Grizedale Arts


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Saturday 6 October '07
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Lost G (Searching for the Spectator conference)

the empty vessel

Recently talked at a conference in Readin’ with juneaus and Nina Pope – Nina invited Mike Ostler, a member of a participatory audience from her Battaville project Mike made this great speech saying almost the exact same thing that the village leader from the Toge Japan project had said to the Echigo Triennale director at the end of the Grizedale 7 Samurai project which was basically ‘we don’t want any more of this art where artist make their work for us to appreciate, we want to be involved, to participate, for the work to help us express our ideas and feelings’. Mike was specific he specifically did’nt want any more Angel of the North type things – nudes of old Etonians in your face.

Mike also introduced himself as the only pure member of the public at the conference (although later in the pub he did expose a past with considerable art/theatre involvement so maybe not quite so pure). Anyway it was good to hear it said, hard to really assess the response, generally positive but a little in the line of that magic moment a few years ago when at a Lib Dem conference someone got up and berated them all for being a bunch of wishy-washy, Guardian reading, overly reasonable people, about as much use a wet wipe in a sewage works - she received a standing ovation, ‘oh quite, quite, you know she is so right, marvelous’.

The conference was a university thing and there were these research people ex artists whose names I half recalled from sometime in the dim art past and they talked about stuff that you just take for granted - just read as read, the autonomy of the art object got a good going over - like someone cares, all that exploring space balls – a planet controlled by an autonomous being able to inflict pain at will – Phil and Ben (juneaus) slept and giggled like a couple of dormice. I thought about how little actual art face activity supported this academic edifice. Phil and Ben twiddling away, scratching a bare living subsidised by endless children’s workshops. Phil and Ben, Nina and Karen with a great upside down pyramid of crapademics balancing on their shoulders, vastly well paid (40k and long holidays, pressing their own Olive oil in their Tuscan villas) with multiple eastern European research assistants in Bikinis, hanging off them like the army motorbike display team. All that money and education, all those students - 3 years of study each, now strung out to 6 years – 6 years - Jesus your life is practically over by then. I watched all the entirely female audience (well it was a conference on engaged practice, what do you expect) making notes about exploring the gallery, considering the corner of the space, dealing with the floor, the autonomy of the art object, the artist, autonomy or hectonomy, or is that a planet ruled by an ancient Greek deity called Hectonomy able to inflict pain at…..

I thought about how little the whole art thing is, how inconsequential, things described as important actually being about as important as renewing your lip gloss. An artist has often no more than one idea, executed every so often – I mean bear in mind how many times you could do most of these ideas if you had an audience, like hundreds of times a year - easily even if it was just you - BB King has played over 300 gigs a year for the past 50 years. But without demand you have to limit supply and build the edifice out of stratagems and platforms, chairs and CEO’s, consultants and marketing, development, research practice.

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