Yeah, I know him. I was the one taught him.
We'd been given a government grant to take our art into the ghettos. Yeah, I know, seems strange, but back then the idea was that this would be the art of the masses, the cross-cultural bridge. We thought that since it relied on abstraction and suggestion it would be able to avoid the cultural associations, that since we just relied on the universal perceptual mechanisms, everyone would relate.
He wasn't very old then, maybe twenty-five? I don't really know. He was one of the few that really looked at the pieces. Most of the crowd that day were housewives walking through the square with their kids. They'd look, "the colours were nice," or "how do they get the lines so straight," or "do they just throw the paint?" There were a few men hanging around, trying to look knowledgeable, a couple of them trying to get the artists to "talk shop." A few high-school-age kids liked what the expressionists were doing, all wild and with bright colours thrown angrily against the canvas.
He was different. He examined the pieces, not like an artist, more like an engineer, surveying them, trying to figure them out. He was damn methodical that boy. He was our best prospect of the day. At least he was interested. Even if he didn't seem to care about the works themselves, even if he was looking for, well, whatever it was he was looking for. I signalled everyone off, I'd handle him myself. He continued dissecting the pieces that way, gradually making his way down to where I'd positioned myself.
"Explain this." He says. Yeah, weird, I mean, didn't so much as say hi, just "Explain this," pointing at one of my canvasses. So I tell him about the proportions, seems like what he's after. He listens. "So it's just math." I was younger then, a little more tolerant, and we were getting big money for the project. I explained how the proportions affected the perceptual mechanism, how they were easily understood, how they gave a feeling of satisfaction. He listened. I told him about the filtering process, how, given little information, the mind fills in to find the patterns it recognises. I told him how that makes the art universal. I told him how that makes the art therapeutic, how the person is looking at something that triggers their subconscious, their memories, everything with which they need to deal.
"You're charging too much." Well, like I said, more tolerant back then, lots of money. I explained how the materials alone cost one hundred dollars, and how a single piece could take months of work, how most of us were starving at the prices we were giving them away. I explained how it was necessary to play with the composition, to find exactly the right proportions. "You said they were mathematical." He was quite terse. I explained how you often would have to play with the composition for hours until you found something that looked right, and it just happened that the final results fit almost exactly into the proportional scheme. He just grunted at that. I would have left him. Big money, government contract.
"I could create these for a hundred dollars." That began to strain even the promise of money. What, why do you look so shocked? Oh, the hundred dollars. Yeah, that's where it came from, the cost of materials for our paintings. Sorta been the key to his business. Come to think of it, I explained that to him to. How you set up an association in the buyer, how they're giving up their time and money to buy the thing made it more valuable. Well, he gave us a price, didn't he.
Every painting is worth precisely $100, approximately 20 hours flipping burgers. He's got a computer programme now, I hear. Just sits there all day churning out the patterns, they sit around deciding how much to charge for each one. Gets bulk orders of everything, makes a killing by the sounds of it. No strings, no need to think about it. It will relax you, because there is no meaning there. It won't offend anyone because there's nothing there. It will be beautiful because that's what it's designed to be. It will be bought by the white, middle-class, mostly women, since everyone else has fairly heavily negative associations with it. It will be bought by huge corporations concerned that they not alienate anyone. It will survive and prosper. It will be the next craze after this one. The next style, the next ideal. It will earn money.
But anyway, he hasn't cut into my business any. If anything, he's made it more profitable. He sweeps up the low-end, I take the piecework accounts. The people that are afraid to support meaninglessness and chaos, the people who demand meaning in their life, and order in their boardrooms.
Document Name: tb.depth.antidepth.suggest.htm
Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
Reproduction for other than personal use prohibited without express written permission from the author.