Posts Tagged ‘london’

Artist Michael Landy will launch his new exhibition, ‘Art bin’, at the South London Gallery tomorrow.

Landy's Art Bin

Landy fell out of out of Goldsmith’s intimidating conceptual furnace alongside artists such as Damien Hirst, in the late 1980s. I am quite a fan of conceptual art on the whole; from what I have seen, although it may not be defined as art to those of us in love with art in the classical sense. That is, with Monet, Manet, Kahlo, with the notion of art as a romantic escape, a beautiful luxury that perhaps it was originally defined as.

Damien Hirst and his Diamond creation

But humanity changes, and morphing alongside humanity are the artists – generation by generation, they reflect the norms, attitudes and repressions of society. They manifest this not only in the creations they are blessed enough to be able to create, but also in the way they think of their work, and of art as a whole. Flinch as I do to use clichés such as the creative thought process – romantically, I assume there is no such thing – but surely this process presses against the boundaries of what can be defined as art.

Frida Kahlo was all for painting her imperfections. But what would she have made of the 'Art Bin'?

Which is why I think the conceptual artists are so bloody brilliant. They may be equally as able to draw and paint as the old masters, but they choose to present something which usually blitzes any grey area we had between what is acceptable and not, and most certainly what is the norm. Tracey Emin’s bed, to cite the most cited creation in arguments against conceptual art, for example. Shocking and arguably not using any classical skill whatsoever.

Tracey Emin 'My Bed' - Turner Prize 1999

But imagine having the gumption, the imagination, to consider that art and enter it into the Turner Prize, one of the most revered in the art world. I think that smacks of a train of thought I would never posses – and isn’t that feeling of inspiration, isn’t that something of the point of art? This train of thought is highly out of the ordinary, and I do not think that influential movements such as Fauvism, would have sprung up from those unwilling to press against the boundaries of the norm.

Henri Matisse, Dance I (1909) - Matisse was part of the Fauvism movement

Often, in conversation, I find myself taking the defensive role of conceptual art. It is easy to refute. One student from Landy’s year at Goldsmiths, for example, decided that wearing a balaclava decorated with pig’s trotters and plastic dolls, then walking round in circles for 10 hours, was what the age demanded of his tormented artist’s soul. This, arguably, is celebrated insanity – or not even celebrated. But the role and boundaries of mental instability in art is another subject for another time. I think before refuting conceptual art, people should think very carefully about why they are, and perhaps consider it in another realm, not competing directly with traditional art but looking to invent an entire universe on the side of it, where the normal rules do not apply.

Landy believes destroying art is creating art

That being that and beautiful and fantastic and everything, I cannot abide what Michael Landy has now decided constitutes art. His originally termed creation ‘Art Bin’, is inspired by a session in 2001 called ‘Breakdown’ where he destroyed every thing he owned. All of his 7,006 possessions – from odd socks to David Bowie singles and his Saab 900 car – were labeled and placed on a conveyer belt at the old C&A flagship store on Oxford Street, London, where they were then destroyed.

This, I suppose was a two-fingers up to artists such as Hirst, cashing in on their new ideas. OK, fair enough, materialism is bad, the government is bad, capitalism is well bad, I’m bigger than money I am….. It was his own work, his possessions, he was the one who was tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket and still feeling the pinch, nine years later.

But Art Bin is not about his own work. Artists, or people owning art, can come to the gigantic glass-walled installation in the gallery, climb up the steps and hurl any pieces onto the floor, smashing it and my defense of the world of conceptual art into a thousand tiny splinters. Eventually it will all be burned. Oh, it has to be good enough to be disposed of though – Landy must pass it through. I find this repulsive.

I don’t want to get all freedom fighter and harp on about the crude disparity in this world, but seriously, it doesn’t sit well. My mind can’t help but wander back over to the slums outside Chennai, in Madurai, South India. How much could one of those paintings being disposed of fetch? Pieces by Hirst and Emin are being chucked in. How much are they worth? One million? Two? Probably more. Imagine, imagine, how far that money would go over there, where you can live on 40 pence a day.

Sod it, sell it and pay back an incey wincey tiny bit of Britain’s debt soaring at £6,000 a second, I don’t care. Do something with it. Just don’t chuck it out.

Creatively, too, seeing these fantastic works of creation someone lovingly put together, putting their thoughts, time, putting themselves, into, too, smashed to smithereens breaks my heart. If only I could create such lovely things, I wouldn’t treat them like that.

If then, art morphs alongside the changing face of humanity, what the hell does this say about the current state of our society in Britain? What will others halfway round the world think has happened to our society, that we can celebrate this, that we can call this art, and that halfwit Landy, an ‘artist’?

My A-level Art teacher Mr O’Sullivan would be pleased. I’m having a ‘reaction’ – and that, he once said, is the point of conceptual art. I’m not convinced.

Apparently ‘Art Bin’ is about the ‘Paradox of Existence’. Sure, Landy, now spell that for me without using a dictionary.


Read Full Post »