Who’s Afraid of Modern Art? by Daniel Siedell

Chapter 5, “The Art” (all quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the book)

Modern Art Book CoverFrom a previous discussion:

“Serrano’s work has been characterized by the creation of beautiful images of the most repugnant and taboo subjects, such as cadavers, mutilated animals, the homeless, and even high-ranking members of the Ku Klux Klan. Serrano’s work creates a virtually inexplicable experience, in which horror is overwhelmed in and through beauty. The horror does not disappear – the tragedy of the suicide in the morgue, the severed cow’s head, or the racism of the Klan member remain but is received through beauty. Serrano’s is an aesthetic vision that sees beauty in not merely a ‘broken’ world…but in a world torn asunder in horror (suicides and lynchings), in which even the food that we eat demands savage butchery.” p98


“A great work of art continues to work long after the initial encounter. It seems to metastasize, spreading throughout your imaginative life, burrowing into all the crevices of you emotional and intellectual life – especially those new ideas and experiences that remain raw and unassimilated.” p102

Question: Is there art that has done this to you? What works? Share.


“This has been my experience with Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Passion According to Andrei (1966)…the film…I can only confess is not finished with me yet, and apparently, neither am I with it.” p102

“‘The Trinity that can be found in the Tretjakov gallery in Moscow gave me the idea for the film. Upon seeing the icon I was able to imagine life in this terrible time.’ Tarkovsky’s experience of a single painting, Andrei Rublev’s famous icon The Holy Trinity (c. 1455), was the origin of his second feature film…The film is about a painting, although Rublev is never depicted painting the picture and in fact the film depicts the time before he decides to paint the picture and culminates in the monk’s decision to go to Moscow to paint it…Tarkovsky’s goal was not to make a biography, but to use a historical figure in order to explore the ‘difficulty in being an artist’…The result was a…film made up of six black and white vignettes…which paint a bleak emotional landscape of inescapable suffering through bitter cold, snow, mud, poverty, and indescribable cruelty, with and against which the artist struggled.” p102 &103

“Against this backdrop of misery, the pursuit of arts seems at best gratuitous and at worst evil – a retreat from the harsh realities of public life into the comfortable confines of the private imagination…Rublev struggles with the futility of art in the face of such suffering, beauty in the face of evil – including his own.” p103

Question: Responses?


“Tarkovsky’s film poses the question, how can such a masterpiece of art and beauty emerge from such pain and suffering? Tarkovsky observes, ‘Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal; that longing that draws people to art.’ The answer, which the film seems to offer in and through the mud, is grace.” p106