Deskilling is Killing Art

Joan Mitchell

Picture this. You treat yourself to dinner at a top-rated restaurant and at $50 a plate, you’re expecting something special. The waiter brings a vile pile of undercooked junk food that you wouldn’t eat on your most drunken night in college. The waiter politely informs you that the chef is deskilled. He has no formal training in the kitchen, but has the creative genius to combine oatmeal with escargot. Or imagine going to the symphony and having to endure two hours of auditory assault by a deskilled orchestra that makes an elementary school ensemble sound accomplished. The program eloquently explains that this cacophony is the result of years of never practicing and makes commentary on the chaos of contemporary culture. Imagine your sheer panic, learning moments before the anesthesia kicks in, that your surgeon is deskilled. The good “doctor” actually has a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology and practices a more “untrained” and “intuitive” approach.

Let’s be honest, no one in their right mind would give a dime of their money to a deskilled chef or orchestra and they certainly wouldn’t trust their life to a deskilled surgeon. Yet, people are willing to pay pricy museum admission ($20!) and millions of dollars in the art market to experience the work of deskilled artists. Only the art world gets away with this madness! Even Chuck Close, the reigning patriarch of the New York contemporary art scene has sounded the sirens: “There are two things that scare the shit out of me. One is today’s post-studio art – since people can’t afford studios, they’re designing 10,000-square-foot exhibitions on the back of a cocktail napkin without the benefit of trial and error. Second, and scariest of all, is the movement towards deskilled art. Nothing ever got made without some kind of skill – you wouldn’t expect a musician to not know how to play the guitar?” Continue reading “Deskilling is Killing Art”