Monthly Archives: May 2013

But is it REAL? Is Art a Joke? – Five Funny Things

I have been thinking about abstraction recently, particularly the relation of what is abstracted to what it has been abstracted from, since it seems to me to have a bearing on things that are of interest to me, such as philosophy, metaphor and art. So I was amused to run across a couple of things on Facebook and Google Plus which seemed to have a bearing on the ideas I was trying to develop, and which in turn reminded me of a couple of other things. Here they are, in the order they occurred:

First, from Google Plus:

miracles photoshop graph

next, from Facebook:

F OFF Harriers

The picture was accompanied by this (rather earnest) commentary:

Look at this carefully. It is a brilliant example of British humour! 

The British government has scrapped the Harrier fleet and on their farewell formation fly-past over the Houses of Parliament they gave the government a message.

Lean back a bit from your computer monitor and squint. Seriously … push your chair back a couple of feet.

My hat is off to the man who was leading this Squadron. (Shorty)

On Facebook, the discussion turns very rapidly to the question of whether or not the picture is genuine, in the sense of recording an actual event (as the commentary suggests). Some people are not bothered at all, pointing out that it is funny in any case; but others get quite angry and exercised on the point – evidently, for them, the picture only makes them laugh if it depicts an actual event; if it is ‘faked’ it just makes them angry (perhaps because they feel they have been taken in).

This called to mind something from Flann O’Brien’s celebrated ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ column in the Irish Times, which he wrote under the name of Myles na gCopaleen:

WANTED, WIFE, copper-faced, any length, capable of being bent. Box – ‘

This is an advertisement that appeared recently in an evening paper. It is obvious, of course, that ‘wife’ is a misprint for ‘wire’.

To be honest for a change, I invented this advertisement out of my own head. It did not appear in any paper. But, if any reader thinks that any special merit attaches to notices of this kind because they have actually appeared in print, what is to stop me having them inserted and then quoting them?

Nothing, except the prohibitive cost.

 -The Best of Myles, p114

And I was also reminded of a famous incident from classical antiquity – some 25 centuries ago – the contest between the painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius:

…when they had produced their respective pieces, the birds came to pick with the greatest avidity the grapes which Zeuxis had painted. Immediately Parrhenius exhibited his piece, and Zeuxis said, ‘Remove your curtain that we may see the painting.’ The painting was the curtain, and Zeuxis acknowledged himself conquered, by exclaiming ‘Zeuxis has deceived birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis himself.’

– Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary

and finally, to round it off nicely and tie the last piece to the first, that camera & photoshop graph, there is this,

the news that one of the four Turner Prize finalists this year is Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, ‘a portrait painter, whose subjects are imaginary.’

These five things seem to me to combine so happily, and to be so pregnant with meaning concerning the things I discuss in this blog, that rather than comment at length, I shall leave them for you to savour and make your own inferences.



Filed under art, philosophy