Friday, September 25, 2015

The daily grump, or, a finely detailed discussion of all the things I am grumpy about, part #1,000,000,001

Public art: I have decided that I do not like it very much, and, what's worse, I find that I am having more and more opportunities for not liking it very much, at great length, everywhere I turn, which makes me like it even less.

Politicians, at the best of times, are the sort of people who get excited about paving footpaths deep into the heart of the majestic wilderness, setting fences up, and generally plonking gigantic roadways and tollways and bridges here, there, and everywhere. So much so that it is getting that we can't see the footpaths for the fences for the roadways for the tollways for the bridges, much less the majestic wilderness that is allegedly there in the first place. This would all be quite quaint and charming in its own way, and after all, if you don't find a place in politics for these sort of people, where would they go?

Unfortunately, lately politicians seem to have developed taste and culture; and now, instead of getting excited about slabs of concrete or chunks of asphalt, they are developing an alarming amount of enthusiasm for paying excessive amounts of money for art. Not their own art, of course, and nor is it their own money, naturally: that would encourage unnecessary feelings of frugality and thriftiness, which are highly disadvantageous to a political career.

And what sort of art do they like to spend excessive amounts of money on, these people who previously exercised their talents in spending excessive amounts of money on slabs of concrete and chunks of asphalt? Huge art, horrible art, art both hugely horrible and horribly huge so that you can't help but notice it being horribly huge wherever you turn. Oh look, it's a gigantic fucking silver gnome. Oh yeah, there's that arse ugly fake hotel. How about that! And what is most infuriating about all of this is not the expense, or the ugliness, or the cheap attention-grabbing nature of it all, or even the hugeness, it is the inescapable impression that one is being imposed upon, that your own artistic tastes don't matter, that it has all been settled and decided for you by people with more - well, not more taste than your own, certainly, and not necessarily more intelligence than you, either, but certainly more money than you. Oh, they've got bucketloads of that last one. And look, here's some culture, so you don't have to worry about it. There you go, you slobs, have as much culture as you can take!

It is all of a piece with that other common view about people who inhabit the suburbs, that they are an undiscerning mass who generally will do everything they can to avoid culture. But that was never true, not really, since every occasion a person in the suburbs spends not going out to a night in the theatre or visiting the local art gallery or looking fashionable in the company of other fashionable people on Brunswick Street or Sydney Road, they might just be spending quietly at home reading a book or watching the telly or having a party with friends. But no, the assumption seems to be that these people must have culture, the right sort of culture, whether they like it or not, and, oh look, there's another vomit-coloured and turd-shaped statue of Brobdingnagian proportions being erected in the oval behind your house, obstructing your view, grabbing your attention, just when you thought they really were going to let you get away with standing around idly in the backyard admiring clouds.... Will anyone save us from this sudden discovery of taste and culture on the part of politicians?


Thanks to a rather surprising coincidence of events and happenstance, I recently, in the course of two days, came into the possession of three (or possibly four*) student journals from two separate universities (Melbourne and La Trobe). As you may know, I am frequently in the habit of reading such literature in my ongoing quest for more things to be grumpy about, so I eagerly leapt upon these latest publications. 

The results were lamentably free of poor writing, reprehensibly well written; barely a howler here or a mistake there to get outraged about. I was thrown into such desperate straits that The Grump had almost decided to get grumpy about a lack of things to get grumpy about (it's been known to happen before). It was only at the last minute that I was saved from this by noticing the apparently ubiquitous label above articles: "Trigger warning" - often substituting any actual introduction or editorial note. "Trigger warnings" were common to both publications from Melbourne and La Trobe. suggesting that it's not only in these two publications that one might find such stuff. 

It is curious to observe how infantile trends that seem to begin in student culture in the United States make their way rapidly to Australia. Just why we should feel compelled to imitate this latest catchphrase (there've been a few come and go since I was at uni) is beyond me. Australian students, take a stand, be patriotic - let us independently come up with our own twaddle, free of this American nonsense! Trust me, I'm a grump! 

*There is a certain amount of quantum uncertainty about such things in my universe. 

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