Mike Lockley tries to get to grips with some of the latest art exhibitions in Lille.
It was while viewing the canvas by French artist Genevieve Asse that the terrible truth hit home: I was alone in rain-lashed Lille, a French city within spitting distance of Belgium (I'm not advocating aiming phlegm at the Flemish) and out of my depth.
It was simply a coat of blue paint, like my front door. In fact, they did a better job with my front door: the finish is more even. Mental note: must contact the Tate Modern about my front door.
I nudged one of the knot of critics staring earnestly at the picture hanging proudly in the Metropole Museum and innocently asked: "Is this a work in progress? Is that simply the bottom coat?"
She eyed me with disdain before whispering: "Look at the artist's comments under the piece."
I did. It stated: "The painting is neither gestured or abstract, geometric, monochrome, flat or deep, but, on the other hand, is akin to an opaque and two-dimensional object - a door - and gives light to the most extreme experience: that of light and infinity."
I may never be able to look at my front door again without weeping. It was one of many, awkward 'I'll get my coat' moments. Asse's blue painting is what I refer to as faux art, or Fart: it requires little skill, yet is accepted as a masterpiece because of the person who threw it together.
And there was an awful lot of fart and farters - sorry, that should be fartists - at last month's launch of Fantastic, an arts festival that takes over the historic, cobbled city every three years.
Pieces of fart such as a screen, disguised as a mirror, in the city centre which shows endless footage of the shoppers who passed before it.
"The art is not in the mirror," gushed the artist, "it is in your reaction to what's in the mirror."
"Utter b*****ks," I shouted.
The fartists fought back tears before mouthing: "Thank you. Hold that emotion."
I do not buy that. I do not buy into the idea that it is the public's reaction that counts. We go through a gamut of emotions when confronted by white dog excrement, but it is not art.
Pieces of fart such as a man made from spaghetti, The Elevator Maze by Leandro Erlich - two lifts together without mirrors - and the primitive crayon scrawlings of Aloise Corbaz, hastily created in the toilet of the hospital where she was being treated for ''behavioural problems''.
Before being made aware of the latter's provenance, I whispered to a colleague: "Whoever did that has mental health issues."
I was bang on the money.
I am not a Philistine. I know my art. I have A Levels in both art and mathematics: qualifications that give me a head start when painting by numbers.
But so weird were my three days in Lille, I'm still not sure I dreamt the bizarre, at times near disturbing, episode. Either that or someone slipped a hallucinogenic drug into my coffee during the mere one-and-a-half hour Eurostar journey from St Pancras.
It was a 24-7 spectacular attack on the senses from the moment I left the train, with a giant UFO, created by Welsh designer and visionary Ross Lovegrove, hanging from the station's roof.
Ross, besplendant in crushed velvet smoking jacket, was standing proudly beneath the giant foil craft.
"I want to create a train out of the same material - like a drop of mercury cutting through the countryside," he gushed.
Rail bosses could do with Ross' foil expertise: not for a new train, but for that damned troublesome aluminium lid on the thimble-sized milk receptacles.
Strange sculptures have been dotted around the ancient, elegant Place de la Republique, such as an upside down house, streets turned into UFO runways, a giant-sized banquet and menagerie of stuffed animals, plonked there by Huang Yong Ping, a Chinese artist who hates art: "Until art is destroyed, life is never peaceful," he once famously declared.
Having witnessed his stuffed Indian elephant at close quarters, I agree. I'd like to take a shovel to that moth-eaten beast.
I said as much during an opening-night party where alcohol had eroded the veneer of diplomacy. "Constable," I shouted at the pierced, tattooed member of a dance collective, "that's a painter."
I was gently led away protesting: "I don't know much, but I know what I bloody like."
I think it was the giant inflatable, glowing sperm carried aloft during possibly the most bizarre parade - a curtain-raiser to Fantastic proper - I've ever witnessed that confirmed my fears I'd innocently ingested LSD.
Amid inflatables as large as houses, somehow the sperm stood out. They twirled around giant planets.