Thursday, 20 February 2014

An academic story

The university lecturer adjusted his seat and turned towards the student who remained surprisingly engaged, “Now I am going to try and explain in as clear a terms as possible what I believe is troubling the western world. One sentence in and already a number of finger posts have sprung up like magic seedlings at the reverberations of my mumbling. Troubling? Western? World? Do I mean what is troubling me? Not exactly because I can behave as I chose. So then what do I mean? This dis-equilibrium, which manifests as a perpetual state of having to correct our coordinates. You may have read enough of Guy de Bord to think, “Hold on that is exactly where we are at”. I mean “exactly”. His thesis was that the spectacle replaces the first hand experience. The trouble here is that some people are fast to call this post modernism according to Baudrillard. (Thus turning it into a symbol. This is what the quest for knowledge and truth does.) So the over emphasis upon the visual is one aspect of civilised modern life that troubles me. Now more finger posts are springing up. The visual is a very literal aspect of contemporary culture but it also serves as a metaphor or perhaps I mean a paradigm – as in this means this and that means that. Target based culture places value on the token you are aiming to achieve. Now I think I’m getting somewhere. These tokens (exams, results, targets, quotas) are symbols. They are not real things in much the same way that fixating on an app is not fixating on a real thing. So we could then say that symbolic and visual are interchangeable in this instance. To clarify I would say that there are lots of paintings that move me a great deal but the pleasure is not purely visual despite a large part of their content apparently engaging initially through the visual sense.
 Joseph Campbell explained this in terms of the symbol being outside of us. We have a relationship with the symbol. The trouble as he saw it started because the symbols all emanate from within us. This separation from an aspect of ourselves is confusing and must, in my view, lead to a continual state of adjustment because we presume these things really are outside of us (Is this like measuring the distance of an object in a mirror?). Campbell commented that in a purely symbolic rationality we had replaced the goddess with a God. This confuses us and yet this confused state of constant adjustment is absorbed into our default settings. I realise that we all know the rapid acceleration of digital technology has changed our sense of self but it has also meant that the shift to symbolic is now instant.
The other aspect that troubles me is a distrust of the spiritual. This distrust is a result of visual rationality - you believe or you don't believe. If it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist. In Zen and the ART of Motorcycle Maintenance Pirsig talks about the classical – romantic split. This makes a lot of sense but I am not sure it explains everything. For him Quality was the pre-intellectual awareness that fed both these “interfaces”. He also seemed to accept that this split was skewed due to one framework not recognising the pre-intellectual state. To the rational mind there is no such thing as “quality” (Tao, bliss, enlightenment) there is only lack of rationality. If we take Romantic to mean Keats’s idea of Negative Capability then this is a conduit to the non-symbolic realm of “pre-intellectual” awareness. At the beginning I mentioned how I am free to act as I chose and this brings me now to Roberto Unger’s idea that Negative capability provides us with a route through the constraints of classification. For Unger negative capability is the "denial of whatever in our contexts delivers us over to a fixed scheme of division and hierarchy and to an enforced choice between routine and rebellion."
So I guess this is what the Communist Gallery offers us - A means of bypassing the false choice of routine or rebellion." He held the students gaze and resisted the urge to say "make sense?" and took a sip of his luke warm coffee.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Art Raffle @Paper Dress 15 Feb

The Art Raffle is almost upon us and I wanted to record all the items available as prizes. I should also mention that a fantastic tombola has been made for the event by Iain McCallum's friend Mark David Gray. It is a thing of beauty and will, no doubt, spur us on to instigate more and more Art raffles for Kids Co.
So if you come to Paper Dress this Saturday you will see two bands - Simon Love and The Olde Romantics PLUS Mikey Georgeson and the Civilised Scene - all free!
the Raffle (tickets probably about £3-5) contains the following Art Works :

Action Painting Action Man – Elemental Epiphany 2014 Acrylic on Canvas

Melissa Alley – Empress – Body Colour on Paper 2014

Eddie Argos  - Annotated book of Lyrics 2014

Jackie Clark – Drawing untitled 2014

Sarah Doyle – Biopic Marilyn Triptych – body colour on paper 2014

Emma Edmondson – I Never Promised You A Rose Garden – Mixed Media

Tinsel Edwards – Big Fish Eats Little Fish – Signed Print 2014

Mikey Georgeson – Felicitas – Acrylic on Canvas 2014

Paul Good and Kirsty Wood – Our Greatest Pain in life is that we will never get to see ourselves play live. Signed ltd ed. Print with authentication Cert
John Hegley – Peace, Love and Potatoes with Annotated Book Mask 2014

Alex Kapranos - Cook Book signed to Mister Solo

Calum F. Kerr – Mallard Confidential report 43 (The Subject may have a lead)
                        Coot Confidential Report 943 (Coot Preening during interrogation)
Both laminated for outside investigations

Daniel Lehan – Save our Sheds  - drawing on brown paper

Lee Maelzer – Signed phototype print urban high-rise

David Martin – Digital Drawing – David Crushing Rubens 2014

Ryan Mcclelland Pug and Goat – 2 signed linocuts
                        Believe in an Alternative – Screen Print

 Joanna McCormick – Moontime Amalthea – Mixed Media on Board

Martin Pickles – Lie Detector Video Storyboards Signed

Team Beswick and Pye – Camila – Acrylic on Canvas – Framed 2014

Tecklenberg and Georgeson – Urban Arboretum Bird Box 

Sarah Sparkes – Love Me tender – Original Collage 2014

Julian Wakeling – Refracted Interior Untitled Signed photographic print

Tisna Westerhof – British Standards – Etching AP
                                    Ltd Ed Delft Tile in Box Glazed Frame
Emma Edmondson - I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Camila - Team Beswick and Pye
Marilyn Triptych (detail) Sarah Doyle

Thursday, 6 February 2014

360 degree horizonless environment

I was looking for the route to my son's football match at the weekend. it's on the way to Brighton as it turns out and I'm hoping that the soil will be well drained as they haven't had a match since Christmas. The other team South Downs Athletic or something play at Hurstpier Point and I wanted to make sure I would find the right turning so I clicked street view on google maps. Low and behold the turning was actually a motorway bridge. A motorway bridge! yes and you could walk over it in cyberspace. Think of all the bridges you've passed under speeding on your way to something important. Now you can go back and investigate what you missed.
This gif animation I made as a result of my rising sense of digital wonder has the satisfying element of time passing during an experience that is clearly outside of time's classification zones. There is also the giddy sense that the digital world, which is an extension of the fixed point perspective of the Renaissance and then the camera has led back to the 360 degree world of medieval humans. Or at least that's how it feels.
See for yourself

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

What's The Point of It? Martin Creed Exhibition

I have a long standing love of the Hayward Gallery which to my mind stands on the cusp of the art establishment (despite showing much of the Art's Council collection) on a windswept crag called the Southbank. It's a good size for a satisfying show and Martin Creed has made a really good fist of this task. I informed a colleague where I was going and we both chuckled at the idea that one reviewer found "Joy" within the exhibition. I mean martin Creed is not a joyful artist is he? Wrong. The show has the effect of instantaneously imparting the knowledge that Martin Creed has been joyous all along. His familiar themes are there - the minimalist repetition and the cod-systematic distillation but Creed has adeptly placed them in an edifying context. Sol le Wit was never this charming I thought as I watched a beautiful oriental woman take a crap on a pristine white floor whilst a gallery attendant gently tickled the ivories in a resolutely ascending and descending scale. In an uncanny piece of scynchronicity the cloak room attendant had handed me my ticket saying "you can have number two". I mention synchronicty because Creed gets to the edge of implying we live in a magic universe and that all these basic patterns that possibly underpin everything actually might unlock its secrets. Except he doesn't go that far but nor does he sneer down his crinkled nose at the wonder seekers. David Shrigley also had a one man show at the Hayward and there are similar minimalist themes but Shrigley's world is heavily ironic and Creed's is not. This is a pretty skilful feat to pull off. His various stacks and scales put the business of classification through an alchemical process whereby the logic that once seemed transparent somehow alludes us. This is the technique that allows more freeform and representational pieces to sit in harmony with minimalist studies. Is it going too far to make the comparison with Bach's etudes? An individual's approach to creating exercises can be just as revealing as complete freedom. If not more.
The essence that Creed seems to seek is human-ness but unlike Shrigley his version has a joy at the absurd banality of life compared to a nihilistic cringe (I like both by the way). Creed has the critical distance that Greenberg urged us all to adopt way back when but he has managed to rejoin the human race. His work is saying I am an artist and a human (in no particular order) - The whole world plus the work equals the whole world.

*There is one piece that should have a spoiler alert which is not something you expect to say when writing about an art exhibition. Be prepared for the sublime.