Most of us have heard the pert little assertion that "life imitates art".

The phrase originated in The Decay of Lying, a serious dissertation by that most diverting of dramatists and general genius, Oscar Wilde.

Wilde gave, as an example, a couple of regular features of the London of his day — fog and mist.

He pointed out that prior to artists such as Turner using the weather events as subjects for various artworks, they were regarded just as general pains in the butt.

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Once illuminated artistically, they could still be a pain, but at least the public's eyes were opened to their more aesthetic visual aspects as they blindly stumbled into gaslight standards.

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Or take the picaresque art event we referenced recently — that of street-artist Banksy's Girl With Balloon spookily shredding itself as it exited the nether regions of its own frame shortly after the auctioneer's hammer signalled its $2.2 million purchase.

The whole point of the guerrilla artist's cunning ploy was to protest the over-commercialisation of art, the intention being to deposit a pile of worthless canvas spaghetti beneath where — a moment before — had hung a multimillion-dollar "masterpiece".

Typically, though, in this hi-tech age, the damn shredder malfunctioned and it ended up being only a half-shred. And, perversely, the still semi-intact masterwork was now deemed to be conceptually enhanced, and thus worth even more dosh. This neatly mirrored the new social equation: Deconstruction plus dysfunction equals dollars.

With all this conceptual stuff around, popular art, as once known, is thin on the ground. Perhaps the contemporary equivalents are no longer found on the gallery or living room wall, but instead visit us daily in the guise of TV reality shows, complete with all their vacuous grotesquery.

If that, indeed, is the case, then the recent National Party antics have been life imitating art bigtime. If nothing else, it's definitely off the wall.

For a minute it seemed National Party strategy wonks had done an Alice, and — reeling from yet another 14-course dinner for stray Chinese property magnates dangling a bit of loose change — had fortuitously stumbled into a rabbit hole that led to their own conceptual breakthrough.

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In this scenario, the policy wonks — spurred by party MPs, already hypothermic after a mere 12 months on the frozen tundra of opposition benches — called for the political equivalent of knighting a pawn.

Taking their lead from prevailing media trends to bypass more substantive fodder in favour of click-bait news, they would jettison all usual and mundane political party preoccupations.

Policy articulation and development? Gone. Long-term national objectives? Gone. Core sector relationship-building? Gone.

In their place would be a weekly cavalcade of faux dramas, back-stabbings and intrigue, blossoming covert lust, self-destructing covert lust, personal meltdowns, grubby financial dealings, tainted campaign funds — the whole nine yards.

And for why? Ratings and headlines ... what else! A la Trump, winning the game is easier if you invent your own rules.

The great unwashed doesn't care about stodgy policy and key progress indicators, they reasoned. Its collective TV remote control daily proves it just want heaps of bed-hopping, toxic tantrums and double-dealing, all oiled by wodges of dodgy money.
It seemed a script team then went straight to work. Plots were developed, locations scouted, and lead roles assigned.

The media fell for it, and it was all working out beautifully. Suddenly National were back all over the front page and top bill on the yap shows. Shortland Street was blue with envy.

With Jami the Muss stretchered off, it looked like the next episode would see Kim Kardashian sensationally announced as National's byelection candidate for the now vacant — and renamed — Bottomy Downs seat.

Alas, it was all too good to be true. Not so much life imitating art, as life channelling real live artifice. Pity ... it appeared set for a good, long run.