ARTYFACTS: October 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Turner Prize 2009

Usual weirdness in the Turner Prize rooms, but hey, that’s what these turns are all about. If they didn’t surprise, I’d be surprised.

Lucy Skaer seemed lightweight. The whale’s scull is yet another ‘watch through aperture’ experience. I get the idea that she's hiding to slow the perception of the object down, but don't see why this enhances the aesthetic of the object. I’m fresh from seeing Spymonkey perform Moby Dick (see previous review) so am getting mightily sick of seeing whales used as fodder for crap art. As for the chair and sculpture in the centre, language/chair print and book pages were trite, and made no aesthetic impression whatsoever.

YES – Richard Wright was a revelation. Painting, printing directly on to the walls, Wright “challenges the marketability of art”. His works are transitory and are usually destroyed with the surface upon which they are placed. I love this idea, that visual art becomes part of the fabric and architecture of a space. It’s art of the present, not the future. This is an artist with ideas and not just well executed work. The gold wall was a huge, beautiful image against a white background. He’s bound to win (the cards in the hall suggests he should).

Enrico David’s surreal images and sculptures are not only just plain ugly, his verbal exposition on the video was the worst type of reflective tosh. It's all very forced. If he wins, this will be my last Turner Prize visit.

Roger Hioris has a mess on the floor, a liquefied jet engine, apparently. This was interesting, but I liked his bedsit full of copper sulphate, although after seeing his engine covered in copper sulphate at the Hayward some time ago, you could say he’s playing this one out a bit.

Turner and the Masters: Tate Britain

Boat along to the Tate Britain to see the two Turner exhibitions. First Turner himself, and a comparative exhibition, pitting him against other painters. He fancied himself as an old master forgetting that one has be old, and judged, before you get the title. So, as he was so competitive, let’s have some sport.

Turner v Velde England 1 Holland 1

Turner v Rembrandt England 0 Holland 4

Turner v Wilkie England 1 Scotland 1

Turner v Raphael England 0 Italy 5

Turner v Watteau England 1 France 2

Turner v Bonington England 1 England 1

There’s some real disasters here.

Art of darkness? Tate Modern

This is impressive from the outside, as you face a huge rectangle of blackness. It is genuinely frightening, and I really did bump directly into the black, back wall. But, here’s the thing, it was a transitory and brief encounter. The place is packed with people taking photographs, looking around with their mobile light on, and generally being loud and obnoxious. So much for art bringing out the best in people, in this case it infantilised. Ian Jack’s piece on Saturday was spot on. The turbine hall has become a fairground.

It could have been so different. the piece could have been deeper and more frightening, and curated so that you're free to enjoy a personal and not a social aesthetic experience.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spymonkey dick about

Spymonkey’s Moby Dick is like an extended Goon Show. The whole gamut of funny voices, sexual innuendo and awful puns/jokes is rolled out like a third-rate 'Carry On Whaling' script. There’s that old English favourite; the Spanish waiter voice (for Ishmael read Manuel) the rather forced clumsy oaf (Stephan Kreiss), the Barbara Windsor dolly bird (Petra Massey) and the posh bloke (Toby Park). All of this dicking around the stage like am/dram idiots is just wearing. The writing is that of a second-rate extended sketch and when one of the cast finally shout ‘There she blows!” I couldn’t wait for Ahab to sink without trace. Some of the audience seemed to be having a whale of a time, but let’s be honest, middle-class theatre goers are easily pleased these days. By the end I’d had less of a bellyache from laughing than a bellyful of this nonsense. What was the point of it all?

Brighton & Hove Council have given this lot money and they've received 100% of the Arts Council money they applied for. What's going on here?

I have a half-baked idea on this. The reason this company are so popular down here in the south east is that they're quintessentially middle-England in avoiding politics, controversy, seriousness and, to be frank art. It's like resurrecting Brian Rix and farce - all that physical theatre, puns, confusions - signifying nothing. This is why middle-England just loves the Goons, Cleese and Noises Off. They're inoffensive and unthreatening. You don't have to think.

As You Like It - Globe

Spur of the moment decision but well worth it. Touchstone was hilarious with Eddie Izzard inspired facials and asides. Jaques was just as good. His seven ages of man soliloquy was really moving and got spontaneous applause. Just read this......

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

A bit of a rom-com, as are most of his comedies, and the gender switch is very, very odd to modern eyes.

It was great to just sit back in the sun and let the language do its work. The Globe's often criticised for being too 'heritage' in outlook, but I find the performances thrilling. In fact I'd like them to be even more authentic with drinking and audience heckles. The stewards are like puritan police. I even saw them ask some girls to put their notebooks away!

The groundlings are not what they used to be - as two collapsed because of the heat and had to be carried out!

Love's Labour Lost - Globe

Second play in two days but this is a difficult play, full of tortuous wordplays and difficult to follow, which is why, I presume, it is rarely performed.

It does something quite brave - takes the piss out of schooling and teachers. They're portrayed as boors, full of themselves, producing knowledge filled students through rote learning. Nothing changes then. It's probably the best argument against the teaching of Latin in schools I've ever seen.

The Spaniard is the play's saviour, with his accent and sense of naive fun.