Monday, 24 January 2011

Jasper and Harry's tate Modern Unit 24


Does art need to resolve the issues it wrestles with? De Kooning preferred his canvases to be an honourable battlefield and claimed that his Woman series of paintings was a mistake. He never finished them but instead desisted from working on them. They are in effect a by-product of his struggle between subject and abstraction. You could throw primal instinct versus control into the equation also. I was reminded of this by Mark Leckey’s noble lecture at Harry and Jasper’s Tate Modern. He opened up by declaring that he thought that this would be a good opportunity to talk about some things that are in his head. Hands were the first thing he mentioned and how his own hands felt atrophied through lack of use. This withering of the limb was, we found out, felt more profoundly as he had entered art as a painter. We saw a Van Gogh clog and a Guston shoe to illustrate the sense of clonk that mark liked in painting. He also showed us some videos that manifested this idea of clonk or tactility if you like. These videos, one in particular by a student, explored all the senses and the primacy of affect. There was a shot of dripping socks and we could see, feel and smell them.
 All of this reminded me very much of Marshall McLuhan and his belief that the electronic age could redeem us from out linear cave. Mcluhan sets out a thesis that the thought process and sense of perception has been altered by the linearity of the Gutenberg Press. It is also true that our phonetic language is specific and does not rely on context. All this adds up to us (humans) forgetting how to live in a horizonless multi-sensory world. Through acts like the Velvet Underground with their use of immersive environment, Mcluhan saw how electricity could return us to a united primordial tribal state. Electricity comes from other planets. Its uncanny that we stand so close to this idea and yet so far. Mark Leckey said he couldn’t paint now as it felt like a retreat so he had to use the medium that was atrophying his hands. I love the smell of my palm in the morning. Hands interestingly enough give us gesture which gives rise to language.
What I enjoyed about Mark Leckey’s talk was his grappling – there was a sense that he didn’t know what he was talking about and was talking in order to find out. How often does that happen in an art auditorium? My own projection was that he and his work was in dialogue with the holistic, intuitive right brain – the outcast from the art world – the embarrassing relative – the drunk at the party. Mark showed us a video of an installation he made at the Tate of a sound system blaring twentieth century sound bites at Epstein’s Statue of Jacob and the Angel….. This to me felt like the inability of the left-brain to acknowledge let alone converse with an intesley emotional piece of art. I think the videos Mark showed explored a multi-sensory perceptual experience andfilled me with optimism that the gap can be bridged.
Harry and Jasper’s Tate Modern show was the perfect setting for this talk, although I did wonder if they knew he would start by saying he thought painting was, in so many words, an anachronism. Their recreation of the Tate Modern was far from irrelevant because it represented a shared and resonant experience. It was by turns funny, moving, stimulating and informative. You could read a much as you liked into it or see it as a piece of light amusement – a bit like the Tate Modern itself.

As I left I returned to the idea of hands, which is a subject I have been grappling with in my own work and with student projects. Recently I submitted a hand inspired picture to a science based art project on the idea of synchronistic creative thinking. I took these photos on my way to the station. 

They reminded me that pointing is the point where the hand becomes a symbol and not necessarily a means of sensory perception. here is one I made earlier.

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