This year’s Serpentine pavilion is excellent. Designed by Herzog & De Meuron and Ai Wei Wei the structure consists of a sunken pit lined with cork and topped with an almost circular pond. The design of the pit references the eleven other pavilions, showing the excavations and foundations of these previous buildings.
The effect creates a really comfortable place to sit. The seemingly haphazard layout creates an interesting space to explore and the cork makes it very tactile experience - you want to touch it and sit on it. It also has a dampening effect on the sound so it’s not too echoey.
Make sure you visit it before it ends on 14 October 2012.
I went to the seminar ’The New Economy of Art: What are we worth? Artists and the Economic Crisis‘ last night. It’s part of a series of discussions run by Artquest, CAS and DACS. It began with a panel discussion chaired by Gilane Tawadros with John Kieffer, Zineb Sedira and Bob and Roberta Smith, and then opened up to the audience for questions and discussion.
As usual I couldn’t think of a question until later on (I really have to work on that!). It was interesting and the panel spoke well, with tentative advice and supportive sounds (with the best advice coming from Sedira: “ask for a fee"), but I didn’t feel that they actually answered, or at least addressed, the question in the title of the seminar: What are we worth?
The problem I seem to come across most in my practice is that a large amount of the general public think that art is a waste of time and money. The measures the current government are bringing in (or taking out!) only go to compound this idea that the arts are the least important aspect of our society. Granted, they are not the most important either, but they have a place. Both Kieffer and Smith stressed the importance and impact of the arts in England; Smith particularly, eliciting ripples of applause for his rallying cries. But they’re preaching to the converted. Everyone in the room was either an artist, an arts professional or some kind of cultural engineer. We know art has an inherent value, we know that society will be a worse place without art, without theatre, without cinema, without music. My question to the panel would’ve been: what can we do to prove our worth - to convince those that think art is not for them to think otherwise?
‘I understand that an artist is someone who, in the midst of others’ silence, uses his own voice to say something and who makes sure that what he says is not useless, but something that is useful to mankind.’
I really like this.
My problem with Miró’s work? I find something unsatisfying about his compositions. I much preferred the earlier, almost illustrative works, and the later large canvases which I felt had a lot of energy in them.
There are also some nice mentions of my set design:
‘The set of screens designed by Rich White are wielded around by the cast and turn from street scene, to classroom, to playground, street corner and rubbish dump, even the ground, in a flash.’ From The Public Reviews.
‘White’s first set packs a lot into a small space.’ From The Stage.
‘White’s set (his first - he’s a sculptor) is a number of panels that at first suggest concrete blocks or the walls of a pedestrian underpass which can be moved around by the cast to indicate different locations or interiors such as a classroom At the rear, glimpsed between them, are some flowers tied onto a lamp-post, a reminder of some past tragic death.’ From The British Theatre Guide.
‘The sets are well-designed in a minimal yet versatile fashion...’ From Left Lion.
I heard my harshest criticism at the private view of Collusion on Thursday night.
I was taking a few photos of the work while people were milling around and noticed that there was a very bored-looking little boy sitting on the floor between the projectors. I think he was about 10 years old.
‘I’m bored. Can we go now?’ He said.
‘Not yet, be quiet.’ Said his mother. She was studying the work quite intensely.
‘I’m bored! You said there’d be a light show?’
‘This a light show, look at the projectors.’
‘It’s not, it’s boring!’ He waggled his knees and flopped his head side to side.
‘Why don’t you try looking? Try using your imagination?’ His mother asked.
‘I have looked. There’s a door, there’s a door, there’s a door and there’s another door. There’s four doors. I’m bored!’
I must try harder.
Yesterday we went on a little tour of Tate Modern’s old oil tanks. These are the three tanks that were once used to store oil when it was a power station. They are huge. All the metal from the tanks has been removed but the huge concrete structure that housed them remains.
During Tate Modern’s second phase of development (see here) they are going to be turned into exhibition spaces - and very good spaces they are too. There are currently a series of John Baldessari films being shown in them but I wasn’t allowed to photograph them.
Afterwards we went to look at the Miroslaw Balka piece ‘How It Is’ in the turbine hall - It’s huge and monstrous and very good - like walking into the gates of hell, or some kind of inter-dimensional portal.
Displacement was dismantled today. Below are some of the comments from the book in the gallery (I don’t normally like to blow my own trumpet but I thought some of these were quite sweet):
‘I like the big painting with everything in it. Architectural landscapes. Also I want to live in the little room.’
‘Really like the Secret House installation through hole in the wall - I would live there.’
‘...Brilliant hidden room was fun.’
‘Rich White - the woman’s room - loved it!’
‘I considered eating a display biscuit, but didn’t.’
‘Loved it, especially Rich White’s Displacement. 2nd visit now.’
‘My favourites were Survival Pt 2 + the secret grotto behind the wall (not sure of the name).’
I wrote most of this shortly after the Turner Prize was announced and then I sat on it for a bit. After re-reading and amending a few bits I decided to post it:
I don’t normally feel that i have to justify my work, or art in general - my aim is to try to make the work speak for itself. However, the recent Turner Prize exhibition (featuring Goshka Macuga, Runa Islam, Cathy Wilkes and winner Mark Leckey) and ensuing (lack of) controversy has urged me to write something in response - particularly in light of the usual kinds of comments from a certain popular newspaper. things like: ‘ART ????? Looks more like a load of unmitigated trash to me.’ ‘How many of these ‘artists’ can actually draw or paint.. ?’ and ‘I haven’t washed up my lunch time crockery yet.....think that would be worth £25,000????’ I would like to address each one in turn:
‘ART ????? Looks more like a load of unmitigated trash to me.’
I assume this person is referring to Wilkes’s work. This is not criticism - it is an opinion. And a badly made opinion at that. There were various other comments about artists dumping ‘a random assortment of items around a room’ and calling it art. I would like to know who really thinks they know exactly what art is? What does art look like? Even as an artist myself I don’t claim to know what art looks like, I can’t always recognise it (sometimes I think something that isn’t art is?) - I don’t think it always has a look. I also take offense at the generalisation that ‘random’ items are dumped around a room. From what I saw the items were very carefully arranged - often in pairs or with a visual relationship apparent between forms, colours and possible uses. This view that it ‘just looks like trash’ suggests to me that these people do not bother to look at things carefully, they do not bother to take a little time and most certainly know very little about art, about the many different ways it can be made and the many different ways of looking at it, understanding it and enjoying it. Even if you come to the conclusion that you don’t think it is very good, at least respect the fact that this is someone’s work. They have given time, thought and energy producing this. You have given nothing in return but a throw-away remark. (Pun optional).
‘How many of these ‘artists’ can actually draw or paint.. ?’
Art does not start and stop with drawing and painting. Whether you can draw and paint or not does not decide whether you are an artist or not. I would agree that a certain amount of skill at something is necessary, but this something can also be knowing what colours can do to the eye and mind, knowing how to build a room in such a way that it conveys your desired intention upon those who enter it, or knowing exactly how far apart to place two items. An artist can be a person who organizes things and people in order to achieve an end. Being an artist is being someone that makes things happen, and these things in turn affect those that experience them. You don’t have to be able to draw or paint to do this, you just have to be able communicate.
‘I haven’t washed up my lunch time crockery yet.....think that would be worth £25,000????’
This demonstrates an immense lack of understanding. Much of what often makes something art is intention - sincere intention. You might have just done exactly what Wilkes did and put a pair of jam jars side by side with a battery standing up in each but this does not make you an artist. And it’s not because you didn’t do it first either. If you are thick enough to think that doing what an artist does makes you an artist (and worthy of a prize) then you deserve to be outraged. Making art is a careful process - even if the final work is executed quickly there is much development, practice, trial-runs, thinking. Yes, thinking can be work. The Turner Prize does not imply that the work is worth £25000 - it is a prize. You do not win a prize for not doing the washing up (unless the competition is about who is laziest). The prize is awarded to an artist who has made a significant contribution to art in the previous year. The exhibition is representative of that year; it could be one piece from it or many. This attitude really annoys me. Art is worth something - it is the product of work, it takes time, and there is an intrinsic value attached to a person’s creativity. But, according to certain people, only certain, established, art can be worth large sums of money (and only up to a certain amount too; the question of how this value is arrived at is a whole other piece of writing). The people making these comments don’t really seem to be able to make a value judgement other than ‘I don’t understand this, therefore it must be worthless’.
What I feel these kinds of people fail to understand is the purpose of art, it’s relevance to culture and society. Art not only responds to popular culture (particularly in the case of leckey) it also creates it. The visual languages used by artists have a trickle-down effect on the visual language of society and culture as a whole. The way everyday things look is influenced heavily by the things that are exhibited in white-walled galleries and other art spaces. Designers continually look to works of art for inspiration. TV shows reference artworks regularly. Mostly I hate the lazy attitude. People often complain that art is elitist, that it is difficult and impenetrable. To this I say ‘yes, it is. And it should be.’ If it was easy it wouldn’t be art, it would be a soap opera or a stuffed toy (although these things can be used by artists). What I mean is: art requires work on the part of the viewer too. You don’t have to be a scholar, a historian or any kind of expert, you just need to be open-minded, read a little and give the work a little time.
The next time you see a super 8 movie of a woman tipping a china cup off a plinth just spare a moment, think about why it was made, how do the images affect you? If you don’t like it think about why? Don’t just dismiss it, and above all don’t think ‘I could do that’, instead think ‘Why aren’t I doing that?’
’Rich made an impacting contribution to the Market Estate Project, which I co-curated in 2010. The project brought together 75 artists who were challenged to create site specific work in a challenging urban environment. Rich’s skill, ambition, work ethic, imagination and artistic vision made him an outstanding participant.’