Cow Talk

In an earlier post I polemicised against the Cow Parade. Almost inevitably, this is something that has already been debated at the Virtual Stoa. Having missed the boat on this so long ago, I thought I’d try to bring something especially juicy to the conversational table

Lucky for me, critic-at-large, articulate authority, and good friend Al Bing (online here soon) agrees that the cows are dung. In her own words:

We can’t stop city tourism bureaux from coming up with marketing ploys, but is it too much to ask them to come up with an original idea, or at least not one that’s an also-ran 50 times over? And please, don’t call it art — that’s just an insult to every last artist in the city in question. Asking a talented local artist to fill in the details on a cow or some other municipal mascot is like giving Picasso a coloring book. As for artists who go along with this ill-conceived scheme: You’ve been pimped. You’ve only got yourselves to blame when your viewing public looks at your future efforts to win their attention with a skeptical eye, wondering if there is any inspiration in your work beyond prurient interest.

Let’s call these gimmicks what they are: Uninspired photo-op props for tourists that lack artistic merit and have little or no relevance to the artistic and cultural life of a community. Tourists can see similar mascots in cities around the world, so they fail as a tourist attraction as well as a work of art. Tax revenues would be much more profitably directed to local artists and non-profit cultural organizations that celebrate original thinking and cultural traditions, and offer lasting inspiration to locals and tourists alike. And if these mascots are corporate-sponsored, they’re little more than corporate logos in a cow costume. Public space should be reserved for the public interest, and public art that actually interests the public.

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