Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Visiting the Tates

Off to the Turner Prize at Tate Britain last weekend... On the way stopped in on John Latham, of whom I'd not heard, and was immediately captivated. He uses books, some of which are burnt or otherhow maimed, on his canvas and they seem to be born out of it. Another picture is a huge and disintegrating/bursting full stop, called Full Stop. An aquarium is full of pirahna - they represent the art world swimming round his manifesto for unified thought, unable to read it but unable to escape it as the sheets of A4 paper are preserved within the water in glass.

The show felt vital, intelligent... the missing link between sensuous and conceptual art.

The Tate, which has issued an apologistic note for declining to show his picture featuring copies of the Bible, the Koran and the Talmud intersected by glass (God is Great #2) in the wake of 7/7, says this about him:

Latham sees the ills and conflicts that beset mankind as the result of differences in ideology. He attributes these differences to the absence of a single theory capable of explaining the universe and man’s position within it. The theoretical framework he has evolved seeks to provide a unified explanation of existence. Bridging artistic, philosophical and scientific ideas, Latham’s theory of ‘event structure’ challenges the views of scientists and cosmologists. According to this theory everything that exists can be explained, not as atomic particles and waves, but as recurring time-based ‘events’ of finite duration. A ‘least event’ – the shortest departure from a state of nothingness – is, for Latham, the fundamental unit of existence. The recurrence of such events establishes a ‘habit’ and forms the basis for structures in reality. Recurring events of longer duration result in more complex phenomena such as objects, mental images and, ultimately, the cosmos.

The images of the artist on the way in show a gaunt and driven man sat among blankets. It's clearly hard work producing a unified theory of the world.

The Turner Prize exhibition might, another year, have come as a disappointment following this revelation, but I felt all the artists had overt merits ...which was a relief: I feel saddened when I can't appreciate things that someone has put a lot of commitment into. My favourites were the black canvases with trees on them by Gillian Carnegie, somewhere between sculpture and painting. But then I've always enjoyed self-coloured texture - it's kinaesthete thing. It had me thinking about the painter's response to photography and digital reproduction. Impressionism, expressionism and abstraction, then photo-realism... all worth looking at, even without a sense of the painting's brushstrokes, etc. But black textured canvases. Impossible to photograph or reproduce digitally in any meaningful way? Cool.

I also enjoyed the mood of Darren Almond's video installation - and the fact that he looks like George Clooney in the photos.

The shed is impressive and I like the idea that the platinum used in Simon Starling's pictures of a platinum mine came from that mine in the quantity being mined in the pictures. Nicely self-referential. But I have to be told that. Jim Lambie's work is immediate - like being shrunk and let loose in a Chinese knick-knack shop. Lovable but silly.

And if that weren't enough, it's on a boat - at last, the Tate boat - and to the other Tate. Mostly to sit and gawp at the City of London as the sun goes down behind us in the Members Room, but also to see the sugar lumps in the Turbine Hall (Rachel Whiteread, left). By now I am feeling full of impressions and wandering among boxes is nicely blank. The experience absorbs the other images. The piles of boxes are BIG. But everything in the Turbine Hall is big. That's one of the things I like about it. That was why I didn't much like the sound thing. It was multiply small.


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