Sunday, 4 July 2010
"It takes a long time for a mouse to realise he's in a trap. But once he does, something inside him never stops trembling."
Laurie Anderson, Transitory Life
from the album Homeland (2010).
Highly cross-making day. Why must builders hammer things at 7.30 in the morning? This is not an acceptable time of day to commence hammering things. There's scaffolding everywhere. All I can see from my window is a matrix of grey lines, greenery beyond, elusive. Occasionally trainers pass by at eye level. The trainers seem to have decimated the honeysuckle and left the table and chairs half way down the garden. Why must things always need repairing just to stay the same?
Now I come to think of it I've been cross since Sunday. It was probably those bloody tights. There's really not much that can be said of the installation currently languishing on the upper level of the newly re-opened Hayward. Maybe it's a bit Gaudi-esque. Maybe it hints at biomorphic forms or underwater creatures. Maybe the tunnel walls are pierced with what the vicar rather unexpectedly described as 'little cunty things' (I think he thinks it amuses me to be shocked, which I suppose it does up to a point). But frankly, and despite whatever the Hayward blurb writers might like to have us believe, subatomic physics is pushing it way too far. The fact is we could play spot the reference all day, but the ambitiously titled The Edges of the World is one damp squib.
The problem is it suffers from a complete absence of bite. It's fluffy and pretty and rather nice. It smells of lavender and camomile. It's got a little outdoor swimming pool so you can take the kids for a dip on a sunny week-end. It's got a very loud drum that small people like to bang on. Repeatedly. Here and there are step ladders you can have lots of fun climbing up and down. Which is all very nice. It does not, however, invite the viewer to see the world differently and the only thing it led me to question was the wisdom of whoever decided to put it in the Hayward for three months.
I'm far from the expert on South American contemporary art so if Ernesto Neto is indeed the most interesting contemporary artist to come out of Brazil in recent years, as one reads, then I can only imagine there's not much doing down there.
Far less irritating is the micro-exhibition: Keeping it Real: An Exhibition in Four Acts: Act1: The Corporeal at the Whitechapel. As an exhibition I really liked it. I liked the concept, I liked the curation and I liked the work. Quite out of keeping with the current fetish for exhibitions almost as large as their curator's egos, it's deliciously bijou. Plus it's got R Mutt in it, and Marina Abramovic and Sherrie Levine and Louise Bourgeois – what's not to like? Well, there is one thing. It's one of those days, I can't help myself, I have to focus on the negative, doubtless it won't make me feel any better but there we are… What is with the word 'real' this year?
So far we've had Design Real at the Serpentine, The Real Van Gogh at the RA, The Sacred Made Real at the National and now we're Keeping It Real in Whitechapel. What are we supposed to understand 'real' to mean? Sorry, but what quite is 'real'? I'm not sure the nature of reality and phenomenal existence is straightforward enough to be bandied about in this way. But what this bandying about suggests I suppose, is that collectively we're feeling a bit short on 'real' – whatever we might variously understand that to be.
I sat reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying last night, trying to nudge myself out of this week long bad temper I've somehow fallen into - look to the big picture and all of that. Apparently when we die we're presented with the naked, unconditioned truth. We're presented with reality. But, if I'm getting this right (and who knows about that) when we get there, the vast majority of us haven't the first clue what we're looking at, we find the whole experience profoundly terrifying and scamper back down to earth lickety-split for a bit more work-a-day suffering. But here's the good bit. It seems that for those in the know mind and reality are one and the same. What's out there is the same as what's in here. The light has no separate existence from mind. No wonder we're all terrified. Keeping it Real suddenly seems quite ambitious. Not least at the Edges of the World.