More art

Because the UK is rolling so much money, it doesn’t actually know how to spend it all (</sarcasm> in case you hadn’t picked it up), people and organisations can apparently afford to give their cold, hard cash to daft art projects. Like this one, open now at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall:

Empty Lot is a large geometric sculpture created using scaffolding, a grid of triangular wooden planters, and soil collected from parks across London including Peckham, Haringey and Westminster. Nothing will be planted in the soil, but it will be lit by lamps and watered throughout the six month display.

So, some soil, in some triangular planters, some lights and some water.
It might sound ever so dull, but you’d be wholly incorrect, because:

This living city of weeds is one of the most exciting works to take over the Turbine Hall
The Telegraph

Which doesn’t exactly fill you with admiration at those that have gone before. Which, you’ll recall, included Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth:

…the first work to intervene directly in the fabric of the Turbine Hall and dramatically shifted our perception of the Turbine Hall’s architecture, subtly subverting its claims to monumentality and grandeur.

How very dare she?

Then there was I Do, I Undo, I Redo, in which Louise Bourgeois created the first Turbine Hall commission:

Consisting of three steel towers – each some 9 metres (30 ft) high – they dominated the east end of the hall. Visitors could climb the staircases to the platforms, which Bourgeois envisaged would become stages for intimate and revelatory encounters between strangers and friends alike.

And the infamous The Weather Project where Olafur Eliasson took the ubiquitous subject of the weather as the basis for exploring ideas about experience, mediation and representation.

And now we have some weeds. Or… er… not, if they don’t grow, because, of course:

The unpredictable nature of the work, which may grow and change from one week to the next, provokes questions about the city and nature, as well as wider ideas of chance, change, and hope.

Sweet baby cheeses…


Call me a philistine if you must (and you surely will), but can’t believe that I am alone in thinking that something altogether better and more worthwhile could have been done with every single penny which was put towards this project. I mean, whatever next? Wrapping trees in bog roll?

No. Wait. We’ve already done that…


Art v Jobs

New from Northamptonshire County Council – which just last year cut 900 jobs as part of a £69,000,000 package of budget savings comes “STITCH – A new art installation”.

As part of the countywide GLOBAL FOOTPRINT project, artist Jo Fairfax and the FLOW team will deliver a new laser art installation – STITCH – in Northamptonshire. A new art installation that binds together the historic villages of Earls Barton and Wollaston with a 3 miles long laser beam.

This path of light skims across the beautiful Nene valley pinpointing two prestigious boot and shoe-making factories, Barker Shoes and Griggs, home of Dr Martens.

Glorious – and surely worth every single penny.

We’ve mentioned before that art projects and installations could be considered as a complete waste of money. For example, Cape Town insists on funding the annual Infecting the City arts festival, during which:

City “treasures”, including King Edward’s statue on the Grand Parade, were covered in clingwrap and trees on the station forecourt were draped in toilet paper.

despite having a housing backlog of around 500,000 people.

One can only wonder what those individuals made redundant by Northamptonshire County Council think of this:

ambitious countywide programme of contemporary ‘living heritage’ events and exhibitions, using visual and digital arts to showcase and celebrate Northamptonshire’s defining cultural heritage and identity.

What a load of cobblers.

Brian on Art

Regular readers will know of my fondness for Brian Micklethwait’s blog and his narrative, no nonsense style of writing.

Today, Brian gave us a collage of Anthony Gormley’s exhibit(s?) in London during the summer of 2007. But it wasn’t the pictures that piqued my interest so much as Brian’s commentary:

For some damn fool artistic type reason that need not concern us unless we want it to, Gormley called these Men “Event Horizon”.  (Artists who make nice things but talk bollocks about them are a characteristic type of our time, I think.  I don’t blame them.  If they didn’t talk bollocks they’d never get their careers cranked up.  Anyway, it makes a change from a generation ago, when the things they made were almost entirely bollocks also.) The Gormley Men are all based on Gormley himself.

Critic Howard Halle (see here) out-Gormleyed Gormley by saying this:

“Using distance and attendant shifts of scale within the very fabric of the city, [Event Horizon] creates a metaphor for urban life and all the contradictory associations – alienation, ambition, anonymity, fame – it entails.”

Whatever.  In other words, you see in these metal Men whatever you want to see, much as you see whatever you want to see when confronting actual men.

I can’t agree with Brian that what artists produce these days is any better than what artists produced a generation ago. Lest we forget that during this year’s (at least partially) publicly-funded “Infecting The City” arts “festival” in Cape Town:

City “treasures”, including King Edward’s statue on the Grand Parade, were covered in clingwrap and trees on the station forecourt were draped in toilet paper.

Which, to me, almost entirely indicates that things in the art world really haven’t moved on at all in the last 30 years.

What’s the point of…?

It struck me over the weekend that there are two questions I need answering.

1. What is the point of Somerset West?

Yes, what is the point of Somerset West, exactly?
Most Capetonians will know Somerset West as the place that ruins your weekend getaway plans by delaying you so much on Friday night that you arrive in your Overberg or Garden Route destination later than you wanted to be, tireder than you wanted to be and a whole lot more pissed off than you wanted to be. You curse the name of the wretched place and it gets back at you by making your return journey even more hellish, by allowing you to see the delays that face you all the way down Sir Lowry’s Pass.
And even with the multi-million Rand upgrade of the N2 passing through the place, they haven’t managed to make things much better, since there’s still about 500m of ridiculous single lane traffic on the way into the town.
And an extra set of traffic lights.

Hello? McFly????

It’s not in Cape  Town, it’s not in Stellenbosch, it’s not really a town but it’s also not really in the countryside. It’s not even by the sea.
It seems to me that the only thing that this ugly combination of dual carriageway and several sets of traffic lights is good for is to act as some sort of premature rumble strip, slowing the traffic down before it hits Cape Town. It’s marketed as being “The Gateway to the Overberg”, but why do we need a gateway to the Overberg? Why can’t we just drive to the Overberg, gateway-free? What they forget to inform you about “The Gateway to the Overberg” is that there’s only one car allowed through it at a time. And like the fat Afrikaners lining up at the automatic doors at Canal Walk, that’s going to slow your journey down considerably.

It’s screaming out for a bypass, but I’ve got a better idea. Why not save the dangerously high costs of building an expensive road by simply knocking the whole place down?

I suspect that only the inmates unfortunate enough to live in the damned place would have any objection at all to that.

2. What is the point of Infecting the City?

I’ve never really got over being asked “Is money spent on arts a waste?” by an interviewer at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. While my immediate reaction was to scream out “Yes, of course it bloody is!”, I felt that she was probing for a deeper, more considered answer than that, but probably with the same conclusion. As it was, I fudged it and still got offered a place on their General Microbiology course, which I immediately declined as it was being taught in Wolverhampton.

But I digress. Often.

Infecting the City is the “new” “name” for the Spier Public Arts Festival, which is now based in Cape Town. As their website tells us:

Infecting the City 2011 emerges from the bricks, flagstones and pavements of the City to challenge Cape Town’s idea of art, itself and its streets.

and it does this, according to a Cape Times story today, by spectators being treated to performances and artwork free of charge:

City “treasures”, including King Edward’s statue on the Grand Parade, were covered in clingwrap and trees on the station forecourt were draped in toilet paper.

Now, call me a philistine if you will, but I think that on any other day of the year and in any other context, that’s called “littering”.

And yet, somehow, they have attracted some fairly big names to support this nonsense, including Cape Town Tourism (partially funded by the City of Cape Town), the CCID (supported by the City of Cape Town) and er… the City of Cape Town.
Yes, folks – those loo rolls in the branches are paid for with the help of your taxes. Oh joy.

The “Is money spent on arts a waste?” question rears its ugly head once again with rather greater vehemence here. To fund clingwraped statues and loo rolls in trees when there are so many other issues facing this city seems, to me, a little misguided.
Even the corporate sponsors could surely find something more worthwhile to spend their CSR budgets on. Why not help build some houses, or, if you’re already doing that, why not help build some more?
Don’t fund 500m of cling wrap for some weirdo from beyond the Lentil Curtain to wrap up a statue. Maybe to wrap up sandwiches for hungry schoolkids, but not a statue. That doesn’t help anyone.

And yes, I recognise that anyone involved with the organisation of Infecting the City will probably defend it by telling me that I am being “challenged” by the concepts and that by raising this issue on here, I am participating in the festival and if that’s how they want to feel, that’s just fine, cos comment is free.

At least I’m not wasting public money chucking bog rolls into trees.
Seriously, WTF?

Footnote: Don’t even get me started on the Design Indaba… Eish!