Writing / Grizedale Arts Blog

Tumult - the forgotten blog

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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