Sunday 10 February 2013

Carl Andre and Rosa Barba at The Turner Contemporary Margate follow-up Review

Having been to The Turner Contemporary last week and written my review based on my initial impressions of the new exhibitions, see
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.

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?

It also gives a new definition of art: "Something that you can’t tell whether it is broken or not." 

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.   

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.  


  1. Did you no Carl Andre was a former railway-man? In short a man who knew about weight and weight distribution, materials, metals etc, Once I knew that fact I found I got more out of the exhibition on the second viewing.

    1. Yes is says so on the wall of the gallery where is works are displayed, as I have said before I am highly suspicious of art works displayed with a lot explanatory text.

      I am reluctant to use the words railway navvy and railway sleeper, so I will ask you, what did you make of his poems?

    2. I called into see these exhibitions last week and after about half hour looking at the exhibits, I left the gallery and whilst walking back to my car I had the distinct feeling that I could see more art on display along Ramsgate seafront than in the Turner Gallery.

      I then reflected on:
      What integration does the Turner Gallery have with Thanet?
      Is art in the Turner gallery relevant to the people of Thanet?
      Has this building been imposed on Thanet as a sort of social engineering?

      Well at least the visit was thought provoking.

    3. I guess though the questions; is it functioning in the way it’s supposed to and am I seeing what the artist intended me to see? Have to come first though. Did it all seem to be working properly? Imposed or not we are paying about £6,000 a day for this and I guess if you put 20p in a slot machine and it didn’t let you see what the butler saw you would go and complain.

    4. The trouble for me is, like or or not and paying for it or not, it is here to stay and should it not be more a part of Thanet, a showcase to the rest of the art and architecture which can be seen here. It seems to be a very introverted place where art is held as something above the average man in the street and provided to attract intellectuals to a deprived area in the hope that something may rub off.

    5. Know not no Idiot

  2. Well I went to the talk on the Seaforts last week, it was sold out and was a terrific event, nice cup of tea and good Q&A after. I enjoyed having a look around and I am looking forward to seeing the curiosity show in a couple of months with loans from the horniman museum.

    1. 11.50 I think the point here is this wasn’t an arts talk but a local history talk, here in Ramsgate this mostly happens in our church halls and theatre, local history talks I mean.

      In this instance it suited the TC to host a local history talk because of the subject of the film in one of their works,

      I would say that as we are a paying for them to heat two lecture halls it would beneficial to the local community if these were made available to local history societies and so on when they are not in use.

      My point here though is not to criticise the art works for what they are, but to criticise the fact that they are not functioning as intended.

  3. This guy thinks the poems are like the Shinning


Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.