Choosing Vegetables: A Faux Exercise of Taste

wrong-1967 Baldessari

In his work, John Baldessari continually challenges notions of beauty and disregards conventional rules of what is “right” and “wrong” when it comes to art –his piece Wrong comes to mind, a photograph in which he purposefully defies the rules of photography and composition. His artwork urges the viewer to question these rules, for example in his series Choosing (A Game for Two Players), where he plays with personal perceptions of beauty (David Salle calls it a “faux exercise of taste”)

The game is simple: one player arranges three samples of the same vegetable in a line  (eg. three green beans), the second player is asked to choose the “best” of the three, based on his/her own aesthetic criteria. That lucky bean moves on to the next round where it is placed next to two new beans, and again player two is asked to pick a favourite, and so on. Meanwhile, the exercise is recorded in a series of photographs where we can see the player’s fingertip pointing at the chosen vegetable. The absurd game just goes to show that taste is subjective and there are no universal rules for beauty, be it a turnip, a person, or a work of art, we should not conform to conventional standards.

Baldessari Choosing Green Beans 1972

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Green Beans. 1971

John Baldessary Choosing: Carrots 1972

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots. 1972

Choosing: Turnips

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Turnips, 1971-72

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Democracy Has Bad Taste

Although we live in an era when anything can be art, not everything is art

In the 2013 BBC Reith Lectures, Playing to the Gallery, the Turner Prize-winning cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry speaks about the role of art in today’s global landscape.

grayson perry2

In this first instalment, entitled Democracy Has Bad Taste, Grayson Perry tackles the question of what makes art “good” and who decides it. This question is particularly tricky in this era when preserved sharks and urinals can be found on display in galleries. Beauty is no longer a valid criteria, as Perry explains:

“In the art world sometimes it can feel like to judge something on its beauty, on its aesthetic merits can almost feel like you’re buying into some politically incorrect, into sexism, into racism, colonialism, you know class privilege. It almost feels it’s loaded, this idea of beauty, because it’s a construct because where does our idea of beauty come from?”

Grayson Perry talks about the politics of the art world, describing the rigorous validation process that a work of art goes through before arriving on gallery walls. He discusses various criteria and tools which can help us (people outside the “art world”) to understand and appreciate art.

Click here to listen to the lecture or here to read the transcript.

One of Grayson Perry's exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Leactures

One of Grayson Perry’s exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Leactures