Currently enjoying the light airport novel by Maxine Berg: The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy 1815 - 1848. It includes this marvellous illustration by Burnett from 1826 to be hung in every Mechanics Institute in the land. It shows the King in the middle and spirals out through fifteen layers of revolution with the paupers in the workhouse at its tail: "the best informed and the most industrious will always, in their exertion to get forward, thrust out the more ignorant in the rear". Like an aspirational colon. Should be made into an app for for Art Facts. Nominations please for who's in the middle and who's left in a blue pastic doggy bag in a roadside hedge.
This week travels bring me to a wintery (-12C) Breugelish Hildersheim in the middle of Germany to meet up Charles Esche and his team from the Van Abbe Museum and Prof. Thomas Lange of the University to discuss 1848, the usage of art, agriculture, the Zombie of modernism, cluelessness and edutainment (that word has, worryingly no spell check alert), among other things we are plotting to crowbar into an exhibition to change the world, or at least change how we see it .
The art school here is like the Mercedes version of Lawson Park’s Vauxhall Chevette. The arts school is built around a gargantuan 13th century mega farm-cum-fortress, surrounded by the most fertile soil in Germany. It’s very notable as you travel through this country by train that, in contrast to the UK, this is a land dedicated to productivity. Trackside in England reveals and a parade of retail hanger parks, malls, industrial wastelands, leisurelands and factories converted to go-kart tracks; a country given over to consumption. In Germany everyone seems to be at work, factory chimneys have smoke coming from them, the countryside is heavily farmed, not set aside and an engineering aesthetic pervades all, even at the Choco Leibniz factory.
Back at the art school we go to the student cafeteria which serves homemade café und kuchen. In fact it trumps pretty much any restaurant the Lake District has to offer and I gaze down at my 90 degree slice of subsidised patisserie and remember less fondly the Ginsters and scalding milky tea of the Goldsmiths’ refectory. But this is interrupted by a request from an art history student who is doing her thesis, startlingly, on Grizedale Arts and has heard that I am in town. “Are you sure?” I say. Apparently this website is read avidly in Europe, so we’d better get our act together. This is subsequently confirmed by Grizedale alumni and current Hildersheim artist professor Antje Schiffers who complains that we need to maintain the joke count on the site. Although, she says, we might be doing that but just not in a way she finds funny.
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