Writing / Grizedale Arts Blog / 2010 / 11

Tumult - the forgotten blog


Just found this blog entry that I forgot to put up ages ago

I am travelling to Denmark first thing following Frieze to do a bit of discussion, I like Denmark, I like being run down by giant women on giant bikes - not a mountain bike in sight - I like the 'scanning the horizon' Morton Hackett quality in peoples eyes. I like the similarity between the older Danish woman and iron maiden's cover icon Eddie. One thing I don't like is the national desire to develop a strong jaw line by chewing gum open mouthed, so horrible, sort of like wanking in public. Still a small price to pay for civilisation. Actually that Christiania place is not such a small price to pay, a den of porno drug tossers demonstrating what 2000 years of civilisation can achieve. A great reason to hate the 1960's.

I am here to talk about an art thing - Tumult, which by some oversight opens alongside Frieze, can't see any Italians showing up, it's on an island but not the right kind of island. I along with some other people have been asked to consider a few things about doing art in the sticks, i.e. is it pointless? Andrea Schliker, she who does the Folkstone Saga Triennial is along for the jaw-defining workout and I will presumably be disagreeing with her. By the look of things it is the usual - put this art world Frieze world stuff in front of a non specialist audience and then be cross and derisive that they don't have much of an interest in it.

Met at the air port by the Tumult team and decanted along with Andrea and Kirsten Bergenstal into a van hired from 'rent a wreck'. I had always imagined this was a turn of phrase for a less than new smell car but this vehicle seemed like a family of ferrets had been living in it for a few years, there was a massive spiders web crack across the windscreen and the rubber seals on the windscreen flapped and rattled a free jazz drum break as we drove. We stopped to buy tape to hold the thing together and I briefly perused the service station shop - sugar and porn - liquorish of every hue alongside a mono vision of mentally distraught eastern European women displaying their bottoms, there was even a large DVD library again with almost identical pictures of heavily doctored bottoms. Kirsten told me that the DVD's play in the car, going off when the car is moving, coming on automatically as soon as it stops, quite what the benefit of that is can only be pondered upon, one must assume that pornography has no relation to sex, who would want to stimulate an on-off erection sequence timed to traffic lights, red = hard, amber = tumescent, green = flaccid. So presumably pornography (I've never seen any hence my surmising) has another purpose or maybe just the pure pleasure of seeing another person utterly humiliated, a bit like the medieval enjoyment of public executions and tortures, a fascination with the degradation of another objectified human being.

The bus took us on a tour of far-flung art works in unusual locations and as with many of these kinds of works I could see little reason not to place them in a normal gallery setting, the artists had not really considered the location as significant enough to reconsider how they make work. The first effort was a Mark Dion, I don't know why but his work always raises my hackles, something, could be the experience of him and his contingent or maybe just the love in which he is held by curators because he makes work about their concerns - his pointing out of the bleedin obvious to people who seem to regard a blade of grass as a weird thing they have never before considered. Another work by Maria Lund is a horrible mess, she had instructed a local craftsperson to carve, in sequence, from a massive block of limestone each of the 10 public sculptures already hosted by the town, unsurprisingly he hadn't got far seemingly bereft of a jack hammer and other large scale industrial cutting equipment. Maybe Maria should have had a go at stone carving first; clay might have worked a little better,

The highlight was probably Thomas Kelppers reworking of a block of flats although I did keep thinking what a waste of energy, and the extension of that waste being that 'work' was in a way in public ownership, the public resources (i.e. other peoples work) that created the time for the artists to dick around. The art world is like a small village, interdependent on one another's labour, helping each other out, if someone wastes time on a pointless endeavour the whole community resents it; they could have been doing something useful like ploughing.

So the discussion centres on the division between urban and rural and on Friday morning we rise early in order to get a good run at a 3-hour discussion. It is kind of tiring, Andrea has the popular success of Folkstone to talk about whereas I have the somewhat underwhelming highs of Grizedale most of which don't really translate well into sound bites being rather lengthy explanations of complex relationship development between the over privileged and the undeserving. Still we stagger through the allotted time, maybe there were some useful thoughts. It makes me think about whether I should have followed through on the many Grizedale projects bringing them to material conclusion as Andrea did in Folkstone, creating those one-liners 'they made a mobile sci-fi library from wood from their own arboretum', but something about this sort of work makes me restless, irritated, I don't believe in it, it seems to be about career development, there seems little content, I don't understand anything from it.

The issue regarding making art, promoting culture in rural places remains a conundrum with artists and curators seeing it as a poor relation to international art and local practitioners aping urban models in an attempt to break through. As Tacita Dean expressed recently, it's just not appropriate to show her art - though made in the rural - in the place that it was made, it doesn't work and there is no point - the people that enjoy and value it will not be there. Suggesting that work is made for a very specific audience and designed to alienate all other audiences, that the place it is made is utterly insignificant.

To make significant work in non art space you need to forget about the hirearchy of the art world and create a relevant and engaging process and product. So for artists and curators there is no point if you don't believe in it as an end in itself, that there is a purpose that the work will undertake in that context. Saying that Grizedale has produced plenty of pointless art works that have served the artist and our art world credibility very well but done little for the place in which it was produced and from where much of it's raison d'etre was drawn..

Anyway for some reason the whole thing is most extraordinarily tiring, and my Saturday morning was spent marvelling at the Carlsberg museum in Copenhagen, a no money spared Victorian monstrosity of marble and brass, with an extensive collection of Greek and Roman sculpture alongside it's 19th century Scandinavian progeny, quite hideous as my mother would say - marvellous. The special exhibition of Etruscan art is a wonder, you can trust a Trusky to do something magical and practical with a lump of clay. The wall paintings did depict a few rather horrific 'games' a kind of arm wrestling where to win you force your opponents hands into a caldron of oil and another game where a blindfolded man with a club fights a man controlling a trained attack dog. Something chimes somewhere.

By the way BMI baby is a nice way to travel even if it does feel a bit like being squeezed back into a tube of toothpaste.

At Glasgow airport I am a little disappointed not to see the 'punching a burning man' stunt or indeed Elvis Presley, Prestwick being the only place his holy feet touched British soil when he bought mints from my friend jenny's friend's mum.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 14/11/10 at 09:37

Campo Conference

Campo Adentro Conference, Reina Sofia, Madrid

Apart from the usual Easyjet horror - this is really the last time, even as in this instance when it is for friends. The flight featured the typically warm humour of the Liverpudilian crew, with the incessant high pitched drivel about nails and stockings (possibly a portent of what was to come). Some Spanish crusty mums (like yummy ones but with a heavy edging crust) seemed convinced the isle was a play opportunity and seem to have come prepared with a selection of toys suitable for the playing conditions, mostly car type contraptions, the children thoughtfully punctuated the cars and running with high pitched repetitive rhythmic shrieking, possibly some sort of crusty ritual their parents had developed with them. But possibly best and most uniquely I was to enjoy a 2 hour high volume lecture of the rise and fall of the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday, a football club of little merit if I understood the man correctly - he repeatedly interjected the stuttering phrase, 'the, the, that's right'. Said monologue was delivered by a cat litter tester, really that is a job, he must surely be unique in this regard, he was visiting the Spanish parent company to train up further cat litter testers to whom I feel sure he will equally imbue some of the intricate detail of Wednesday, 'the, the that's right, we don't want to be a feeder team for the big boys, bought him up through the juniors, very disappointing, the, the, that's right'.

Madrid was beautiful, cool and sunny it was fun to hang with all the rural brigade, myvillages, kultivator, Angus (NVA), Fernando - albeit a little distracted. What wasn't quite so fun was the punishing regime set out over the 4 days, 12 hours of interminable talks by crapademics who appeared to be in a long term process of surmise, forming random and banal explanations of the state of things. I believe many were important politicians and figures from the establishment, Spanish universities it seems are even more corrupt than the UK ones being in the pay of various multi nationals but worse just bloody useless, un-rigorous, boring and unbelievably repetitive, the lecture programmes stretched over 12 hours with a healthy lunch break and none of the endless coffee breaks of the UK equivalent - thank god. The practical lectures were left till the 8 - 9pm period by which time any words had becomes a meaningless mush better suited to feed to babies or use as a face pack. None of the practitioners were really able to raise the tone myself included. The end result was disappointing, little energy apparent, little direction indicated and really most of the Armageddon arguments offering little substance bar a kind of swim in a luke warm brown depression.

Highlights were the meals and discussion over them and the last day set within a street market and a cheese fair organised by Fernando and highlighting the artisan cheeses of Spain, a wonderful selection. The conference finally got out to a wider audience with a kind of commentator tent featuring interviews and discussion, presentations and performances. Though this may not of had the gravitas of the Reine Sofia I am sure it was far more effective and raised the spirits and the enthusiasm.

One or two thoughts were raised that seemed interesting, the notion that the power structures were shifting away from the government towards a web connected matrix of specialist groups focused on specific subjects, and holding the knowledge and influence that affects the multinationals, that there would be an increasingly moral majority acceptance of civil disobedience.

In discussion there was an acceptance of the idea that art was a useful tool that could lead issue based culture, art was described as 'art culture' a term that meant to include the basic mind set behind any creative activity rather than any attempt to qualify or validate any actual product. The notion of art as a means to raise the value of a culture that it focuses on, a traditional notion akin to art and religion.

Really and partly in response to the endless foggy claptrap the imperative to get on with it, pushing ideas forward though action, demonstration and creative endeavour.

Moments of hilarity were few but there were moments, the translators bursting into laughter as they failed to keep up with the insanely fast speaking politicians. Being described as a planet in search of a galaxy by a bilingual man who in English seemed rather straightforward and practical but in Spanish was amongst the most flowery of linguists. Wapke refusing to read out the manifesto she had signed up to declaring 'I do not fink dat', it gave me the giggles mainly as I wrote most of the outrages and the rest of the group were clearly reading them for the first time despite the fact the site had been cleared and been up for months

But perhaps the key thing is that we can continue despite our differences, perhaps Spain was a good place to discover that, the country that lost the civil war against fascism by infighting over the definition of communism.

Reine Sofia is an institution that looks like it overdid the steroids, all soft bulging muscles and vast voids, housed in the heart of the building is Guernica in front of which a daily battle rages between the perpetual crowd of 200 and 4 security guards standing in front of the painting screaming at people to stop using flash.

If that isn't a beautiful metaphor for our condition then I am a crapademics Eastern European research assistant.

A man in front of me on Easyjet has just dropped one of the smelliest farts it has been my misfortune to encounter in an enclosed - he seems happy, oh and there's another one, my row are all covering their faces with scarves, no one seems to mind the terrorist threat, possibly at this stage it would be a blessed relief.

The, the, the that's right.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 14/11/10 at 08:51



The family farmed at Lawson park during the war, hosting 3 teachers, and 3 evacuees, they developed the diary side of the farm making wensleydale cheese and also introduced a new flock.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 02/11/10 at 07:51