Having been to The Turner Contemporary last week and written my review based on my initial impressions of the new exhibitions, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/carl-andre-and-rosa-barba-at-turner.html
I though I would return today and see if I could make more of it.
For me the fundamental problem with this exhibition is that there isn’t on major conventional exhibit there. In simple terms, there isn’t really anything in the gallery at the moment which if situated outside of a gallery environment would be easily identifiable as significant art. Were it all to be in an auction room or at a boot fair, for instance, you would be hard pushed to say you had had an artistic experience.
I think there are differences here between what a private collector may do and the responsibilities relating to a provincial publicly funded gallery, inasmuch as there should be something both accessible to and enjoyable for the majority of the people who have paid for it. A couple of major turner oils would have tipped the balance for me and I would have had no complaint.
On top of this two of the exhibits had gone wrong, in a general sense were “out of order” if this is the right phrase for a piece of machinery – that while it has no easily defined function – had broken down so that it isn’t functioning in the way the artist intended.
I am sorry if the sketch isn’t very good, for some reason I find it difficult to sketch when standing up and of course photography is forbidden.
What the artist has done here, is to remove the keys from an electric typewriter, incorporate a timing mechanism, something like a clock escapement to regulate its speed and attach it to the top of a super16 film projector.
When functioning as hoped the typewriter types random letters on the film, which moves forward very slowly projecting a fuzzy image of the letter on to a small screen suspended from the ceiling.
As far as I can understand the escape mechanism malfunctions and runs away several times a day, requiring adjustment by a gallery technician, today it seemed for a moment that the technician would do something. What? Real amusing. I don’t know really. I suggested, perhaps unkindly that he needed a fine tuning sledgehammer, after considerable tinkering he went away, thinking he had mended it, the gallery attendant and I watched it for a while and although it had stopped running away it had also stopped typing.
The other malfunctioning exhibit, sorry the sketch is even worse than the previous one, is another super16 projector which has a continuous loop mechanism (like an 8track cassette) on top of it. Allowing on long continuous film to play perpetually.
The way this exhibit was supposed to work, is that the moving image was projected onto two semi opaque, screens one in front of the other, a servomotor being used to change the focus from one screen to the other.
In this instance the servomotor had burnt out so the exhibit was sitting on the floor turned off.
I went off to the café, got a pot of tea and sketched the view from my table, while my children visited the joke shop, once again not a very good sketch, I think the whole experience had failed to inspire me.
What the other visitors to the gallery made of this, whether they were even aware that two of the exhibits were malfunctioning, I certainly wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t seen them last week, behaving differently, I don’t know.
To me the sight of the artistic fraternity appearing to enjoy exhibits that had gone wrong is the equivalent of watching them enjoying The Mona Lisa painting with the eyes cut out of the canvas.
It also gives a new definition of art: "Something that you can’t tell whether it is broken or not."
My own contention is that art in the form of written words is best contained in books, one usually expects framed words on a wall to start; “thou shalt not” and visual art doesn’t need a verbal explanation. In fact a verbal explanation should be either very difficult or impossible, I have added a picture of mine here to explain what I mean. You can see what it is and you can sort of say what it is, but it doesn’t seem to need explaining if you have seen it.
Of course, I am not an artist so it isn’t art.
This raises questions for all of those who visited this exhibition and claimed to enjoy it.
Would you have noticed if anything was broken or missing?
Are you sure, for instance the Carl Andre exhibits were displayed as intended, were there the right number of bricks, floor tiles and so on and were they arranged in the right way?
Did you notice anything wrong that I didn’t?
I guess one way of inspiring some confidence here would be some sort of signage, saying. What?
“Out of order”
“This is not art”
“This is not a pipe”
Difficult really isn’t it?
At least we would all know if we were looking at what we were supposed to be looking at.
In a general sense I am always very suspicious when art is accompanied by a lot of text, part of this exhibition is two large floor to ceiling sheets which have writing on them in the form of letters that have been cut out of the sheets.
The writing is holes like a stencil.
On the floor opposite the cut out letters are left on the gallery floor in the form of a pile of what looks like the accumulation that gathers in a shredder.
It does in fact look like a pile of swept up rubbish and apparently one of the gallery staff has already swept it up an put it in the rubbish bin from where it has had to be retrieved and redisplayed.
Of course, I am not an artist so it isn’t art.