lectures on art

Yesterday (Tuesday) night I went to a political meeting.

It was a meeting of a campaign group to get stand-up and sketch comedy recognised by Arts Council as proper (ie fundable) art, and it’s gaining momentum. More on that later.

Anyway. On the way to that meeting – to get in the mood – I stopped in at the National Gallery to see some ‘real’ art. And I bloody love it there – I still find it amazing that you – anyone – can just walk in off the street and for no money at all be looking at some of the greatest artwork in history. You just walk in, you go up a few steps to the right, and you’re looking at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

Or if you’re me, you’re looking at Renoir’s Umbrellas.renoir-umbrellas

I hadn’t seen it in a few years and as soon as I saw the young woman in it I cursed myself for not visiting her more recently. I’m totally in love with her. I think perhaps I always have been; she’s just so calm, so assured, so stylish, relaxed, beautiful – so brunette. It’s either been raining or it’s just about to: everyone else, in their out-of-date clothes (because Renoir painted them four years earlier) has umbrellas. But they’re wrong – they must be wrong because the brunette has no umbrella, not even in that empty basket. And she is too beautiful to be wrong.

She’s so different from that little blonde girl on the right with her petulant blonde face. I know that face – it was still there in grown-up petulant blonde women I’ve known (and occasionally fallen for); I know what that face looks like when it gets older…but I still want it in the painting so I can watch how far above and beyond it my brunette is; that soft, clear, rounded face just sails away from all of them…

I also saw a Picasso painting – I think it’s just called ‘Child’. Picasso, child

It always looked somehow familiar to me, but I didn’t know why until recently when my mother told me she had a copy of that picture with her when she gave birth to me. Someone had suggested she should take the most beautiful thing she could find and look at it while giving birth. I don’t know if my mother was hoping that by doing that, I might be as beautiful as the boy in the picture; I think she’d be disappointed if she was. I mean, there are similarities I guess: he has blue eyes, and I have blue eyes; he has a ball at his feet and I do quite like football; for a short while in my teens I was into cross-dressing. And biting the heads off small birds…

Anyway, so after that I went to this campaign meeting. The vibe was pretty good, and people were coming up with lots of suggestions for ways in which we could get the Arts Council to recognise comedic artforms as art. There were a few brief moments of tension, when (as I understood it) there was disagreement over whether this could be done straightforwardly through letter/petition/civil society-style campaigning or whether the whole artistic establishment needs to be taken apart and put back together again with a different mindset and a different kind of aesthetic language. (It’s pretty normal, I think, for progressive campaigns to face tensions between revolutionaries and practical gradualists. As usual, I fell on the side of cautious gradualism because, as discussed before, I am an anarchist but I’m a pretty conservative one…)

Anyway, any tensions gave way in the end to some really good practical things we can do to get Arts Council England to have another look at their position, which is pretty exciting. I got the job of drafting the initial letter to the chair of Arts Council England, asking for a full explanation of why nothing funny ever gets funding. Which I’ve done. You can see it here.

And if you’ve got nothing else to do and you agree with the cause, join the facebook group. It’s got 800-odd members now – and (r)evolution is in the air…


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