What’s the Use of Modern Art?

In Castel di Tusa, you can sleep in it, sit on it, eat off it and even take a pee in it. Seriously.

In the old days, art was mainly a way of preserving moments in time and, especially, commemorating or glorifying certain people for posterity. Nowadays we have photography and the Internet for that, so art needs a new reason for existing.

We visited the art hotel of Castel di Tusa recently, called Atelier Sul Mare, which I think has redefined art perfectly. I used to think modern art was a load of garbage, but that was because I saw it in galleries, where it had no purpose. It was cut off from real life, with no context and nothing to say. When the artist composes a pretentious explanation a thousand words long telling you what the art is saying. it isn’t saying it.

This hotel did have a message. Lots of them, actually. I loved it, and not just because we were shown round by a deliriously good-looking bloke. From the outside it looks only slightly unusual…

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but the reception desk directly challenges you to think deeply, in several languages, and displays art you can lean on…

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the dining room is like a forest full of art you can sit on

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…whilst the entrance area contains art you can play with.

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You can have a guided tour of the rooms not occupied by guests, which have been decorated by famous artists from around Italy and some from abroad.

This is a bedroom for removing our worries and fears. You sit on the chair and try to climb mentally to freedom, The chair is deliberately uncomfortable, because letting go of our negative thoughts is usually a painful process.

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This was the pyramid room, in which everything was made from different types of metal and the bed was shaped like a pyramid. The pyramid is aligned with the sun and interacts with the solstices. Here’s the metal toilet. Honestly, you can poop in that if you need to. It does flush.

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We were shown around the rooms by this bloke, who I SWEAR was dreamy in real life. As you can see, my future potential as a portrait photographer looks grim. Seriously grim. He could probably take legal action against me for making him look so awful.

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Mr. Handsome is standing in The Room of Sicilian Puppets, a great cultural tradition that is still alive. The artist who decorated this room grew up as the son of a professional puppet maker, which is highly skilled work passed down from father to son. On the wall you can see pieces of puppet armour, cut out but yet to be shaped to fit.

This little theatre is visible from the corridor outside the room. The purpose of this room is to transform you from being a spectator of life into an active performer in it.

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Inside, here is the back end of the theate which you see from inside the room.

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Whoever stays in this room is invited to conclude their stay by putting on a puppet show for the other guests. To get them in a puppety mood, the room features puppet helmet light fittings:

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A theatrical backdrop for a bedspread:

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A shower decorated with scenes from famous puppet plays:

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…and a range of puppet heads, which the artist said was the first thing he saw every morning as a little boy when he opened his eyes.

Puppet makers are not rich, and their workshop is usually the family home. Everyone squeezes into a tiny space; humans, puppets and tools. For this reason the artist specifically asked the hotel to give him the smallest room they had, for him to work in.

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I found this room utterly enchanting in every detail and I think it was probably my favourite. Here are some of my other favourite rooms (by which I mean, rooms I managed to take reasonably decent photos of).

Oh alright then, actually, they were ALL my favourite rooms. How could you possibly choose?

This one has the Bocca Della Verità as a bed. The “Mouth of Truth,” as it is know, is a very old stone face in Rome into which you are supposed to stick your hand if suspected of lying; if you are indeed telling whoppers, your hand gets bitten off. Sleeping in this bed is supposed to press you to question whether you are being honest in the way you live.

I shoved my hand into this bed and I can hereby prove, by the fact I am touch typing, that I still have all my digits intact! I am honest as a judge!

You’ll notice I managed to make Mr. Handsome’s legs look fat and dwarfy in this picture. He was actually extremely tall. It’s a good job I didn’t risk slotting my lying camera into that bed, otherwise it would have got its flash unit bitten off.

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This room is entirely lined with copper and represents drought. There were huge lumps of rock salt, like a rockery, lying in heaps from which the lighting emanated. The corner of the room had a tiny pool of water, to make you consider the value of water as a precious and limited resource.

In Sicily of course we never forget this, especially those of us who have NO RUNNING WATER.

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In this room, light is life and emotion. You enter the room and find it completely plain white.

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If you close the shutters, some messages start to appear.

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Then you can turn on the light panel and coloured lights will emanate from under the bed and mysteriously make the room keep changing colour. Your emotions keep changing as the colours change, and whichever one fits you is the one you can stick with to fall asleep to.

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This is a bit of art you can shower in. The water comes out of the giant copper coil.

All the showers were amazing, but hard to photograph. My favourite had a glass ceiling with water gushing across it and landing on you in the bath like a waterfall.

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This room gives you doorways everywhere. You are lost inside, you don’t know where to go, and all you can hear is the sea coming from television screens. It’s fake, you feel surrounded and trapped in fake things, and you want reality. You want to find the way out, but which door should you open? You have to try all of them till you eventually get the right one, see the real sea which is outside your window, and finally the artificial sea stops.

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So, what do you think of modern art?

Is it useful, or pointless?

Also VOTE PLEASE:
I have altered to design of my blog a bit, and hubby thinks it looks awful and that I should change it back to how it was. What do you prefer – old look or new look?

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14 thoughts on “What’s the Use of Modern Art?

  1. What happened to ‘I must absolutely never, ever look lustfully at anyone other than my husband ever again. Like, NEVER.’?! Hotel looks interesting to visit (especially the light and emotion room) but does not seem to be a very comfortable place to stay. I like the old design…

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  2. Cool hotel! And I’m kinda liking the new design. Love the picture. And…are you still without running water? Hard to believe…but no, having dealt with Sicilian bureaucracy, not really that hard to believe at all.

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    1. Well, he have running water now – we got it back one month ago. BUT the water company has actually been declaed bankrupt, so we are all now wondering for how much longer….
      Meanwhile. we have just got the electricity back after a 24 hour power cut. When you lose electricity in Italy, you also lose water, as the water is “pushed” along the pipes by an epectric motor – they haven’t heard of water towers!!!! So we had no water, no light, no cooking, and it was FREEZING. Today is my birthday and I wole up I woke up in the morning and told my husband I had to be taken out for the day!!!! Which was much better 🙂

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    1. Yes, five star hotel prices. It is cheaper in winter, but still out of my price range. Though as Pipmarks has pointed out, the rooms do seem to sacrifice comfort for art so maybe it’s better to just do the quick tour that we did, which costs 7 euros!

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      1. For years I desperately wanted to stay in one of those ice hotels, then a friend of mine actually did – she said if she hadn’t gone with her boyfriend, who was one of those men who constantly radiate burning heat, she might have died of exposure.
        After that, I decided I would just enjoy her photos and descriptions instead!!!

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  3. I don’t normally like modern art, the one like paintings on the walls just some splashes of colour and someone telling you the deep meaning of it all. But I love the installations in this hotel, cool place to stay! seems like something interesting in every room, and the combination of a functional bedroom with a piece of art installation is such a brilliant idea!. so much love and thought and passion has gone into it, it is palpable.
    p.s. I like to new look of your blog.

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