ARTYFACTS: A Duck for Mr Darwin: Baltic Centre

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Duck for Mr Darwin: Baltic Centre

Take a bunch of artists, give them money to do something thematic, and you have a mini-evolutionary process, where some succeed, some have little or no real effect and some fail.

Charles Avery
Avery's imaginary Island has its moments, but like most people's dreams, ultimately a bit dull. EXTINCTION

Marcus Coates
Sort of comic, reversal film, where Marcus goes around town in the Galapagos dressed as a Booby bird, cracking jokes about the human species. A bit of fun, but art it is not. EXTINCTION

The tortoise film is just as bad. Why does he think the mating is futile and imperfect - that's how they got there. EXTINCTION

Dorothy Cross
Now we're getting somewhere. This film of her naked body being caressed by jellyfish in a jellyfish lake is entrancing. These barely sentient, primitive organisms, encountering our species by touch only. SURVIVAL

Mark Dion
Collector's junk on a beach - didn't provoke a single thought in my head about Darwin or evolution. EXTINCTION

Mark Fairnington
Hey, something really thoughtful, with a virtuoso touch. This life size drawing of a bred bull is finely drawn and as artificial as the real thing, a product of refined breeding, something darwin drew upon when feeling his way towards evolutionary theory. SURVIVAL

Ben Jeans Houghton
Yet another dull, derivative, room full of collected stuff. EXTINCTION

Tania Tovats
A wormery - art no. EXTINCTION

Conrad Shawcross
Interesting but irrelevant collection of balls from a river trip in a boat with a camera. EXTINCTION

All in all, in this show, art has little or nothing to add to the wonders of evolution, a truly startling and idea. A more interesting approach would have been half hte gallery devoted to the reverse proposition, that evolutionary theory has something to say about art. In the last 20 years we've had some wonderful ideas in aesthetics, based on darwinism and evoltionary psychology.

Art as cognitive training
Art, especially literature, allows you to imagine, practice and prepare for the real dangers in life.

Art as propoganda
Storytelling, literature and narrative may be a way of improving memeory and passing down useful knowledge, but it is also a way of gaining power over others.

Art as sexual selection
Look ate me, I'm an artist, and lay bare my talents therough good works. Miller and others have championed the idea that art is basically a good way to get your rocks off.

Art as evolutionary artefact
Stephen Pinker put forward this interesting idea, that art is a by-prodcut of other evolutionary useful features, such as language.

Now an exhibition that made art look at itself through evolotionary eyes would be something!


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