- | January 22, 2008 1:50 PM
Posted by -B- | January 22, 2008 1:50 PM
"Whimsy has no power because it has no enemy"
No enemy? You are much too modest, or, well, maybe not, the "Dear Science Letter of the Day" got about 3 times as many comments, and it was just a copy and paste of an anonymous letter.
"Today, whimsy is far from revolutionary. It has been absorbed by the order it originally opposed"
You mean like this?, not that the subject was whimsical, but the placement of it seems to be.
Posted by Epimetheus | January 22, 2008 4:56 PM



Posted by Horihone Saizou | January 22, 2008 5:13 PM

big square turd in front of firehouse

Posted by cracked | January 22, 2008 5:51 PM

I don't like the way that grown up male "hydrant" is looking at the little boy "hydrant." How much more CHILD RAPE is Seattle going to tolerate in its public art?!

This perverted art ought to be burned! (Whoops, I said "ought", that's a capitalist word...)

Posted by CP | January 22, 2008 6:34 PM

Charles. You've heard of Bobby Knight? Bobby has a simple rule: no dunking till you can dribble.

You spelled Engels wrong.

No dunking for you, yet...

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 22, 2008 9:21 PM

Why is CM still being ?paid?

Oh, wait, I guess the controversy that has generated these slog comments is probably worth.... $1.45 in advertising revenues from "escorts" who would otherwise shop elsewhere....

Posted by ??? | January 22, 2008 11:31 PM

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