A writing about reading

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” Hector, from Alan Bennett’s play, History Boys.

I’m a big fan of this quote, as it suggests reading as something which can give definitive form to ideas I can’t fully explain, and I struggle with that quite a lot. This year, it’s been hard to plough on with a body of work which, in its finished form, looked rather flimsy and half finished. I gambled away six months working on something which went against many things I’ve learnt and previously agreed with, to produce something obtuse and sub par in appearance.

So why?

Firstly, I’ve spent time and money on producing exhibition standard work many times before, and it’s never amounted to much, other than the pleasure of gathering people together. Second, I’m a little suspicious of too well put together exhibitions, especially at student level. Shouldn’t they be ragged and weird and done on the fly? There hasn’t been enough oddness this year being at art school. Two weeks back, almost something happened when the dean thought our class was protesting against the school. Instead we were displaying posters about the idea of protesting. Wild times.

So instinct told me to keep it rough, pack the work full of ideas, ramp up the weird and then see where it all falls. I just couldn’t see the point in producing something polished and tight. Which isn’t the same as making no effort, in fact I worked hard to produce a giant piece of crap. Poorly lit, crookedly hung works, bizarre speeches and flimsily disguised self portraits would probably be the highlights of the night.

It felt right for our times, although I struggle to articulate why. Which is where my first quote comes in. And my second, which neatly explains that there was some thinking going on. Thanks then to Jean Baudrillard for the following.

“It is absurd, then, to say that contemporary art is worthless and that there’s no point to it, since that is its vital function: to illustrate our uselessness and absurdity. Or, more accurately, to make that decay its stock in trade, while exorcizing it as spectacle.”

Here’s Tony who came along to the show and may or may not have been an actor dependant on who you ask. He explains how impressed he is by the work on display, and then the camera slowly pans around to the dreck on the wall and back. My young friend Charlie couldn’t have done a better job with his video work. Thanks Charlie.




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