Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Art Party

Scarborough is one of those British seaside resorts which seem forever stuck in an indeterminable period of the not-too-recent past. As such, it’s an interesting meeting place for the more daringly nomadic representatives of the various UK arts bodies and sub-cultures. All there to attend a collaborative event at Sarborough’s ‘The Spa’, organized by artist Patrick Brill a.k.a. Bob and Roberta Smith and the Crescent Arts Centre, and aimed at ‘debating the future of arts and education.’

Politely referred to as faded grandeur, ‘The Spa’ is a post-Apocalypse Tracey Island multiplex perched at one end of the bay. It has the ambience of a conference centre after a ten year bender but it’s still affectingly impressive. 

The three central hour long group presentations used the standard art chat format of half a dozen people seated at a table drinking water and opining on things in general. The potentially irritating delivery of laboured philosophical haikus, trips down memory lane and disconcertingly odd tangential musings still could not hide the fact that the contradictory creature the career artist is clearly much better at entertainingly performing itself than an administrator is at justifying the castrating box-ticking ‘professionalization’ of art. 

Less a debate than a series of loose meanderings and interjections, with no clear binding core values, it at least had the strength of not being easily transcribed into a sound-bite for the ‘culture industries’ and of being prepared to criticize the suffocating authority of the economically useful as a simplistic fuel for future ‘arty’ fiddlings.

 Unfortunately, these days even that seems like an achievement.

Things never got really heated just a tad tepid when the realpolitik of ‘creative partnerships’ attracted a less than flattering aside, much to the irritation of one of its peevish advocates.

Rather than the pallid grip of further bureaucratization, at the moment the UK ‘arts scene‘ is desperately in need of a liberal dollop of anarchic creativity (both smart and witless).

Bob and Roberta Smith’s ‘Art Party’ might suffer from migraine-inducing onion-layers of intention - whilst quite possibly still being art - but if it’s a bit muted as a full-bloodied party at least it’s an effort in foregrounding the social boxing of a post-’Relational Art’ event as a positive starting point in addressing some thorny issues.

And the fish and chips were pretty good.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Three Cheers For Objects

‘Images’ are ‘free-floating’ - needless to say, fundamentally different from the finite expensive object. Even though there’s been a rearguard action in the art-market to push the financial worth, the cost of art objects, through the ceiling (Hirst’s ‘appropriated’ jewel covered skull being the most high profile contemporary example), instinctively there just seems something plodding or inadequate to this display of wealth-power, tiresomely heavy-handed and unimpressive. 
Its not just the obvious second-hand ‘playing the markets’ strategy; the still relatively new fluidity of images through electronic networks, their speed of movement and disposability, makes the exchange value of objects just curiously old-fashioned to the point of being completely pointless.
Or is it that simple?
Any flow of energy can be dammed, redirected, downright manipulated, whilst being made to appear organic, chaotically unmediated, a purity to merely experience.
So let’s start considering the commodity-fetish (after all Santa is on the way) as peculiar way stations, gnomic fingerprints exposing social mores and cultural perspectives.
Worryingly, maybe we can’t even see ourselves, can’t step back from being enveloped in a skin of motivating desires and concerns, without the object, the willfully crafted stuffs of the world, as a distancing device and an inroad into a communal psyche.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Ever since a hairy status monkey scratched at mud with a stick drawing is inevitably with us. 

From the architectural drawings of a Utopian dreamer to the graphic goth doodles of adolescent ennui, its near infinite flexibility as a vehicle for dreamy speculation is a constant seductive pleasure.

Mark-making may well be both the first step in attempting to map a structural underpinning to the actual chaos of the world and a precursor to developing the concept of individual consciousness. The simplest mark punctuating the sameness of its ground with an intimate gesture.

Line drawings themselves are models of dictatorial organization, especially as most are executed on standardized, mass-produced white rectangles of paper. From picturing things to pictures as things, whichever fashionable philosophical conundrum currently fuels the circulating social currency of ‘art’ can usually be pithily summarized by a few lines on a scrap of paper.

However, the criteria dictating that which qualifies an action as a drawing are, to say the least, a bit vague; Richard Long leaving tracks in a field with his Wellington boots, Gordon Matta-Clarke  amending the wall of a building with a crescent-shaped hole, John Cage’s scores - all can easily be defined as a drawing, keeping in mind the fact that people are intuitively very good at understanding the centrality of context in the construction of meaning in any language’s functional articulation.

Creative spontaneity isn’t actually the primary strength of the act of drawing; an apparent simplicity which hides a sophisticated abbreviation of concerns outside the playground of the visual is.