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MINI BOOK REVIEW - WHY YOUR FIVE YEAR OLD COULD NOT HAVE DONE THAT


Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That – Modern Art Explained by Susie Hodge

 If you are one of those people who is occasionally baffled and bemused by the modern art world then don’t worry, you’re not alone. If you’re one of those people who finds yourself at art galleries gaping at what appears to be the remains of last nights dinner in a glass case or a pile of carefully placed bricks, trying for the life of you to figure out how it represents social hierarchies or the degenerative state of public transport systems…then, really, you’re not alone! And this book is the perfect book for you.

 I remember when I first came across Tracy Emin’s My Bed and feeling quite infuriated that such a thing could be considered art or that someone would be willing to pay £2m for it. I remember seeing a tin of baked beans (I think it was baked beans) at the Tate Modern with an estimated value of £1m and thinking “seriously, how are people getting away with this?!” But other than art classes at school and the occasional doodle-dabble, my art experience was limited so I couldn’t really claim to know enough to be a critic.

 Being more of a book-worm, words were always much easier for me to understand. From Bronte to Kerouac, traversing all kinds of literature weird and wonderful has always been my joy, but then it occurred to me that some of my favourite writers were the ones who dared to be different, to go against the grain of what’s expected and to absolutely flourish outside the margins of familiarity. And then I realised that that was what a lot of modern art was about, a kind of up yours to traditional art forms and a celebration of creative expression in and of itself. Hodge neatly explains how the mode of creativity is just as important, if not more so, to the end result. The use of objects, for example, are often representative of a particular era and so can depict multiple aspects of socio-political climates & their relationship with the artists, something arguably difficult to achieve from a five year old!

Apart from Hodge’s slightly stubborn attitude to the validity of all modern art, I did really enjoy the book. Hodge examines 100 works of modern art in a neat and stylistic way making it more a manual than a book with each work discussed on a double page & six individual sections highlighting the need-to-know facts about the work & the artist, and most importantly why a five year old really could not do it.

 However, whilst I found the book enlightening and enjoyed its provocative nature, there’s still a lot about modern art I find a bit exasperating and pretentious at times as it becomes a little too easy to talk the talk and forget the walk. Knowing the struggle many talented artists have to go through to get recognised whilst being side-lined by some genius with a lettuce leaf and few bricks (apologies Anselmo, I won’t be indulging in your Structure That Eats Salad anytime soon) I think I’ll always keep a critical (yet curious) eye on the modern art world.

But maybe that’s the point: surrender to all abstractions but never stop questioning everything around you. 

Peace & Love 

Alice