Beautiful Losers is a documentary on the do it yourself art culture that became prominent in the early 90s. It interviews several now famous artists that had their beginnings in finding each other, hanging out and creating things that interested them. The stories, art and history are well presented and interesting though there are times when the stories and views expressed by the artists can begin to feel repetitive.
This documentary got me to think about a few things unrelated to its explicit presentation. The first thing I noticed was how much of a Gen X phenomenon the whole movement was. All of the artists exhibit very similar postmodern, post-structuralist views and attitudes. While that is in no way a denigration of the work they did or they influence they've had it does compartmentalize them to some extent and reveal limitations to continued influence. This makes me wonder what kind of influence and ideas Millenials will come up with relative to art during our time. Is there anything left to do in art once DIY street art has been done ad nauseam?
I saw a video of a TED presentation where a lady gave a defense for why she believed video games is a legitimate possibility for "high art". She compared video games in its current stage to the beginnings of language and drawing. In the beginning they were means for simple communication, poetry and artistic expression came later. Video games are just beginning to explore areas beyond the traditional conception of the win-lose game. Will this be the realm of our contribution to art history and aesthetic evolution?
Another thing I began to wonder is what exactly makes a person passive? Some of the videos of the gallery shows are unintentionally funny because the viewer watches a bunch of yuppies and hipsters walk around consuming more of the same ideas and "creativity" that have turned them into another brick in the wall of a mass homogeneous cliche. The street art movement has been trying to battle a kind of passivity in the aesthetic of the urban environment of sameness of colors and materials in the buildings. This then ends up having implicit or explicit critiques of consumerism, technoculture, urbanization, suburbanization and the politics that underlie much of these phenomena. However, for all the ingenuity and originality it seems like one kind of passivity has been traded for another. Inundated by the passivity of apathy represented by mass culture, brick, concrete and steel we swing to another end where we accept media overload: billboards, music always playing, latest movies, life determined by the tv schedule, etc. In street art's best Brechtian moments hasn't it become little more than the cultural equivalent of the internet pop up ad demanding everyone's attention to some idea or way of seeing?
I think the most interesting questions and thoughts this documentary raises are those it probably didn't intend to raise. Where is art headed? What will the next generation do? Can art continue to distinguish itself or is it bound to eventually repeat itself and become a rehashing of everything that's been done before?