Okay readers, it’s time to get high-brow and discuss modern art. And not for the first time on dadams.co.uk… oh no, we’ve explored this subject before, and I’ve dug into the archives and resurrected postings one and two for your delectation.
What makes me come back to modern art for the third time in the illustrious history of dadams.co.uk is the 2007 Turner Prize, which is described as “a contemporary art award that always provokes debate and is widely recognised as one of the most important and prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe”.
“…provokes debate” – yep, I’d say so. It also leaves most of us scratching our heads and wondering if some sort of abstract parallel universe has temporarily collided with our own. Or is it just that there’s a bunch of jumped-up media types trying to pretend they’re better than us by getting us to believe that there’s some hidden value that they can see but we can’t, presumably because we’re just not clever or artistic enough?
Example: Mark Wallinger has been nominated, and one of his pieces is an ‘installation’ which comprises of numerous protest posters and placards. According to the judges his work “evokes a heightened sense of reality that communicates an unpalatable political truth”. Eh? I noticed that the people present at the poll tax riots some years ago didn’t get nominated for their signs, but in Wallinger’s favour he has never (to my knowledge) burnt cars, lobbed petrol bombs at the police or thrown a dustbin through the window of McDonalds. Although if he did, the results would be pieces of art.
But now let’s have a look at another piece by Wallinger which really allows us to have a good scoff at the world of modern art’s expense. Entitled ‘Sleeper’, it’s a video filmed over ten nights in a Berlin art gallery. Interesting? Maybe. The main subject was Wallinger dressed in a bear suit. That’s art, is it? Dressing up as Bungle from Rainbow. Genius. No doubt it evokes a heightened sense of ursine loneliness suffered by a tortured soul on a nocturnal quest for honey, or perhaps his friend Geoffrey. I once went to a fancy dress party in a similar costume (although it had a space for my real face) – does that make me an artist? All I can really tell you is that it seemed like a good costume until I had to visit the boy’s room.
It’s simple… if you want to see real art created by someone with a real talent, take a look at Julian Beever’s pavement art. Meanwhile if you fancy your chance at the Turner Prize, acquire a bucket of vomit, dangle it from a wire coat hanger, and get yourself down to the Tate. They’ll lap it up (but only if you went to art school and regularly have Damien Hirst round for dinner).
Update: given the past history of cleaners throwing away ‘works of arts’ the BBC News web site have rather amusingly interviewed Vera Montgomery, a cleaner at the Tate Liverpool. “What about the bear?” she says, “please explain it to me”. Yeah, and me please. She goes on to say “to me it’s just a guy dressed up in a bear outfit, walking round an empty vacant building”. This rather accurate description (and I’m not being sarcastic Vera) is followed up by “am I being ignorant or what?”. Ignorant Vera…? No, just honest. The short video ends with her asking the BBC’s David Sillito “what does it represent?” – Sillito responds with another question, which would seem to imply that he doesn’t have a clue either, but unlike Vera isn’t prepared to admit it.
In another video Sillito asks Vera for her opinion of ‘Untitled Threshold Sculpture’ by Nathan Coley. Let’s be clear about what this is… it’s a piece of wood laid on the floor. Vera is not impressed and thinks it’s a health and safety hazard.
According to Coley, this is part of exploring physical and psychological boundaries, and marks his temporary ownership of part of the gallery. According to me, you can pop down to B&Q or Homebase, make a purchase and ‘hey presto’ you’re a modern artist. But beware, Vera has got you sussed and won’t be impressed.
Make sure you come back in a year’s time, when we’ll be discussing some very clever arty person who will be displaying a bottle they’ve either p*ssed or farted in, while several art critics marvel at their genius.