Each culture or each new generation has their own distinct style of art, that is seen by the masses as something lesser. Hip-hop culture has graffiti, while the modern, tech-focused generation is always defending the medium of video games as a viable source of self-expression. However, there is one subset of artists that may have the toughest time getting their art form accepted, especially since it is in many ways seen as something not only expression-free, but also illegal.
Glass pipes has become synonymous with many things. Following the rise of crack cocaine, people deemed glass pipes as nothing more than the vessel for self-destruction among many groups. Before that, stoners used them to help fill their lungs with THC. Today, it’s far from just a piece of drug paraphernalia. In many ways, a more experimental and vibrant set of glass artwork than the classic style of glass artwork, glass pipes have a massive industry, moving from one man to now thousands of artists each with their own aesthetic and sense of style.
That’s where the new documentary, Degenerate Art, jumps right in. Following the story of the rise of glass pipes as a source of genuine self-expression, the film brought the house down at SXSW, and is now available on VOD through FilmBuff. And for fans of artwork and people attempting to prove that what they are expressing is done through an artistic outlet, this is an absolute must watch.
Directed by Marble Slinger, Degenerate Art is not the most artistically crafted documentary. Simply a blend between talking head interviews, and various montages of actual artists doing their craft along with photos of the final project, the film’s roughly 80-minute runtime feels much longer. The art sequences are aesthetically shot with similar lust as dance sequences in a Step Up film or fight sequences in a martial arts film, so when we actually see these men and women do their work, the film thrives. Seeing these men and women put their heart and soul into a beautiful sculpture, which also does happen to double as a smoking apparatus, is a gorgeous bit of filmmaking and one really can’t get enough.
However, it’s the interview portion that does the film a disservice. Save for a story of a run-in with the law near the film’s conclusion, we only become privy to a very light sense of the history of the art, rushing through a narrative that frankly should be double the length that we are given. Far too slight of a look into what is an ever burgeoning artistic outlet, the film seems to have a rushed sense of narrative push, making for a far too quick a look into this really intriguing world.
Currently available on VOD, Degenerate Art may very well be a slight look into this art, but it’s a look that should definitely be given. The film features some utterly enthralling moments of true artistic creation, and save for a rushed sense of where the world started, the film concludes on an engrossing story of how the world is quite not sure how to take this sub-culture. A well made and well crafted documentary feature, the film’s runtime may be its biggest issue, but for a summer watch, it may make it one of this season’s must-see documentaries. A world unlike anything you’ve ever seen, Degenerate Art is a gorgeous documentary that will enlighten even the most conservative of viewer. And frankly, that’s what any great documentary can do.