Friday, 21 November 2014

What is Art, anyway? 10 art recipes from the Notebooks of Arnold Tuppley - out now on kindle

 What is Art, anyway?
What is Art, anyway?
available now on kindle
What is art, anyway? A good question, though ridiculous too since the accepted response nowadays is that art is anything that someone happens to think it is, if they bother to think it is anything at all. But for me, that is not enough.

In the 1990's I was a young man, and a painter, observing everywhere I looked the sudden and overwhelming fashion for conceptual art. But I could never square those artworks with what I did, to see them as the same thing. The tipping point came when I went to an exhibition with a few friends, lots of object type art, conceptual and pretty uninteresting. While I and the others went round the show, one of my friends, who shall remain nameless, spent the time looking at a fire extinguisher secured to the wall. He checked it carefully, top and bottom, both sides too, putting in a lot of effort to wring out every last drop of artistic merit from this work of art. After he had finished his careful observance, he then looked for the title card, something to tell him what is was, what he was meant to think about it, and who made it. But there was a problem: there was no title card; it was a fire extinguisher; it was for putting out fires, and as such was perfectly happy. But in this context it lacked something, something that every other object had to justify their place in the show: an artist. Ridiculous though it may sound, it is a true story. I knew then that there was something other in conceptual art, something that in no way related to the paintings I was doing.

Years later, and with conceptual art riding high as the predominant art-form thanks to Charles Saatchi and the now not so Young British Artists, it became apparent to me that nearly all of what they produced was not actually made by them at all, but was made by skilled craftsmen, engineers, all kinds of artisans whose skill was used to realise their artist's visions. The artist became something akin to a designer, a producer/director, and it was therefore clear, when looking at many of these works, that there had to be a set of instructions somewhere for the makers to follow. In short, there had to be a recipe.

And once you have cottoned on to that fact, seeing these things makes you realise how once the idea is there, the concept created, there is no need for any further artistic input. What art there is in the piece must necessarily lie in the idea behind it, and not in the object, so what does it matter who actually makes it? If someone else buys a shark, and pays the same company to build a large glass tank to house it in, immersed in formaldehyde, what is the actual artistic difference between you doing it and Damien Hirst? In my view, if the art is conceptual, then whoever makes it is irrelevant.

Well, you may or may not agree, and it's not an argument I really have any interest in pursuing as such, but what I am interested in is the idea of creating works of art, conceptual works of art, but not to make myself. After all, once the concept is conceived, the art is there; making it physical is simply a matter of manufacture.

So I decided to write a book, a book of art recipes for anyone to follow, for anyone to make. But to bring them into context there had to be a story, something that creates the context, for each recipe, and for the idea as a whole.

The full story of Arnold Tuppley and the many deaths and murders that characterised the last two years of his life is a finished novel as yet unpublished. But the recipe book, the original idea, is now out on kindle for everyone to see, at the blisteringly fine price of only £1.99.

Whether you are interested or not in art, I hope at least that the stories will entertain you. Some might think the art a joke, and others not; all I can say is, that as with the very notion of art itself nowadays, it is whatever you think it is.

From the introduction to

What is Art, Anyway? 10 art recipes from the notebooks of Arnold Tuppley

The art recipe, as we now know it, owes its existence to the rare talent and traumatic life of Arnold Tuppley. It was Arnold Tuppley who reduced conceptual art to a simple set of instruction for anyone to follow without losing any of its artistic merit, and who alongside Marco Chillds created LIBERART to disseminate those works, the initial catalogue of which came from the notebooks Tuppley diligently maintained, and which I had the privilege of studying before they were handed over to the police.

We will not be looking at the life of Arnold Tuppley himself, many of the details of which you are no doubt aware of through the salacious reporting that surrounded his death – no, that is for another time. What we shall examine is some of the most important questions that art has to answer through the recipes Tuppley collected, which not only serve to elucidate the true remit of art, but also to follow the thinking of the man whose efforts helped redefine the art-world, and whom we can thank for the many works of art that are even now being re-created across the world, for new audiences, and new generations. Of course, in some cases that necessarily means delving into the troubled months before he died, the deaths of the Weisse twins, and the murder of Zara Friese, but only insofar as they pertain to the works themselves.

Some of the recipes he created himself it would not be appropriate to print, such as his legendary Bad Egg, highly toxic but beautiful, which should you be fool enough to eat would certainly kill you; or his last recipe of all, The Artist and The Damned, which drew his life to a dramatic, and public, conclusion. But I hope these omissions and the troubles he experienced don’t overtake the importance of his role in proliferating the art recipe as an exciting and powerful format, which is a legacy that any one of us, leading a full, long, and happy life, would be proud of, and is indeed a fitting epitaph for the self-denied artist – Arnold Tuppley.