Monday, April 23, 2012

Self Abuse

Are you familiar with the words milt, grue and sesquipedalian? If they've just give you a naughty little frisson of lexicographical pleasure, then I would recommend this enjoyable article about obscure words, by Will Self.

But for me, the high point of Self's piece had nothing to do with logolepsy:

"As for visual arts, the current Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern is a perfect opportunity to see what becomes of an artificer whose impulse towards difficult subject matter was unsupported by any capacity for hard cogitation or challenging artistry. The early works - the stuffed animals and fly-bedizened carcasses - retain a certain - albeit recherché - shock value, while the subsequent ones degenerate steadily to the condition of knocked-off merchandise, making the barrier between the gift shop and the exhibition space evaporate in a puff of consumerism."

That has to be one of the most galumptious things I've read in a long time.


Little Nell said...

Thank you for the link to this interesting article. I do admire Will Self for speaking out in this way. I've never been a subscriber to the 'all shall have prizes' dictum, being a believer in healthy competition and hard graft. I love Self's use of words, even if I do have to look them up in a dictionary sometimes; how else do we improve our own word power? (I think that was an article Readers' Digest used to run).

I have to say I agree with his views on Damien Hirst too (who was very much in my mind with my latest blog post). Having just been to the Prado Museum in Madrid and seen some of the world's greatest art, I can only marvel at the years of training and meticulous attention to detail displayed by the artists there. Many of them died as paupers - which Hirst of course, will not.

Martin said...

Yes, I've read recently, how Damien Hirst has been 'found out', although this seems like delayed reaction in the extreme. I haven't read him, but Julian Spalding is one of those calling for Hirst's head, rather missing the point that it, too, has long been studded with diamonds.

Annabel (gaskella) said...

I've enjoyed the humour in Hirst, but never thought of him much of an artist. Although I always enjoy seeing Will Self on the box etc, I've yet to read a full novel of his, finding that the verbal dexterity slows my reading of it down too much. I know what 'milt' is though,(Sid James *laugh*)


Maybe we're all (including Self) missing a point.
It's very fashionable amongst the educated to berate Hirst's work, and very fashionable to praise Self. This means we're following a prescribed formula for proving our nous or in the arts field.
Personally, I'm happy to keep a dictionary at hand when reading a book, but it gets a bit tedious when I'm compiling a list of unfamiliar words which totals about 10 per page. I kind of lose my flow.
Hirst takes the piss out of everyone, openly. His work sums up the past few decades of greed, excess, faith in chemicals over God etc...maybe we're all horrified by our own existence - can't necessarily blame him for that.

p.s I don't know what I'm talking about really!

Steerforth said...

Nell - I remember the Readers' Digest feature. The words were mostly quite easy, with one or two rogue ones to spice things up.

Martin - I didn't have an opinion on Hirst until the 'spin paintings'. I quite liked the shark, but he seem to run out of ideas quite quickly. I suppose I should go to the exhibition.

Annabel - (Kenneth Williams *Oooh, Matron!*) I'm impressed that you know 'milt'.

Lucy - A very good point. The knives are out and it's the soft option to slag off Hirst and praise Self. But there is real substance to Self's writing, whereas I've never seen anything in Hirst's work beyond art college gimmickry.

That said, like Annabel, I've never read a Will Self novel for the very reasons you've mentioned.

Gardener in the Distance said...

Brilliant, Steerforth.

MTFF said...

Damien Hirst is mostly a bit tiresome, though I felt quite excited when I realised there was an inadvertent homage to his artwork in the Thomas the Tank aquarium collection (small shark tank on wheels) but that is perhaps not relevant to this discussion. Will Self is very funny and clever as a critic but the only book of his I ever got through was the one where the main characters were chimps (bonobos?) and I have to say it was very tiresomely tedious. Not because of its vocabulary, but because it seemed to be trying to make some deep point that I was either too stupid to catch, or he was not quite smart enough to make. Or maybe it was just a bit of a crap book.

magiciansgirl said...

" I can't wait to get into a position to make really bad art and get away with it." Damien Hirst, c. 1990. Prophecy fulfilled! The only sense of humor I see is Hirst laughing all the way to the bank (Banksy?) for pulling the wool over the collective eyes of the art world (of which I am a part). I don't find criticizing him fashionable, I just think the emperor is naked. Like Madonna, Hirst has a head for business & for the zeitgeist but he has little real artistic talent.

Art said...

And to think I've gone so long without knowing what milt was.

For me, the low point with Hirst was in 2009 when he decided to try traditional painting. The results were not remarkable, but most annoyingly he said apropos of this new creating-art-with-his-very-own-hands bit that "anyone can be like Rembrandt."

Except, obviously, he couldn't, as he lacks the necessary skill.