The AV Festival comes to a close on Saturday so Jonathan Schipper’s Slow Motion Car Crash is reaching the end of the road. I’m not sure if his or any of the other exhibitions I managed to get round to radically increased my awareness of time or the pace of modern life. But interestingly the car would appear relatively unchanged for days on end until one day you passed and it would be significantly more damaged. That may infer something profound about the way we process familiar scenes or information or time. Maybe that’s the point. Alternatively it might be an invitation to just slow down sometimes.
Monthly Archives: March 2012
Jonathan Schipper’s slow motion car crash continues and with a little over a week to go the front of the car is becoming fairly crumpled. The front wheels are off the ground and the tyres are flat though that’s not obvious from the photo.
I can’t see much more happening between now and the end of the event on 30 March, beyond the front crushing slightly more into the wall. Never apparently has a windscreen cracked or broken in any of Schipper’s previous slo-mo crashes, which is a pity. A dusting of fractured glass is just what’s needed to finish matters of nicely I think. There’s always a first time…
Jonathan Schipper’s car continues its slow, stately journey into the wall of a disused shop in Saville Row. With about 10 days to go the bonnet is now more peaked, the front wheels are lifting off the ground but its clear that my speculation over a week ago that the car would be almost completely crushed into the wall isn’t going to be realised. Someone suggested I’d mixed up millimetres and centimetres when doing my sums. Certainly I’d neglected to factor in all that stuff about mass and force and friction, which I never fully grasped when doing O Grade physics and which undoubtedly has slowed the cars progress even further.
I suppose Schipper’s art is about an investigation of the dull, quotidian properties of the physical world but I’m sad in a way. If he had found a way for the car to disappear into or join with the wall at some molecular level then I think he would have created a spectacular surrealist masterpiece.
It being a Sunday – the day of rest – I did very little today, apart that is from watching the first 3 episodes of The Shock of the New, art critic Robert Hughes account of modernism. First shown on the BBC in the early eighties I can’t remember it being on TV since, though probably it has and Hughes book, written to accompany the series, is still available, updated and enlarged.
How I came to watch those first three programmes today was by finding it on UbuWeb possibly the best resource on the internet for films, videos, sounds and texts of 20th Century avant garde and experimental art and writing. Hughes complete series is there. Some of the other things I’ve found on UbuWeb since discovering it about a month ago are the Francis Bacon South Bank Show during which he has a drunken lunch with host Melvyn Bragg, archive recordings of cabaret songs by Alfred Jarry and a PDF of a 1921 portfolio of drawings by Georg Grosz. This is just a tiny sample of what UbuWeb has available and what’s remarkable is that its all completely free, that its run by volunteers and needs no funding apart from its monthly hosting fee of $50. A downside of this complete independence is that UbuWeb could apparently disappear from the web at any moment, though its been around since 1996 which suggests that its more permanent than its directors themselves seem to believe.
UbuWeb must surely be the sort of resource Tim Berners-Lee imagined the web would offer when he created it. Long may it continue.
Off to Middlesbrough yesterday where the AV Festival extends its reach to MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) to see a show of work by John Gerrard and Cyprien Gaillard.
Both artists use film but of the two it was Gerrard’s crumbling Cuban schools that I found the more engaging. Although I think Gerrard’s films did benefit from the ambient music accompanying Gaillard’s films which drifted through the galleries.
The subject of both Gerrard’s films are decaying schools, built in 60’s Cuba in the International style that seems to have influenced all municipal architecture of the time. The camera slowly and continually revolves around the schools through a 24 hour/365 day cycle. Both schools sit in a surprisingly flat and featureless landscape. Apparently a caretaker appears in both films at the beginning and end of the day but nobody in the gallery yesterday had seen the caretaker. It added a certain excitement to watching the films when we noticed the sun low on the horizon and thought we might catch a glimpse of the caretaker but sadly she didn’t appear.
What I didn’t realise at first however is that Gerrard’s films are both computer generated animations of real buildings. Only after watching the first film for a couple of minutes did it occur to me that the grass had the same look and visual texture found in computer games. Text accompanying Gerrard’s films burble on about them ‘powerfully marking the melancholic demise of a political vision’. That’s fair enough but what Gerrard also seems to be doing is what all (or virtually all) artists have always done, which is to create an alternative in paint or other medium to the natural world and using that alternative reality to make comment or respond, (however obliquely) to the society around them. And by using computer generated images Gerrard gains complete control over the virtual world he’s created. Is the land around the schools quite as flat in ‘real life’? I found the films had an immersive, restful quality to them, particularly Cuban School (Sancti Spiritu) 2011, which is projected across the gallery wall.
Upstairs at MIMA, away from the slow pace of the AV Festival is an exhibition of works on paper by Sean Scully. Made in 1974 – 75 the drawings have recently been rediscovered. I don’t know that much about Scully’s work expect that he often, or always, uses vertical and horizontal bands of colour to build up his paintings. These works on paper look to me as if they have been painted by someone just beginning to find a new way of expressing his ideas. They are modestly sized but meticulously done. Nowadays Scully’s paintings appear to have a painterly quality about them that whilst not entirely absent from these works is constrained by the careful, regular application of masking tape and pencil line. That may not be the case at all of course and for all I know Scully had already started making his large painterly works on canvas but that is how it looked to me.
After leaving MIMA we went on a long, circuitous route to find Anish Kapoor’s Temenos, Britain’s largest public sculpture. It sits on the docks amidst a hotchpotch of regeneration projects, including Middlesbrough College’s remarkably Soviet looking new building (from the back anyway) – a return to ‘60’s International Style perhaps. But nothing looks properly finished and whether the area ever will be finished off given the massive cuts made by the coalition government to regeneration funding who knows?
Temenos didn’t look especially large, though obviously it is big. It struggles however to compete with its surroundings. From where we stood Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium effectively spoilt the view. Walking around Temenos, which we didn’t do, the college, a single block of flats, the Transporter Bridge or the rusting heap of the Tuxedo Princess (a boat come nightclub which was once moored on Gateshead’s Quayside) might each interrupt any contemplation of Kapoor’s sculpture. What Temenos needs is the flat, computer generated landscape of Gerrard’s crumbling Cuban schools.