Hey! Yes, you, staring so intently at your computer screen. I know what you’re thinking. “My life is so unfulfilling. I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but I’m like the worst artist in the world! I’ll never accomplish my dream, and die morbidly obese and alone living in a split level shack in Montana near a colony of brown bears.”
What if I told you that you STILL CAN accomplish your dream? What If I told you that having any shred of artistic talent is totally unnecessary to actually become a great artist? No, I’m not making this up: you can do this RIGHT NOW, quickly and easily. How? By becoming a “conceptual artist”.
But what, Mr TJ, is “conceptual art”? I’m so glad you asked. When you think of “art”, you probably conjure up images of classical masterpieces (The Mona Lisa, The Sistine Chapel, and so on). Back in the era of classical art, to become a true artist, you needed to (somehow) tap into the universal wellspring of emotion among the human race, to create something of such transcendent beauty that generations hundreds, even thousands, of years in the future will still look upon your work and be moved.
Sounds a bit too intense, doesn’t it? Well, fear not! Being a “conceptual artist” has nothing to do with any of that! Anyone on Earth can be a “conceptual artist”! And I’m going to tell you how, in a few quick and easy steps.
Step One: Get an idea in your head. This is the “concept” of your piece of “conceptual art”. This idea can literally be anything, but it’s best to choose something sad or tragic that everyone can agree with. For instance, “The Holocaust Killed A Lot Of Jews” would be a good concept. So would “Religion Makes People Do Bad Things”. If you want to make your concept a bit more American centered, you could go with “We Don’t Treat Black People Very Well”. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’ll use that as my personal example.
Step Two: Once you have your concept, you need a canvas in which to represent it. This, of course, is the “art” portion. You could, theoretically, choose to actually work on traditional canvas, but that is typically frowned upon. What you should do is choose something odd and unexpected; this will demonstrate that you’re such a massive genius that you can literally create art out of anything. A few good examples: a rusted piece of scrap metal, a discarded banana peel, a human toe, roadkill, a collection of tree branches, or a nearly empty roll of toilet paper. I’ll be using that one for my example. By the way, if you’re wondering how you could possibly connect your concept with the canvas you’ve chosen, don’t worry about it! It’s actually super easy! But more on that later.
Step Three: Find a way to include something disgusting in your work. Any kind of bodily fluid, especially fluids that are expelled through the anus or genitals, is a particularly good choice, as this will make you appear “edgy” and “not afraid to offend”. Yes, blood and sex is very common in other modes of art (particularly, cinema and the novel), which would suggest that this step is unnecessary, but you must remember: the audience of your work is going to consist mostly of pretentious white teenagers and older British men, so this becomes a non-issue. For my example, I will use human feces.
Step Four: Find some way of presenting your work in a public setting. This more or less will different depending on the materials you chose to use, so I can’t offer any specific advice here; don’t let that worry you, just do whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just make sure it’s visually striking. For my example, I’ll present the used roll of toilet paper on a small porcelain table, and just throw the feces on every conceivable surface, making sure to nearly completely cover the roll in the process.
Step Five: Come up with a name for your work! The name should reflect your concept, but try and do it in the most convoluted way possible. This gives the audience more to think about. I would call my work, for instance, “I Left My Windpipe In Branson, Missouri”; if you don’t understand why, it’s OK. Of course, I know that the title really DOES refer to what I’m trying to say, but the fact I made it obscure means you have to think! Bonus points if you make your title either one word long, or paragraphs among paragraphs long. Extra bonus points if your title is in French, as this will give the impression that you are not only knowledgeable in French culture, but, by extension, implies that you worship the ground the Dadaists walk on, that you can recite any poem by Arthur Rimbaud from memory, and that you’ve seen every film ever directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
And that’s all you need to do! I know, too easy, right? But really, that’s all you need!
If you have trouble trying to figure out, as I mentioned before, how to tie your canvas to your concept, what to call your work, or anything like that, don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Really, you could even just do the first thing that comes to mind. Because here’s the beautiful thing: as a “conceptual artist”, you don’t need to explain anything regarding your work. Your work, of course, is a powerful artistic statement that speaks for itself. If anyone harasses you and says it’s too dense, it means nothing, or anything of that sort, remember, YOU are the artist here. Your job is to create. It’s up to the audience to get it. If they can’t get it, it obviously means they aren’t smart or sophisticated enough to fully grasp your creative and thought provoking ideas, and are only getting angry at you because they’re jealous.
If you’ve read through this far, congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a world-renowned “conceptual artist”. Perhaps, young pilgrim, someday you will have a gallery of your own, perhaps next to my gallery of rows of multicolored pieces of toast, which represents my view of the flaws of America’s Electoral College System. I understand it’s a lofty goal. But I wouldn’t write this if I didn’t have faith in you.