Miley Cyrus: Conceptual Artist

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If I didn’t know it was made my Miley Cyrus, I would have just accepted it as someone’s graduate thesis art show, or a new exhibit from the latest art sensation. Assembling found objects into sculptures and setting them on pedestals is considered a valid approach. You can even arrange found objects on the floor. This sort of artmaking has been done by art world luminaries such as Jeff Koons, and Mike Kelly.

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Inflatable Flower and Bunny, by Jeff Koons.(vinyl, mirrors 32 x 25 x 19 inches 81.3 x 63.5 x 48.3 cm ) 1979.

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Deoderized Central Mass with Satellites, by Mike Kelly. Made from plush toys sewn together over wood and wire frames.

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This artfully arranged grouping of underwear, by Adriano Costa, (represented by Sadie Coles Gallery) sold for $3,500, at Art Basel.

Art today is not its own autonomous thing at all, but rather whatever anyone else invests in it and gets out of it. Rather than art being defined as in the past by middle-aged white male experts, art appreciation is more democratic now, and everyone can vote with a “click”. Contemporary art is more accessible, fun, friendly, cute, and spontaneous.

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This one’s by Miley. Certainly a nice array of bright colors.

It’s also a testament to the democracy and all-inclusive nature of conceptual art that a (presumably) trained musician can confidently assume she can make worthwhile contemporary art without any formal art training, whereas she’d probably think Jeff Koons making a pop song was about as plausible as Arnold Schwarzenegger doing it. Even better, if an artist were to do the aural equivalent of Miley’s sculpture – let’s say assemble a bunch of sounds from gift cards, buzzers, whistles, various toys, and whatnot – it wouldn’t be considered “music”, but rather “sound sculpture”, which is, again, “art”. Don’t agree? Just think of all the hell Yoko Ono got for her attempts at makig music.

We know from Postmodernism and other contemporary art theory that talent is irrelevant, skill is anathema, originality is impossible, and authenticity is a sham. What art is becomes entirely subjective, and without any objective standards (those are seen as an attempt to impose a master narrative, and as cultural imperialism) art is whatever anyone says it is. And what I say it is can’t possibly compete with what Miley Cyrus says it is, nor can my art possibly compete with hers. [That’s just a fact of life, and Eckhart Tolle and Oprah teach that we should accept reality without preference. It is never the situation, but only our attitude to it that causes us suffering.] What makes art great is likes, hits, tweets, shares, status, celebrity and belonging to the inside group. To get a lot of hits, well, you need to be famous.

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Another Miley Cyrus sculpture. It’s obviously in the tradition Warhol, Koons, Kelly and others established, which makes art available for everyone.

Whether Miley’s art is the real deal or not is determined by belief and money. If enough people believe it is good, than it is. If it is bought for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, than it is valuable. If it goes for millions, it’s priceless. And millions of people can’t be wrong.

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A Miley Cyrus pole. Some critics have made fun of her work, but this obviously took time and they are just attacking it because it’s by her.

Art is a popularity contest, and any art made by celebrities is automatically celebrated.

Miley has helped prove that conceptual art is for everyone, anyone can do it, and if enough of your fans like it, than anyone else who disagrees is just a hater. Sure, I don’t have enough fans to compete, but I’m not bitter about it. Why would I be? We shouldn’t resent other people for their successes any more than we should resent a scientist for discovering Penicillin. We all benefit from their hard work and innovations, and they lead the way to a better life. What’s more, in the art world since Andy Warhol we know that the artist IS the art, and making money is also part of the art.

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. ~ Andy Warhol

Another celebrity who has embraced art is James de Franco. He had himself photographed in approximations of all the poses and costumes Cindy Sherman used in her now-famous self-portraits as female stereotypes in Hollywood movies. It’s a cute idea, and fans get to see how he looks in each of these interpretations. This is more playful and breezy than art that takes itself too seriously.

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Left: de Franco’s “cover” of Sherman’s photo. Right: the original.

We should learn from those who have achieved their dreams, and rather than being envious make adjustments to our own approaches to improve our work and increase our own chances of making it in the art world. To do otherwise would be the equivalent of those people who refused to use email for years because they didn’t want to make the imaginative leap to accepting computer technology into their lives. The difference between success and failure may be as slim as ones attitude. One clever art student had a show in which he lost his virginity to gay sex. 10,000 people clamored to buy tickets to the show, and there were international reviews.

The true art of today is the art of making yourself a celebrity. With the right attitude, we can all be conceptual art stars, celebrities, and internet sensations.

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Miley Cyrus Twerking, by me.

Naturally, some more traditional artists may resent these sorts of accomplishments, but they are out of touch with the computer-savvy, up-and-coming generations, who can bridge popular culture, consumer culture, and high art without giving it a second thought. Rather than decry what is new and unfamiliar, we should try to find ways to find a seat on the glittering bus to fame, fortune, and millions of fans.

Other disgruntled types might argue that the reason celebrities are trying their hands at art is because they’ve realized that if you are a name brand artist, anything you do automatically gets attention, and thus is good, and so if you are a pop star or movie star, you are going into the game with an already established name brand. And obviously they also know that anything goes in contemporary art, so anything at all that they do will be considered art. But those critics are just sour grapes because they weren’t invited to the party because they aren’t popular. They need to let go of the precious “standards” or “ideals” they desperately cling to (and which are making them unpopular), realize that all is relative, and accept a simple truth: the art that the most people like is the most likable art.

And another truth is that those who have it, have it all. Pop stars can also be the new Van Gogh’s, and multi-millionaire CEOs with record-breaking bonuses can be the new enlightened bodhisattvas.

There’s even a very serious philosophical/theoretical underpinning for all of this, for those that like that sort of thing. We know from Postmodernism that everything is a cultural production, including science, hence everything is a story or “narrative”, and no narrative is superior to any other. There is no such thing as true objectivity. Art is up to you, just as it is up to you whether global warming is a hoax or not; whether UFOs are being held by the CIA in secret facilities or not; whether the Holocaust was staged or not; or even if evolution is a fiction or not…

Or not.

~ Ends

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