Research, Sights

Feelgood art and Jeremy Deller retrospective

Wow! Isn’t this grand? Vanessa Thorpe’s article, “Feelgood art: the pick-me-up to get us through an age of anxiety,” appeared on yesterday.

She cites artists encouraging positive emotions: Michael Landy’s kindness-on-the-Underground project, Tracey Emin’s “trust me” neon, the title of Jeremy Deller’s upcoming retrospective at the Hayward.*

But wait, I think all of these artists aren’t so one-dimensional that their work could be considered “feelgood.”

I’m thrilled to bits to hear about artists considering psychology from non-negative attitudes, as well as the influence of positive psychology expanding into the arts and humanities, but Thorpe’s article is not that. I think Thorpe set up an annoying happy face in the headline and lede only to slap it down in the article. It’s simple-minded to call artwork concerning positive affect “feelgood” and “pick-me-up.” It’s a misinterpretation of Deller, whose work has been consistently class-aware and courageous. Thorpe acknowledges as much, after rankling readers into mild outrage in their aversion to unabashed sentiment. Desparate, newsworthi-fying journalese.

*Actually, this is grand:

February 22 – May 13, 2012
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People
Hayward Gallery, London

Deller’s a brilliant artist, I love his work and thoughtful approach to developing projects and working with people. Plus, the Hayward is an amazing space. I really wish I could pop over to the Southbank Centre this spring for this!


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