Australian TV Show Explores Art Boundaries

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Filed under: Media Literacy

Culture vulture
by Tim Elliott
The Sydney Morning Herald
October 15, 2007

Real culture, Westbury says, comes from the bottom up: it’s unruly, often illegal and frequently unloved (at least by the mainstream).

marcus_westbury_wideweb__470à—3120-200.jpgSay the word art and most people think of the Mona Lisa and long-dead Europeans such as Vincent Van Gogh. Mention art to Marcus Westbury and he thinks of weeds, graffiti and video games, plus a lot of other things that most people don’t consider to be art at all.

And in his new series, Not Quite Art, he’s trying to get us to think likewise.

Affable and articulate, Westbury has made a supple and free-ranging examination of where “art” and “culture” come from, while providing a tantalising glimpse of what’s going on away from the big city galleries. “Art excites me,” he says, “but the artists who excite me most aren’t dead and on the walls of revered cultural institutions, they are alive and making things now.”

Westbury, who describes himself as “a very lucky troublemaker”, has been putting together arts events and festivals for the past 10 years; he has worked with graffiti artists, anarchist collectives, major galleries and government policy committees. And yet his resolutely unorthodox take on the art world and a lack of formal art education that makes him perfectly qualified to host a show such as Not Quite Art.

“So much arts programming has a reverent, austere tone,” he says. “I wanted to get away from that, to make a show that was funny and cheeky and playful, because most of the artists that I know are funny and cheeky and playful.”

The WeedKiller/PestController project is just such an example. In 2002, Australian artists Nobody and Maxine Foxxx created a guided tour of an abandoned drive-in cinema; people donned earphones and sipped champagne while a voice-over described prominent weeds, their toxicity and how, in certain circumstances, it was illegal, according to the Noxious Weeds Act, to look at these plants without attempting to pull them out. So is this art or just an elaborately ironic prank?

“It doesn’t matter,” Westbury says. “In a way I don’t care whether things are art or not: that question is a bit of a wank. We live in an environment where culture is informed by a wide range of things, including video games, newspapers, writing, and not just things in galleries. I’m interested in provocative and challenging cultural contributions.” Read more of this article here.

Not Quite Art begins on the ABC on Tuesday at 10pm.

Photo: Brock Perks