ARTYFACTS: April 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baroque for english consumption - V&A

I love baroque architecture. It allows me to escape my Calvinist past, and that was its point. As a counter-reformation movement it has all the exuberance of rebellion. I love those little baroque churches in Rome that adorn almost every street and piazza. Enter the Gesu and you receive this huge Catholic slap in the face that makes you face up to your protestant pettiness. That's the baroque I love, not the  cabinets, clocks and crockery that this exhibition largely features.

For me the baroque is architecture first, the rest follows. That's not what the exhibitors want you to believe, but they mistake effects for causes. In fact, it loses it's effectiveness when scaled down. In the end it becomes an auctioneer's showroom with one example of every of baroque object the curator could think of, rather than it's real heart. This is so V&A. It's the Antiques Roadshow, not a wild orgy of joy. Of course, the English never really took to the baroque, They toyed with it in some of their more out of the way country houses and Wren had to cheat it into St Pauls. England, in the end never really capitulated to the reformation, nor counter-reformation. They emrely collected some bits and pieces from both.

I'd also have included its apotheosis, Rococo and ended on a blast, the firework explosion which ended baroque movement in an orgy of excess. But the V&A is far too conservative for that!

Wallinger - Hayward gallery

I'm never quite convinced by Wallinger and his huge 'white horse' may turn out to be Kent's white elephant. However, there's some interesting pieces here in this curated show on frontiers, borders and thresholds - Wallinger's forte, as they say.

But let's be honest the main theme is too loose and the show fails on several fronts (oops thresholds). It drags in pieces that have to be explained in terms of the theme in text. The 'Man on the Wire' video, for example. Why should these disparate pieces be brought together? Not sure really. I didn't feel enlightened on the nature of frontires or ambiguity. Now doing something brave, such as fooling you as you enter into thinking you've enterd an arty exhibition, or having some falsely attributed pieces, would have been interesting, anything but a 'collection'. This has all the pettiness of a collector's mindset. Someone with a bee in their art bonnet.

Annette Messager - Hayward Gallery

Get stuffed
Messager's stuffed toys make my heart sink. It's an attempt to use 'something' just because that 'something' hasn't been used before. Stuffed toys are not unorthodox, just boring. Her 'false biography' stance is also a complete fraud, or rather a sewries of poses, attention seeking, not art. From the very start, with the so called 'grotesque wall piece, you know you're in for something that's all 'look at ME'. Endless arrays of photograhs and personal drawings, mostly awful, are piled up,  arranged 'artfully' on the wall, hang from ceilings and spo on. I really dislike this blatant autobiographical pleading, especially when its by someone who denies she's doing this.

Hold on! This is good. This is really good. From a dark doorway at the back of a large hall huge blood-red waves billow through the aperture than expand like tsunamis towards the viewer. It floods the senses. Wounding, menstrual, horrific, calming, eerie - all of this and more. Never the same, these red ripples can be calm but as they grow they unsettle, even frighten. You're sort of stunned into silence. At last a work that isn't all art school and obviously personsal. It's big, dynamic and damn wonderful. I've truly never seen anything like this before. Unique.