In The Poem About Love, You Don't Write The Word Love

'In the poem about love, you don't write the word love.' It sounds like staging 'Hamlet' without 'the prince', nevertheless it is the title for the current exhibition at 'The CCA'. The curator is Ms.Tanya Leighton. There are more than 30 artists involved, including some exalted names. Not all of them appear to be represented by actual works, but the art is secondary. The exhibition is the artwork. It's a curator's show. Ms.Leighton sets out her objectives thus:
'Calling various social arrangements into question, the artists and filmmakers reveal aspects of the power that images wield and the processes by which they build realities.'
Fine so far, but then she writes:
'The selected works introduce serious objections to our understandings of representation, scrambling linear and narrative structures as a means of disorientating spectators and thereby exposing conventions of communication.'
Once disorientated, could I really appreciate the 'exposure of conventions of communication'? It gets worse and, of course, the labels are highly tendentious. They insistently impose meaning on the reluctant art works, bullying them into line. Thus Mr.David Lamelas's 'Rock Star', we are told, 'explores strategies of removal as he questions the status of the artist and appropriates his persona as a popular icon in the 1970s'. The artwork -- such as it is, being photos of the artist as a rock star -- is plainly secondary to the label. I will spare you more of this. Nonsense is as nonsense does. We have to disinter the art from a burial mound of language. When that is done, many of the works thus press-ganged disobey their leader. Mr.Gareth James's origami architectural sculptures, 'Real Estate', we are told, articulate 'the persistence of the logic of capitalist property values in the visual'. They do nothing of the kind. Some works do fit more or less, however. A film by Mr.John Menick, for instance -- a film about not making a film in Nuremberg -- is suitably off the expected point of filmmaking. Another, from the 1970s by Mr.John Smith, is a send-up. People in an ordinary street do ordinary things, while a director's voice superimposed after the event appropriates their actions to make them his own. An American propaganda film is also clearly 'subverted' by Mr.Keith Sanborn. Every speech, and even the credits, is given a repetitive echo, but the original, a chilling piece of so-called 'information warfare', would be much more scary unsubverted. One of the big names here is Mr.Jean Luc Godard with a film, 'Ici et Ailleurs', made in co-operation with Anne-Marie Mieville. This, we are told, is 'probably the most important essay film ever made'. I love that 'probably', there to affirm the curator's modesty and her learning. The film, made 30 years ago in Palestine, has a subject which demands our sympathy and interest. As cinema, though, it is not Godard at his best, but rather an example of the irritating self-indulgence passing as philosophy to which French 'Nouvelle Vague' directors were prone. This exhibition deals with a serious subject. These issues matter. We are surrounded by images that make us witnesses to disasters, transport us to a warzones, or offer us a glamorous sexy reality more alluring than our own. They are fickle and unreliable and we are certainly manipulated by them, but recognition of their problematic nature is not unique to our time. Ever since Descartes, even the images we form in our heads of the world around us have been philosophically problematic, and these problems of epistemics have, in part, shaped modern art. You can summarise it thus: if what you see is so uncertain, how can you ever paint it? If that is so, this exhibition is not quite so cutting-edge as it would like to think it is. In the last 40 years thinkers, French ones in particular, have added a new and problematic layer, by arguing that language itself is uncertain and unreliable, shaped by unseen structures of meaning that work like a computer virus, distorting our ideas without our even being aware of them. We need to understand all this, but is this the way to help us do so, with an illustrated thesis -- and a hefty one at that? I asked what supplementary information was available and was shown six black ring-binders bulging with documents. This is an exhibition that needs footnotes and a great deal of time. If the listed films were all shown they would run for more than seven hours and we are not talking 'Harry Potter'. Who is going to sit through all that? Art has to engage you. It can entice, persuade, bully, seduce, take you by surprise. Visual art can do any of those things instantly. If it is any good it doesn't need seven hours to make a connection that gets you involved. 'In the Poem About Love You Don't Write The Word Love' runs until 2006-01-28. 'Talking around the subject', Duncan Macmillan, The Scotsman, 2005-11-22, Tu


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I was writing a poem about love I think I probably would use the word love... would that devalue my emotion or my poem in some way? Is it wrong to "give the game away" like this?

This is what is wrong with art these days. It got detached years ago and rather than accepting it's redundancy in the modern era, it has become a tax-breaking currency for the suits and a way to yaw-yaw over a fizzy glass for the pretentious rest.

I gag at this crap and I gag at this article, which proposed to cut through, but failed us all.

11/23/2005 12:47:00 am  
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