Art is a hard thing to define. Technically, anything can be counted as art. Frank Zappa once said it was all about framing. If a guy is standing around drinking carrot juice, that’s not art. But if he announces his act of carrot drinking as a piece of art, and others proceed to buy into the idea, then its art. This is one of the reasons why things like the Turner Prize are so reviled by a large number of people in Britain; a group of arty people decide to nominate a bin covered in rabbit faeces art, and the masses think to themselves, “That’s a bin covered in rabbit poo, mate”. Some of them then come along to the Turner Prize exhibit, whether it be in London or elsewhere, in order to write things like “Bag of Bollocks” on that wall of post-it notes the Tate ill-advisedly insists on putting up every year.
But the frame has been applied and once applied cannot be unapplied. Once something is art, it remains eternally kunst.
It was the Queen’s Speech yesterday, the final one of this parliament. It was also Dennis Skinner’s last chance to toss a sardonic comment at the Black Rod. This time around it was, “The Coalition’s last stand”. Not bad, but he’s done better. Then again, the bloke’s 82 and about to pack the whole thing in, so one doesn’t want to be too much of a critic.
However, his comment will be picked over like a Tate gallery exhibit – mostly by the bubble, mostly by the despised London elites of newspaper fame (written themselves by London elites, the types who get annoyed when the Tate moves the Turner Prize exhibit out to the “provinces”). It all fits given the whole Queen’s Speech is an archaic piece of theatre itself. One that most of us enjoy, and by us I mean the London elites again, otherwise it would have been done away with as an embarrassment a long time ago. It’s one of those things that must stick around, because to get rid of it would be like pulling a thread on a jumper – the thread would get longer and longer, and before you knew it you’d have a pile of string instead of a woolly garment. If you removed the ceremony of the Queen’s Speech, what would you replace it with? And once you figured out that it was all a bit silly, what future for the monarchy? Then what? A president? Not many outside the dreaded elite would like that, not in this post-democratic age in which we live. So it’s best to stick with what you know. The frame has been applied and what is art remains forever so.
The week ahead contains the start of the World Cup. It kicks-off, literally so, late on Thursday evening with the hosts Brazil facing Croatia. That’s not a bad match as first games of a World Cup go; often times it’s the less than stellar host, who have only qualified because they are hosting, taking on some minnow of the beautiful game. Look out for Qatar v New Zealand come 2022, as a for instance. But Brazil v Croatia should actually be a decent match.
In drunken moments, usually in the midst of a World Cup, I have talked about football’s artistic qualities, things I would never repeat while sober. But in cold light of day, the comparison between art and football strangely gets hung up on the fact that the world of art is much more savagely competitive than association footie, the gradients steeper, the rejection harsher, much as that may seem strange before you deconstruct the whole thing.
Any artistic endeavour from painting, to music, to writing, is much more of a winner-takes-all setup than football is or could ever be. Basically, if you are an artist, you are shit, the lowest common denominator, a tick on a boil on the arse of humanity. Until of course, you “make it”, gain a following that is self-sustaining in some sense, and then you are loved, sought after, amongst the elite. Football is much more layered. You have the superstars of the world game, most of whom will be on display next week and in the weeks to follow, except for the ones unfortunate enough to be born in Ljubljana or Llangolen. Then you have the top players in the top European leagues who don’t quite make international grade, down a stretch to the workman players in the top leagues, the top players in the second division, and on downwards until you get to the pub leagues.
At each level down, there is a corresponding loss of revenue and fame. But both are still there, all the way to the bottom. This is mostly a function of the way the two worlds are setup economically – people will happily turn up in their thousands to watch a third division football club, due to loyalty, community attachment, any number of reasons. But no one wants to read the book of an author who didn’t quite make the cut, or see an exhibit of a painter who wasn’t quite good enough to get into Goldsmiths. In the world of art, there is no silver medal. In football’s World Cup, meanwhile, there is a match to see who gets the bronze at the end.
I think there should be a Turner Prize for world’s most ridiculous footballer every year, so we could turn the whole thing into art. We’d be spoilt for choice. This year I nominate Luis Suarez for what will be reasons obvious to any football fan. Perhaps you have your own nominee in mind. Anyhow, here’s wishing you luck for your own country’s football team over the next few weeks. If you’re an England supporter, as most of you, I suspect, will be, I wish you commiserations. Whatever happens, enjoy it – this is the last World Cup in a proper footballing nation until at least 2026, and even then there’s no guarantee. Given the way FIFA is going, the 2026 World Cup will probably go to Canada, so long as the matches are played in Saskatchewan in January.