Saturday, March 13, 2010

Art Bin

Yestserday I went to the South London Gallery to have a look at the annex they will be opening in the summer - they took over the hosue next door, basically, and they've done clever things with it. Now there's a brilliant flat for an artist in residence on the top, with a view I was envious of, and downstairs they have all sorts of useful spaces for exhibitions and events, and what looks set to be a new lovely neighborhood cafe.

I also wanted to see the Art Bin before it ended. It's "monument to creative failure" by Michael Landy, basically a huge transparent skip filling a whole room with a metal staircase to climb up and throw away your "failed" art. After this weekend, it all goes to a landfill. - Reading about it I thought: hmmm, whatever, and wondered if this was another comment on censorship, book burnings and such. But actually seeing it I was struck by a sudden sense of... joy! I love it! I really want to take some art there myself to dispose of before Monday.
I am so very familiar with the feeling of staring at some piece of FAIL I've produced using time and thought and materials, something layered and marked and laden with intention and, if I'm actually being honest, useless and boring. Then what? If one has a garden, one can put it between some temporarily boring potted plants for a splash of colour and hope it weathers well, somehow. If not, one can give it to a friend who needs something random to liven up a corner in their cafe or something, and then know that one will have to see it there again and again.
Or... YES! One can throw it away. One can. Yes. I can! Because I made it, it's mine, and it's not alive. It's just a waste of space. And not every mark I make deserves to be treasured. HOORAY!
I enjoyed seeing children with notepads writing about their favourite object and at what angle it was sticking out of the mass of stuff and what sound they figured it had made hitting the pile. Some of the paintings were slashed and kicked and mutilated beforehand. I wondered if that had been done in anger or joy. I also wondered how many things in there were former love tokens, stuff that you can't sell (it was a gift!), they wouldn't want it back, and you don't want to display (love is over and object isn't treasured beyond that). What joy it must have been to trash some of these! What relief, and sometimes, what a welcome sense of a non-event.
I wondered if there was anything in there that I'd like to rescue, and I decided: no. This isn't the aftermath of a hateful raid. This is just some art that the person who owned it (more often, who made it) thought wasn't very good, and wasn't good to give to anyone, neither. And so they let it go. - Yay.

(Mind you, better recyle than landfill, in everyday life. My own failed art goes mostly into the waste paper bank, in folded wodges.)

I left feeling happy and bouncy and thinking about new things to do.


Swati said...

I like this. The idea, though I too would have thought it useless till I read your piece, but even more, the way you say it. The realization that one can, after all, throw things away, even if it is art, even if it was precious once, even if hours were spent in its making. That I am free to do what I really want to do, provided I know what it is.

Eric Orchard said...

I saw a picture of this! It looks like it'd be really engaging in person.

Viviane Schwarz said...

It was completely different "in person" from all the stuff I'd seen and read. It was all over the UK papers because Damien Hirst chucked a one of his in, a big one too, so the discussion was more about "Ain't Brit Art all rubbish anyhow".
But looking at it all, you just couldn't keep thinking "There's a Hirst in there! You could, like, SELL that!" - there was just too much other stuff.

That's something I've found with fine art pieces, especially large ones - they are surprising when you actually see them.
I like going to exhibitions of artists I don't understand and seeing if something clicks. My favourite so far was Cy Twombly - I went from utter disinterest to feeling I had been told something great and important about the human mind. Like throwing a switch!

Viviane Schwarz said...

I've sometimes wondered: if an artist paints something and then decides it's not art, it's rubbish, and chucks it out with the kitchen waste - if someone digs it back out, can they really say "I found a genuine so-and-so?" - It seems to be the case, like with that blurry dog painting Francis Bacon binned the discovery of which the world got briefly excited about. I remember thinking: That is still a painting by Francis Bacon, but only in the sense that a sandwich or a telephone doodle could be "by him". It's not really "A Francis Bacon" any more.

At the same time, one of my favourite books about Picasso is a collection of random ephemera he scattered as we all do, little paper scraps and doodles and whittled sticks. But they, also, were vetted, simply because they were the ones that were kept by someone close to him because they particularly liked them - I don't think they were "rescued", they were simply little bits and bobs that just stayed around, tiny witnesses rather than cast-offs. I very much liked that.

Swati said...

Art, I have always felt, is so very personal. You can admire technique, you can like colour schemes, you can learn about hidden meanings - but ultimately what you like is something that echoes at some level within you. So, in that sense, one person's discard might be another's treasure.

Also, like you said about Bacon, does just a name make a painting important? I think not - no matter how expensive a painting, how renowned the artist, if it doesn't click with me, I don't want it, thank you.

But, in the end, I am still undecided about your question - whether art thrown away by an artist is still art. I do know that even if a writer wrote juvenile pieces before producing a work I admire, I'd still want to read those, in an effort to understand him/her. But not for their own sake - and it would definitely have put me off if I had read that inferior piece first.

I am sorry if I sound totally circular - I am very tired tonight!