The art exhibit “Lifting,” which displays various works of theft and vandalism at the TCU-owned Fort Worth Contemporary Arts gallery, seems to portray the newest edge in art.
According to a Skiff article, one piece by Ann Messner depicts her attempting to steal T-shirts by putting on as many as she can in front of a security camera. Although a risky and somewhat odd move, Messner said the short film from 1978 wasn’t about stealing, , but rather the art of theft, because she was not seen leaving the store with the shirts.
The art of theft sounds twisted in itself, but when it is applied to art it seems almost normal. Although this exhibit is certainly not traditional by any means, its modern look at how an illegal act can be construed as artistic is an innovative concept.
Taking something from the ordinary and making it extraordinary is what art is all about, and contemporary art takes it a step further with a mixture of ingenuity and commonality about the everyday things in life by putting them on display in unique ways.
That mixture is echoed throughout the exhibit with other works, including one titled “Room 28.” Joel Ross’ piece, which displays evidence that he vandalized a motel room, is complete with photos and a statement. Damage to hotel rooms is nothing new and because it happens casually it makes an attractive situation to depict artistically.
However, this artistic concept does have its drawbacks.
Is taking or vandalizing things, or appearing to do so, ethical? And what about the artists? Should they be viewed as thieves and delinquents, or as artists trying to communicate a message? And if so, what are they saying? Maybe their message is one of those everyone-takes-something-different-from-it mindsets and people can interpret it as they wish or as it applies to them, as some art does communicate various things to different people. However, not everyone is going to find all art techniques acceptable, and this one might go too far in appearing to condone theft.
While the idea of portraying theft as artwork may disturb some people, I find it refreshing. After all, it is only art and it is not causing harm. Messner is quoted in the Skiff article saying she would not tell whether she did or did not actually take the shirts in her piece, saying that it took away from the tension of the work. And tension is what it adds.
Not knowing whether Messner’s piece is solely art by the action in itself, or if it is the act of stealing in which she partook, brings mystery into the work to say the least. It seems interesting when we do not know if she really did steal anything, but if we were to know that she had, that would change things. We would see her as a thief, not an artist, and her work would be a caught-in-the-act piece instead of a portrayal.
This exhibit takes art to a new level with the concept that the act of thieving is art. Its original and unusual characteristics make it an exciting new look at art, like any new development in an artistic movement. This is just saying that art can be found everywhere, including vandalized motels and security footage of shoplifting.
As with all things, this exhibit will either inspire and be applauded as a new artistic movement, or be seen as offensive by people who cannot see the true art behind the acts of thieving, which is an odd concept to grasp.
Either way, the exhibit is provocative and stimulates thought, which is art’s ultimate goal.
Anna Waugh is a freshman news-editorial journalism from Crowley.