Back in the 2000s, when I was an undergrad at the University of Manitoba School of Art I had an idea. And that was to start an “art movement” called Stupidism. This idea has been floating around in my head for years, so does that mean it’s a good idea? I mean, bad ones don’t stick around. Right?
When I was in grad school at the University of Ottawa, I introduced the concept and thought maybe it might end up being the subject of my MFA thesis. I ended up essentially abandoning it. Fun fact: if you tell academics that “we, all human beings are a little stupid, including you and me,” some of them take offense. Perhaps if I’d said, “we, all humans, have cognitive biases that we need to constantly try to overcome, we tend to use flawed heuristics to solve problems and we’re prone to employing logical fallacies in our arguments”, maybe it would have gone over better? Because that’s how I would say it now. I guess I wasn’t ready to talk about it back then.
So what is Stupidism? It started out as a reaction to an art movement called Stuckism. When I first heard about the Stuckists, I thought maybe I was one. But when I read the Stuckist Manifesto, I realized that there was too much in it that I didn’t agree with. For example: “Artists who don’t paint aren’t artists.” I wasn’t a painter at the time, and even now that I am one, I just can’t agree with that statement.
So when I realized that I wasn’t a Stuckist, I thought what am I? A Stupidist! Kinda funny, right? But then I had to answer the obvious question: What is a Stupidist? I decided that it was a way of keeping myself humble. I could call myself a skeptic, because I tend to be skeptical of claims that people make without good evidence. But if I call myself a Stupidist, and I come at a subject from the position that I am a little stupid and I truly know very little about the world, that might be an even better way of framing my position. Also, I think it’s kinda funny! I’m not saying it’s hilarious, just kinda funny.
Now, when I was working on my MFA, most of the professors didn’t agree with me. They just didn’t see the humour. And in their defense, I had written a version of the Stupdist Manifesto that I just couldn’t seem to make funny, even though I am a bit of a satirist/humourist. Also, it had a lot of swearing in it which offended the sensibilities of at least one of my professors. And, in the end, I had an idea for my thesis that just kind of organically developed that I liked better. I’ll talk about that in a post one day soon.
So why am I thinking about it now? To be honest, virtually everything I’ve done since grad school, and even before, I do consider to be Stupidist work,
even if I don’t say it out loud. But anyway, I’ve been making new paintings based on George Condo’s concept of Artificial Realism and I started to ask myself: “are these Stupidist works too?.” I think they are, any thoughts as to why? Also, should I even be talking about this? I mean, isn’t framing my work as “Stupidism” a great way to shoot your art career in the foot? Probably, but I am The World’s Stupidist™ Artist (not really trademarked), so that’s just something that I would do!