In this debased and profligate age, it appears that more and more artists create their works on a gigantic scale. The bigger the better! Why? I cannot tell. Many of these works appear to have no particularly interesting features except their size. A picture of urban decay, postcard-sized? Well, that’s just urban decay—so boring. But enlarge that photograph to the size of your front window? Suddenly it is a searing comment on the modern experience! A 35 x 35cm canvas painted black? Gauche and ephemeral. A canvas painted black, the size of a king-sized bed? Expressive and meaningful! A photograph of a nude, at A4 size? Smut! A photograph of a nude, printed to the size of a small truck? Art! Or, an advertising billboard. But you get my drift.
Artists generally like to think they work outside of the system, that they are non-conformists. However, I would argue that artists who persist in this trend to the tremendous embody the worst of capitalism. They are not bohemians or radicals, no! They encourage and glorify consumerism. They consume a larger quantity of materials to make their works, all of which require energy to source, produce and transport. They hog wall space and storage space alike, pushing meeker works aside, requiring the construction of new frames and boxes and crates—even buildings—in which to house them. They demand more attention, as a large artwork can never be handled by a single person alone. And every time the work is moved, borrowed and exhibited, trucks of an ever-increasing size are required to transport their bloated bodies around our great continent and, indeed, the world.
I call upon the artists of today to reconsider their priorities and values. What happened to the virtues of restraint, of humility? What of self-control, modesty, altruism? An art work that is large purely for the sake of being large indicates a greedy and prideful nature. These are not qualities we should be rewarding. In this age of global warming, when the best we can look forward to as a species is a future skulking in air-conditioned bunkers deep underground to avoid the searing sunlight and eating a diet of nutritious but unpalatable seaweed grown in vats because all other forms of life will have perished due of our selfishness, how can artists continue to justify these choices? We must all do our bit to try and stem the tide of the coming apocalypse. Make sure the size of your creation is justified, and carbon-offset.
ALICE CANNON, MELBOURNE