13. But is it art?

I went to bed last night resolving not to write anything about my children today. This is not a parenting blog, and I’ve been waffling on about them for the last two days. Enough.

My resolve, however, weakened a little when I opened one bleary eye to the cold light of dawn to be confronted by a small and inordinately cheerful person brandishing two eggs at me.

“Morning”, I said.

“Where is the Tabasco?” She replied.

What was the first thing you spoke about this morning?

What was the first thing you spoke about this morning?

I’ve been doing this long enough to know a red flag when I see one. I leapt out of bed, fully awake, and dashed through to the kitchen. Mercifully, it was not ankle deep in broken eggs and scattered condiments. But my morning ordeal was far from over.

“We,” my daughter announced, “are going to make breakfast in bed for mommy!”

“Mother’s Day is only tomorrow. Can I go back to bed?”

“No! I want to do it today!”

Oh, well. I know when to pick my battles. I turned on the stove and reached for a pan.

“No!” came an outraged scream. “We need to make mommy breakfast in bed!”

“Do you want to boil the eggs?”

“NO! WE HAVE TO MAKE MOMMMY BREAKFAST IN BED! WITH TABASCO! AND LEMON PEPPER!”

And we did.

And we did.

She collapsed in an untidy jumble of tears, still gently clutching her precious eggs.

I was completely nonplussed. And then slowly it dawned on me. Everything in the world is still pretty damn new for four-year-olds. We don’t do breakfast in bed in our house. Everyone is driven out of their night-time haven by waves of collective hysteria long before the sun comes up. The concept is still new to my daughter.

And so she had spent the week sitting cross-legged on the carpet at her playschool, staring up at the all-knowing teacher with wide eyes as she learned about the arcane traditions of Mother’s Day. As she learned about the near mythical breakfast in bed.

And a picture had formed in her head. A picture of her mother, lying back blissfully on her nest of pillows, while her loving daughter slipped in next to her with two raw eggs and a bottle of Tobasco, and whipped up some sort of culinary triumph on the duvet in front of her.

Oh dear. In the end, we compromised. We drove her mother back into bed and set up an impromptu kitchen on the floor next to the built-in cupboard, and whipped up a couple of scrambled eggs. A mere ten feet away from our fully functioning kitchen. Sometimes parenting gets a little surreal.

Please god let this not become our new "thing"

Please god let this not become our new “thing”

Which lets me rather neatly segue into my post for the day. You see, I’m going to keep my promise and not write anything about my kids. Instead, I’m going to write about art. I’m sophisticated like that. And I’m going to break another promise. This post will not be short. But I’m counting it as a daily post and giving it a number. I’m wild like that.

And why am I writing about art?  After I had packed away the pans and plates, and ineffectually tried to wave the pervasive smell of frying egg out of the open window, I settled down to look at the news. And I found this. It’s called the Skywhale.

“What is it?” I hear you ask. It is an enormous hot air balloon shaped like an undersea creature with a bunch of what the article coyly described as “udder-like appendages” dangling off its sides.

What was the first thing you read about this morning?

What was the first thing you read about this morning?

It is, you’ll be glad to hear, a work of art. It has been commissioned, at enormous expense, as part of the centenary celebrations of Canberra, Australia’s capital. And it brings to mind Britain’s Turner Prize.

The Turner Prize is a wonderfully British institution. It is the children’s’ story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” without the moral at the end. It dresses itself up as a visual art prize for a young British artist. But that’s not what it is at all. It is a celebration of Britishness. A select group of very intelligent judges set about awarding the prize to the most ridiculous candidate they can find.

The public then embark on a well-choreographed campaign of outrage. Protests are organised. Splutteringly incandescent letters are written to the press. Ordinary people grumble at dinner parties. Angry people have televised debates. And all these outraged people are saying the same thing. “But that’s not art!” The role of the judges is not over. They, and a small group of, again, very intelligent art lovers and critics then set about explaining that it is art, and that everyone else is just too stupid to understand it. Everyone has a high old time.

Whippersnappers! Rapscallions! Gossoons!

Whippersnappers! Rapscallions! Gossoons!

But it isn’t art. Not really. If you took it two hundred years back in time and told a bunch of intellectuals that it had won a very substantial art prize, you would get laughed at. I would venture to say that the same thing would happen two hundred years into the future. Some of it is certainly clever, especially when the artist gets a chance to explain why it is so clever. But mostly it’s very, very silly. Silly in a clever way, maybe, but silly. It is the sort of stuff one would expect from the nation that produced Monty Python. Take a look at some of the winners;

In 1997, the prize was won by a work called 60 minutes of silence. A bunch of actors dressed as policemen stood still for an hour.

Round here they don't even stand up!

Round here they don’t even stand up!

In 2001 the honours went to “The lights going on and off” which was, surprisingly enough, an empty room in which the lights were going on and off. In keeping with the gravitas of the prize, another artist burst in and defaced this priceless installation by throwing some eggs at the wall. This sort of audience participation should be encouraged. In 1999 the prize was almost won by a work called “My bed”. It was a dirty, unmade bed surrounded with soiled underwear, condoms and litter. Two other artists snuck in, stripped down to their undies and defiled this masterpiece by having a pillow fight in it. They described these shenanigans as art and called it “Two naked men jump into Tracey’s bed”.

It might be art, but it's damn shoddy housekeeping.

It might be art, but it’s damn shoddy housekeeping.

In 2005, an artist broke down a shed and made a boat out of it. He sailed it down the Rhine. Then he broke it apart again. And made a shed out of it. He won.

In 2010, the prize was given to a woman who sang a sea shanty under three different bridges in Glasgow.

And it goes on. There are dissected sharks in formaldehyde, people dressed as bears walking around empty museums, paintings held up by balls of elephant dung. It’s all very silly indeed. It’s a farce. But it has become a beloved one. It gives British people something to complain about. It makes a small, self-important bunch of intellectuals something to feel self-important and intellectual about and gives the rest of us something to point at and laugh. Long may it last.

South Africa has a rich and vibrant artistic community.

South Africa has a rich and vibrant artistic community.

Which brings me back to Canberra. The Canberra Centenary celebrations are not the Turner Prize. Canberra is the capital of Australia. Australians are not British. As a nation, they pride themselves on being plain spoken and down to earth. And now someone has decided to celebrate an important national occasion with Boobeluga. I can’t wait to see the reaction. It might be fine on launch day, with polite benches of appreciative onlookers clapping as the bunches of pendulous mammaries rise majestically skyward, but at some point it’s going to drift off over the countryside. What then?

But maybe I’m underestimating the archetypal Australian male. Maybe he, too, is an art lover. I can just see it now; two young men with mullets and shorts tight enough to cut off a lesser man’s circulation gape skyward as Boobeluga floats gently into view, forgotten beers pouring unseen onto the grass;

Quick! Take the kids inside! It's an art!

Quick! Take the kids inside! It’s an art!

“Stewth, Bruce, look at that! The sky’s full of tits!” Says the first.

“I know, mate,” answers his companion, wiping away a single tear on a passing sheep, “I know. Isn’t it just beautiful?”

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58 thoughts on “13. But is it art?

  1. jjspina says:

    I love the fact that your daughter tried her best to make you happy for Mother’s Day. How sweet! Art is truly in the eye of the beholder. Nice blog. I have visited before and will come ack again. Best wishes.

  2. Judy says:

    Altogether adorable!!!

  3. FlaHam says:

    This was a wonderful post, the breakfast in bed brought several memories of my daughter attempting to do similar things over the years. But in fairness I loved the “is this art.” Art has always been in the eye of the beholder, but you openned my eyes to what many others see as art. Thanks I think. Take care, Bill

  4. elizabethweaver says:

    Fabulous post. Wickedly funny & great images/comments. Thank you. Thank you too for viewing my blog.

  5. personalpilot says:

    God! I loved this!! How can I post and share it on fb??

  6. Jeanius says:

    Breakfast in bed is a nice idea- I like the idea but the practicality of it always escaped me. Besides, I like to wash my face and brush my teeth before breakfast…
    Thanks for visiting:)

  7. Silk Questo says:

    I laughed out loud at least 6 times reading this blog, once uncontrollably. I think that’s a record. Thanks for making my belly hurt.

  8. LOL Blogging is hard, buy you a beer! Love it!

  9. Pat Benson says:

    best blog post ever 🙂

  10. Personally I love mommy’s breakfast in bed but what do I know. I’m only a mother,granny,actor/now author of seven books. Wait a darn minute. I do know a lot of stuff. Thanks for a delightful post.

  11. Some years ago I discovered the true purpose of the belly button; it is the perfect receptacle for the salt, when eating breakfast in bed. It works especially well with hard boiled eggs; the outer diameter of the button’s rim limits the surface area of the egg that can be salted to a small mouthful. With practice and some care it can also provide the perfect dipping point when eating soft boiled eggs with soldiers. I have been told, although I have not tried this myself, that celery eaten this way is exceptionally good. One word of advice if your sharing: make sure you get the fluff out first.
    Thank’s for visiting my blog: http://www.haresonthehill.co.uk I hope you visit again. I shall be following your blogging progress with considerable interest.

  12. Eva Stanley says:

    Thank you stopping by my new wildlife art blog, EvasWildlifeArt.WordPress.com, and also for starting my day with humor- both with your young daughter (I mothered two kids, so I totally understand!), and with the odd things that people often come up with as ways of expressing themselves! If was fun!

  13. I have never understood the Turner Prize either. 😦

  14. As a friend of mine put it: “That’s Canberra for you: tits on both sides”

  15. […] of views doesn’t change according to subject or category. I’ve written about my children, art, Bob Marley and naked Winston Churchill. My most successful post was about Land Rovers, of all […]

  16. Once again some Aussie has made a complete tit (or udderful of tits) out of themselves. Not all of us are such creative geniuses (thank the gods for that!)
    As for mothers day, my kids slept at a friends place last night. I got to wake up to a child free breakfast that I enjoyed hot! 🙂 And since I’m first up in our house by ages, breakfast in bed is not happening.

  17. Ellespeth says:

    How totally sweet is this? LOL! And she looks so cute and proud 😛 One must enjoy these sorts of days for,, sooner than we hope, they are but a memory on the cake of life.
    Thanks for dropping by my blog. Until next time,
    Ellespeth

  18. kalabalu says:

    young daughter’s attempt to make breakfast at bed for her mommy as compared to a floating balloon that is under “art”..which is more unacceptable as an act..hmmm latter, atleast the girl’s thought is pure

  19. luxaeternaimaging says:

    I have not laughed this hard in a log time. You Sir are a genius! As an artist this post was especially entertaining… perhaps my next photograph should be something completely ridiculous… 🙂

  20. Lyn says:

    Thank you for a wonderful start to my mother’s day morning. It’s 7:30am and I’ve just made myself a cuppa. Your “Breakfast in Bed” tale reminded me of when my son was small and would make me breakfast in bed with the help of his older (9) sister and younger (5) sister. Duly presented on a tray, complete with a bedraggled dandelion, I dined on coolish toast with butter and Vegemite and a mug of Vegemite tea (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.). Children are wonderful and grandchildren are your reward for not killing your children 🙂

    As for the whale…it’s just another joke from a government who are more like a bunch of clowns in a circus.

    • 23thorns says:

      my little sister used to bake for me when I came home from boarding school. Her standard recipe was half a cup of flour, three eggs, and a tablespoon full of salt, baked into an eggcup. Being spoiled isn’t always a good thing.

  21. Winnie says:

    I’d appreciate the skywhale if it isn’tsupposed to be commemorating Canberra’s centenary. It begs the question of, do they even think about public opinion? But wow, the Turner prize sure takes art to a new level.

  22. kelloggs77 says:

    At around the age of three, my daughter once brought me a picture she had drawn and told me, “Mom, this is a-shrait (abstract) art. It’s when you don’t know what something is.” Boom. On a related note, there is a new reality show about these ladies who help women find their correct bra size, which is supposedly life changing. I think this whale would be the perfect walk-on guest.

  23. narf77 says:

    It’s 5.20am…skywhale is not art at this time of morning…skywhale is nightmare…last night I dreamed that Barack Obama was in love with me…wouldn’t leave me alone (entirely understandable) AND I invented a brand new dry cell, magnetic, liquid fusion battery (watch me disappear like Tesla now! 😉 ) tonight, apparently, the powers that be have decided to test my nocturnal synaptic mettle with a massive flying whale cow…you know when you have those dreams…the dreams that make you scream inside your head and your partner tells you “I think you were singing last night in your sleep…” those dreams? I think I am having one right now! “SKY WHALE AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!” what’s worse is it is actually IN AUSTRALIA and not all that far (as the crow/cow-whale flies!). Take that cow/whale back to the 50’s…to the artistic black and white stripe beret wearing French artistic communes and they would soon deal with it. They wouldn’t even look at it…wouldn’t even “entertain” it in their hip and cool jazz fuguish world…they would all raise their cigarellos and long thin cigarette holders up en masse and the cow/whale would be gone in a puff of existential gas…much like it’s creators deserve to be treated…like so much gas, rude, unwanted but something that we all have to collectively bear on odd occasions…

    At least the 2005 entry was functional…sounds like a real winner that year! Who wouldn’t want the skill to build a shed, dismantle it, row it down a stream to another site and reassemble it! Give the man a nobel prize! That is some seriously “useful” sh*t sir!

    You are almost there with the Aussie males…you forgot the gun…the cow/whale gun that is always hovering somewhere in the ute…”Strewth Brewce (you forgot to pronounce it right…) thees a bluddy wayle in the skoi! I recun we had bedda do sumthin about that…wayles cum from the see mate…that there is what is communly nown as an abori-ashun of naycha! Shootin it will do it a fayva. Its a bluddy freek mate”…one moment flying with purpose into the nightmares of one most undeserving Tasmanian middle aged hippy, next minute gone in a comic rendition of a Hannah Barbara cartoon, exuding gas at an incredible rate as it shoots off back to the U.K. where it so rightfully belongs.

    • 23thorns says:

      i’m going to read between the lines here and guess that you’re not impressed by the Skywhale. I’m sorry, but it looks like you guys are stuck with her forever, drifting tragically through your skies, endlessly calling out for a mate who will never answer. God help you if one does. I shudder to think of what would be dangling off his shoulders…..

  24. pfstare says:

    That is just brilliant. Art or not, it’s going to cause an epidemic of smiles.

    • 23thorns says:

      There have got to be people out there who haven’t seen it on the news. Can you imagine that thing rising up behind your neighbour’s house unannounced!

      • pfstare says:

        Oh definitely. I hope none of the above have taken any illegal substances before that happens either, as that could produce some interesting results…

  25. You know, as a human being, and a snarky, cunical one at that i appreciate your humor. As an artist, I too am challenged by the concept of someone defecating in a can and calling it art. Thanks for the snark and I hope the smell of eggs comes out of your bedding.

  26. Remember the inflatable kangaroos at the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony? I think that’s where we Aussies got on the slippery slope …

  27. Amber Perea says:

    Sometimes parenting becomes a little surreal.

    Utter Genius and so true!

  28. Louella says:

    “Stewth, Bruce, look at that! The sky’s full of tits!” Says the first.

    I saw that picture somewhere on facebook, and just wrote No.

    *blank stares*

    In this case that artwork was a critter nubbed eyesore… lol

    Great blog 🙂 Thanks for the read 🙂

  29. Firstly, I would like to draw people’s attention away from my natty cow print flannels and towards my beautiful 19th century Irene Dyer watercolour on the wall. Now that’s art! And she was Australian which is kinda weird because you’re writing about Australia and “art”. Are you feeling the synchronistic feelings? Secondly, I am now absolutely convinced that I am a teenage boy in the disguise of a sensible mother; that dugong with appendages is hysterical!

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