07 December, 2005


Eric Muller had a link to this BBC World Service piece about the Turner Prize, an art prize recently awarded to Simon Starling for his performance/piece "shedboatshed", where he took a shed, turned it into a boat, paddled it down the river to Basel, and turned it back into a shed. The BBC commentator Mark Whitaker interviews two art-world airheads about this bizarre business (starts at around 6:25 in above link). He's quite funny and seems to be peeved for the same reasons I am (I'll explain later). Here's a bit of a transcript, though you really should listen to the whole thing:
MARK: Eric Troncy at, uh, museum in Dijon - is it art? a shed?
ERIC: Why not?
MARK: Is the French view of sheds the same as the British art establishment?
ERIC: Well you know, I think the question is not about, it's not about 'I could do it', it's, it's, because in fact you did not... do it, and this guy did, and it's the difference between you and him.
MARK: Well, the difference is that he's got the gall to do it, then.
ERIC: Well, he decided to do so, and you did not decide to do so, uh, to try to make things, uh, simple.
MARK: (almost laughing) Because I don't think it's art! I mean, if I was to bring my underpants in next year, and submit them for the Turner Prize, would I have a chance of winning?
ERIC: Why not? But I am sure you will not do that, and that's the difference between you and an artist.
This has been one of my buttons for many years; I've often lamented the slow decay of the word 'art'. And I think this exchange captures it perfectly. If, indeed, the art world wishes to espouse the philosophy that anything can be art, or that, in the extreme, everything that human beings do, anywhere, any time, is art, then they should immolate themselves. They should give up the idea of an 'artist', wreck their museums, and distribute the Turner Prize equally amongst all people, from the housewife cooking deviled eggs to the homeless man sleeping in his own filth. The whole point of Duchamp painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa was to mock the idea of art as something special and figurative, to be brazen and tear down boundaries between art and the rest of life. It's foolish in the extreme for M. Troncy, above, not to recognize the hypocrisy of insisting that what Starling does is art, while Mr. Whitaker is not an artist, merely because he lacks the pretension to declare himself one.


here's simon starling's description of the project, from the tate modern web site:

“When you enter the [exhibition space] you come up against the back of a fairly decrepit-looking shed! Which I discovered in a kind of similar way, from the back, when I made a very speculative trip up the river Rhine on a bicycle - and the shed had a paddle on the side, an oar, and I discovered that the oar was for these boats - called ‘Weidling’s - a local design a little bit like a gondola.

And I started to piece together a project which involved dismantling this shed and reconfiguring it temporarily as a boat, a Weidling. So the shed was dismantled and then we used certain sections to build this 10-metre-long boat. Then we loaded the remains of the shed into the boat and made this journey down the Rhine to the museum where my exhibition was happening in Basel. We unloaded the boat, and then rebuilt the shed pretty much as it was 10km up the river.

So as you move around the shed you’ll discover a small door and if you step up into the shed you’ll start to see the cuts, the marks of the boat-building process. Also you’ll discover lying on the floor a pile of cotton caulking which was used to fill the boards to keep the water out, there’s also some steel brackets we used to keep the ribs in place.

And I suppose I deliberately make things myself, by hand, and tend to take the long way round. I mean so much of our contact with the way objects are manufactured is now so distant from us. Because things are manufactured in multiple countries by large corporations and you lose the sense of a connection with the things you’re kind of dealing with every day.”

most of the artists i know are found object types. they're wackos. but their stuff always comes with a cool story and that's what i think is what's interesting about what they're doing. 

Posted by chromo

that tate britain (not modern) page.

kate bush, one of the judges, on the same page:

... there’s a very important sort of ecological, political, and economic questioning going on in his work on one level. But on another level they’re always very beautiful poetic works but there’s also this wonderful absurd kind of circularity. For instance in this piece he found a shed, dismantled it, and turned it into a boat and then turned it back into exactly what it started life as. And you’d say how incredibly pointless! But it isn’t, it’s the imagination and the poetry of doing that absurdist job which at the same time then makes us aware of both of those objects. And he gives you lots of clues and information - not in a didactic way but I think in a very illuminating way - whenever I come to one of Simon Starling’s pieces I always learn something that I didn’t know before and for me that’s a very exciting facet of the work

I suppose it's an interesting enough story. It would be a more interesting story if he made a shed/boat transformer and then spent some time paddling it around to various locations rather than the one-off voyage described.

I could concede that this is art, but it seems to me of a very trivial sort. The world is full of trivial art that is not (and does not need to be) recognized, placed in a museum, or awarded prizes. Mr. Starling was certainly enchanted by the sight of an oar on a shed, but the resulting piece seems to be interesting to the critical establishment primarily because it was the product of a particular artist. 

Posted by Emily

right now i am watching f for fake , orson welles's exploration of reality as determined by cameras and trained observers. welles is a very accomplished storyteller; he has a great deal to say about art, art expertise, and forgery; the film may be helpful in discussing points raised here; it is less than 90 minutes long. those are the things which recommend it. 

Posted by chromo

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?