Enough already. The bafflegab in the wake of Thorarinn Jonsson’s colossally stupid art prank at the ROM is getting really alarming. Like we’re supposed to take him seriously?
One prominent art critic places Jonsson in a long line of artists who have outraged the establishment only to be embraced later - Marcel Duchamp, for example, who turned a urinal into an art object just by declaring it so, or the American Carl Andre, who transformed a pile of bricks into an artistic statement just by placing them on the floor of a museum.
According to this logic, Jonsson's fake bomb, a huge headache for Toronto's emergency services, could well turn up as a vaunted addition to the avant-garde wing of a European museum.
Give me a break. People aren't outraged by Jonsson because their artistic sensibilities were offended or because some fellow had the nerve to call himself an artist when he had just one tiny idea. They're freaked out not because he busted art paradigms but because he traded in trauma.
One CBC panelist last week suggested that we earnest, timid Canucks lack the savvy to "get" Jonsson, unlike those cultivated, urbane Europeans. I don't think so. Given the train bombings in Madrid, not to mention London, you'd be kidding yourself if you believed the Spaniards would give Jonsson and his infantile installation the keys to the Prado.
One person close to the case actually suggested that the CBC panel discussing the prank made the whole enterprise worthwhile. "At least we're talking about art," was the comment. Whoa - so disturbing peoples' sense of physical security is justified when it generates a conversation?
Jonsson himself plainly couldn't give a shit. He hasn't shown a scintilla of remorse. Oh, he's sorry the CANFAR AIDS fundraiser had to be cancelled, but he says he didn't know it was taking place. Was it so difficult to research what repercussions his art intervention might have? Pick up the phone, dude.
Jonsson said he thought the worst that would happen was that the ROM would have to close down a little early. Good to know he was actually able to think far enough ahead to imagine some small shred of a consequence.
I'm trying to think how I would have felt had I been inside the ROM, a public institution, when Jonsson deployed his art project. Not that for a second he's shown any ability to put himself in the shoes of anyone else - ROM employees, security guards, passersby - to imagine how they felt about his fake bomb threat.
Ethics in art are always a complex discussion. There may be situations where it could be argued that the message the artist or the activist is trying to impart is important enough to offset the damage done.
But even if you buy that argument, Jonsson's pathetically tired artspeak - how the meaning of objects changes depending on their context - hardly fits. His project is not earth-shattering or even new enough to warrant scaring the crap out of people.
Don't confuse me with Rex Murphy, the Globe and Mail columnist who delivered an all-out attack on conceptual art the weekend after Jonsson turned himself in. I don't mind when an artist pisses on canvas and calls it art - as long as he doesn't piss on me.