Friday, 30 May 2014

Nothing Doing Nothing

I see that a conceptual artist called Marina Abramovic is putting on a piece called '512 Hours' at the Serpentine Gallery from 11 June.  The work consists of her wandering around the Gallery for eight hours a day, six days a week, doing precisely nothing except interact with visitors.  To quote her: “There are no objects and no art works on the wall but there will be props … the public will be her [sic] living material which she is going to interact with 8 hours a day.”

As you know, I too am a conceptual artist, and never able to resist a challenge I’ve gone one better.  So I’m delighted to announce my performance piece, entitled ‘Nothing Doing Nothing’, which will commence tomorrow, for an unspecified duration and at randomly selected times.

I have taken Marina’s concept to its ultimate extreme by eliminating not only any artifacts, but also the audience itself.  Nobody but me will be present, and nobody will know precisely what the work consists of – it could be sitting on the sofa, emptying the dishwasher, scratching myself, refiling the LPs, singing ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ to myself at midnight … You will never know what this artwork is, or was.

It may not be all that entertaining, but think what it will do for your imagination.

P.S. Abramovic is apparently, rather wonderfully, being accused of plagiarism.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Where does this stuff come from? And why?

I woke up this morning to find that sometime during the night I'd written, on the pad I keep by the bed for that purpose, the following:

That's "ANTS + Sartre = DALI".

Now, I know exactly what that means, which is Absolutely Nothing.  But I'd love to know what it meant at the time I wrote it.

Any clues?

Monday, 19 May 2014

More or Less?

To Tate Modern, to view the Matisse ‘cut-outs’.

Also, in my case, to view Tate Modern from the inside.  I’d spent many a happy lunch hour(ish) admiring the Bankside Power Station, amongst many other attractions (St Paul’s, the Cannon Street station San Gimignano-esque towers, many passing young girls) from the riverfront platform of the Anchor, back in the late 70s when I worked in a (thankfully) long-gone Seifert office block called New London Bridge House on roughly the site of what is now the Shard (about which, externally, I love everything except its location… but that’s another story).

Anyway, I’d never been inside Bankside Power Station before yesterday.  Not back then, obviously – it was still generating pollution until 1981.  (I’d love to have seen that turbine hall full of humming oil turbines.)   Frankly, I was a bit disappointed.  It’s all a bit too organised, corporate – I like my museums and galleries to be intimate, a bit chaotic, even tactile.  Go to Burrell in Glasgow, Lyme Regis, or (if you’re venturing to foreign parts) the Wilson Museum in  Narberth.  I’m being churlish, I know – the scale of the Tate Modern project is stupendous.  But I found myself people-watching rather than absorbing the art on roped-off display.  And I couldn’t find the Rothkos.  Bah!  (Though a single stumbled-upon Bacon portrait was sufficient compensation.)

And the Matisse?  Well, you have to admire the energy (although he did have a lot of help), and the film of him carving the precise form out of the huge sheet of coloured paper with a pair of scissors, like Michelangelo with his marble and chisels, removing the irrelevant bits to expose the vision within, was enthralling.  But there were too few Davids, too much wallpaper.  Maybe a couple of dozen images out of hundreds (the famous ones, obviously) jumped out and lodged in my emotional memory.  A small exhibition of the few undoubted masterpieces, rather than hundreds of bits of work-in-progress.  Too much is too little.

It was great to wander along the Bankside though, soaking up the sights and the sounds.   (Buskers seem to be actively encouraged, except where they’re banned.)   The views across the river have evolved, mostly upwards (the Gherkin is now dwarfed by the Cheesegrater, St Paul’s dwarfed by both – although it’s interesting how the cathedral re-asserts itself the closer you get, across the wibbly-wobbly millennium bridge).  

A faint memory of an old cartoon: two old geezers leaning on a gate, gazing across open fields.  “I remember when this was all Banks.”

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Embarrassing Moments

I’m talking in particular about that special event that occurs when you’re on your own, no witnesses, but still feel embarrassed.  I’m sure there’s a word for it, but it’s slipped away, like so many words do.

Anyway, I’d bought some nice new wine glasses from J Lewis and parked the unopened box in the kitchen.  Much later that day, I put my half full glass down somewhere to answer the phone, and after the call was over I went to look for the glass, eventually wandering into the dark kitchen.

You can guess the rest.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Bluebell Commons

I would have inserted a picture of a Bluebell here, but Blogger's 'insert image' tool is, yet again, f**ked, so you'll just have to imagine it...

This is the time of year to see these best-of-British wild flowers, so we jumped in the car and set off on a partially plotted course towards Captain’s Wood, somewhere in Buckinghamshire, which had been recommended as a top-notch bluebell wood.  It soon became clear that we’d been told to turn right at a garage which, on all evidence, didn’t exist this side of Leighton Buzzard, so we stopped to ask directions, in the middle of a wide, open, grassy, populated Common: the sort of gorgeous public space that confirms my intention to vote Green at all future elections.

The nice local man asked us to hold his collie’s lead while he thought about it.  He wasn’t sure about Captain’s Wood, but reckoned that if we continued along this road for a couple of miles – past a garage, no less! – we’d go down a winding hill and pass some amazing drifts.  He was right, but unfortunately the bluebells were under a steeply sloping beech wood which would have required more time and energy than we had.  So we drove on, until we reached Wendover Woods, where we parked up, recklessly waiving the parking fee, and walked through some well-managed, well-tamed Forestry Commission land for half an hour or so.  There were some distant bluebells, faintly visible beyond the zip wires and the picnic tables.  Lots of families were having fun.

I’m in two minds.  On the one hand, it’s obviously great that public bodies like the Forestry Commission, the NT, English Heritage etc. are protecting what was once common land against corporate predation – but a perverse bit of me regrets the days when I was twelve years old and would be taken by my very proper parents to Uddens Wood to trespass, admire (and even pick) the bluebells in the spring, and steal the blackberries in the autumn.  Uddens is a housing estate now.  Is that good or bad?  Wild or tame?