Bridgewater, Australia

the difference between cool and significant

anyone who has been involved in creating or appreciating art for a reasonable length of time should be aware of the ongoing tension between high art and popular art. this would especially ring true for those people who have spent time in a formalised academic environment. while art schools and art theory have brought popular culture under the umbrella of acceptable practice (they had little to no choice in doing otherwise or see art disappear from the face of the earth) there remains a residue of distinction which separates the cool and the significant.

cool is a term bandied around ad nauseam by all people from all walks of life. in todays art world it finds particular placement among those who champion popularised forms of expression. Street art, stencil art, comic art, animation, audio/video and anything capable of being posted on the net jump to mind. cool tends to wain in its usage when the individual enters the stratospheric realms of elite art which even in this age of post-deconstruction still persist and persist with a kind of stubborn insistence that it is necessary and the work found in this realm is different and significant compared to all else called art.

the significance attached to the work found in the realms of high art are termed thus for two predominant reasons. first is the particular aesthetic which must be achieved to gain consideration for admittance. secondly and just as important is the requisite theoretical attachment the work comes with, much like an email. if an artists work lacks either of these things there is little chance it will be considered.

the aesthetic it requires has two basic needs. it must be ambiguous and to a degree confusing. this is essential to encourage as many possible reactions to the work. it is better to say nothing specific. it is far more advantageous to set the work adrift on an ocean of possibility. sometimes if the artist is especially astute they will embed the work with a secret covert language decipherable by all but a few individuals. this language itself is far from full proof and is open to variegated interpretations.

such an aesthetic lends itself to theoretical attachment in a similar vein. contemporary artistic theory is far removed from a casual popular description of being cool. it is far more likely to elicit a ‘what the fuck?’ again this is due to a particularity necessary to enable the artwork to distinguish itself and to allow others, wondering whether the work is significant, if in fact it is.

now to elicit a ‘damn, that’s cool’ requires less and falls into the treasured realm of the spontaneous. it is far more immediate, requiring the observer merely to come into contact with the artwork for the briefest of moments. a connoisseur of the cool knows what they like and does not need an artwork to be validated by a community to enable them to proclaim their positive affirmation.

whether you like the cool or the significant is of little consequence. the cool is not interested in gaining validation by the significant. that world is too full of uniformity and necessitation. in some cases they may be even unaware of the existence of the significant. in turn the significant has territory to defend and standing to maintain. they see the cool as lacking development and insight and failing to contribute to the advancement of art.

Journal Comments