Monday, July 23, 2007
All For Art and Art For All
One of the best things that happened the last weeks I was in Glasgow was the Art School's Degree Exhibition. It's definitely the best art show I've seen since the fourth Berlin biennial last year. Unfortunately I never got around to seeing the Master of Fine Arts graduates' stuff, which was housed in the Tramway. I spent several days going through the main building and the adjoining ones though. Everything there was done by the Bachelor graduates and all the fine arts stuff were in the main building. Design, ceramics, textiles and jewelry amongst others were just across the street. The first day I went, I barely had time to see two floors in the main building. There wasn't that much traditional painting, which was good. I liked some of the photography and there were some great video works and installations. For example there was a really funny animation that included a falling leaf. It had some spooky concrete music set to it and suddenly, before the leaf hit the ground, it opened its mouth and let out a shrill scream. It was in a separate room, so everyone in the next room turned their heads and wondered what was going on every time the scream recurred! There was a fascinating installation that was a low corridor you could walk through, after taking your shoes off. Everything around you was covered in black and white checkers, and there was some other stuff that your experience of being in there could make you relate to. In the same part was also my favourite work, which was more conceptual - a Japanese girl called Masako Ueda had made screen prints on paper towels. She'd then placed them in dispensers that she had photographed in various locations, e.g. next to the Kelvin River. On the first day her paper towels had also been in the toilets of the main building. The whole point of course, was that you were supposed to take one, but I don't think many people understood that. There were also printed tissues, because the whole thing derived from the Japanese phenomenon of handing out free paper tissues with advertisements on them. Apparently no one buys tissues because pretty much every company gives them away as a PR thing. So it obviously related to pop art and commercialism. But also the aloofness of the art establishment. I was quite surprised at the prices some of the graduates had set on their works. Lots of things were £300 and above and prices seemed to depend on the size of the work and not the amount of time spent on it. I liked the fact that many artists had things that were not for sale (which seems to suggest it means something to them, beyond being just something to be proud of), and I liked Masako's works - because they was free. I like art you can take home, interact with, or at least touch. Otherwise it sometimes gets hard to relate to it or get something from it. Another interesting thing, which was independent of the degree show was that there were works on display from something called 'the one pound gallery' or similar. This a project to encourage artists to share their work, and might be a possible outlet for unfinished or unsatisfactory works. The idea was that you could take a picture of the thing you've created, which should correlate to the value of one pound in some way (e.g. the costs of the materials or the amount of time spent on in relation to what the artists would normally charge). The gallery would then consider it and if accepted the artist would be paid one pound.