Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tim Blair, the stupefyingly dull grand prix, Andrew Frost and ambiguity in art and sport

Let's count some of the ways Tim Blair has managed to get his knickers in a knot these past few days.

Well there was The Age's Greg Baum calling the Australian F1 a tired old race in his column True or false: Sakhir, Spa, Sao Paulo host a GP?

Baum had the cheek to say that there were only a couple of significant efforts to overtake and both of them led to crashes, with the safety car winning the race. Baum, in a kindly understatement, called the race stupefyingly predictable. I suppose he couldn't say boring as batshit in a family newspaper.

True to form, petrol head Blair listed all the other wonderful overtaking manouevres which managed to raise from the dead the miniscule crowd as they marveled at the Victorian government being taken for economic multiplier mugs yet again.

Then he takes a sideswipe at the Archbishop of Canterbury for saying God is not a safety net that guarantees a happy ending in this world, from which Blair concludes that the Archbishop is out of his mind. The Archbishop said humanity faced being choked, drowned or starved by its own stupidity. Blair seems to think that this is shuffling God down the spiritual order. Perhaps the Archbishop needed to say that humanity is currently conducting its business rather like Kubica and Vettei trying to take a corner, but Blair'd probably put that down to softer tyres, and order the Brazilian rain forests demolished in search of the finest rubber.

Then Blair has a go at the ABC's Andrew Frost for daring to suggest that ambiguity is a core virtue of art that mocks the whole idea of certainty. Blair finds this conceit extraordinarily difficult to understand, though whether it's the notion of certainty or ambiguity, or their juxtaposition, it's hard to say. Frost is back again tonight in Artscape with Lust For Life, a program which should get Blair going again because it deals with contemporary artists tackling political issues. What the fuck would artists know about politics compared to petrol heads?

I guess Frost should have explained it by referencing the Grand Prix Corporation's method of counting crowd numbers at the Grand Prix. For them there's the certainty that the crowd numbers are as strong as ever, hence their ability to announce numbers in advance, and not worry about an actual head count. To the cynic, this leads to a certain ambiguity, as if nothing is but what is not, and the actual numbers might have seen a substantial drop this year. 

Guess we'll never know because it sounds like ambiguity is the natural by-product of a petrol head sport that mocks the whole idea of certainty. 

There's plenty more, but I always say vita brevis, and hit the road after a brief exposure to the gadfly's relentless obscurantism.

By the way, given the number of hits from people searching for Michael Zavros's Archibald Prize finalist work Ars longa, vita brevis, I thought I'd throw a still of it up at the front (and of course it's still on show at the NSW Art Gallery if you can tear yourself away from never-ending replays of the grand prix as a way of achieving a zen intensity of mind). 

But hellfire and damnation, the painting raises even more disturbing questions for me and Blair. What the heck does it mean? What's this Zavros on about with his arcane Latin title? Is it a picture of a skull? Is it a homage to medieval forms? Is it sunglasses a pair of shoes, and a collection of men's toiletries, as owned by the artist arranged in a strange order?

Damn you, you ambiguous artists with your clever dick nuances, subtleties, ambiguities and uncertainties. Why can't you just give us the certainty beloved by thick petrol heads?

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