There was Art going on in Trafalgar Square the other weekend. You could tell it was Art, because it couldn’t really have been anything else. Other than an alien landing, Doctor Who filmshoot, or something similar.
A bit of searching, and I’ve discovered I was watching a performance of Miniatora, by the Candoco Dance Company. As usual, I found watching the crowd more interesting than watching the performance itself.
Deciding to do something cultural whilst in the Big City, I visited Tate Modern to see Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment, her Turbine Hall installation made up of thousands of plastic casts of cardboard boxes.
As I’d visited the work warehouse earlier in the day, my first reaction was: “this isn’t a very neat warehouse”. My second reaction was “ooh, I could just do with a cup of tea”, because the stacks and stacks of white boxes make me think of a giant pile of sugar lumps.* One leak in the roof, and the whole thing would just dissolve.
It was good to see, though, that kids love Embankment. They were all over it, playing hide and seek, darting in and out between piles of boxes. It’s good to have art that you can get inside and move around in, and use for your own purposes like that. The kids might not be thinking about the plight of London’s homeless, but Art** isn’t just for the artist’s purposes. It’s what you make of it that counts.
* In fact, I’m tempted to make a model replica of Embankment entirely out of sugar cubes and starch paste.
** With a capital A, of course.
Almost anyone you ask will tell you: they hate the sound of their own voice. I have a similar relationship with my own face.
This is at the top of my mind, because I received an email today, with a couple of photos of myself in it.* They look horrible, I have to say. No fault of the photographer, just that I look terrible anyway.
The common connection with the sound of your own voice is that just as you rarely hear your own voice as other people do, you rarely see your own face that way either. When I see myself in the mirror in the morning, it somehow doesn’t register, because it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad in my mind as it does in photographs. I’m convinced I’m not the only person who thinks this way, though. I’m sure there are relatively few people who are pleased with the appearance of their own face.
It makes me wonder about artists: specifically, artists who produce a lot of self-portraiture. What drives them to do it? Is it a narcissistic obsession with their own appearance? Or, as I’d prefer to think, is it instead more the reverse, an obsession with controlling their appearance because they’re never satisfied with it.
* And lots of other people too, of course – from when we all went out on Boxing Day.
Yesterday: a day out, to the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television with The Parents. We’d not visited almost since it first opened. Most of it has been completely rebuilt since, but the gallery on the mechanics of TV is still unchanged from 20 years ago, back when blue screen Chroma-Key was an amazing feat of modern technology. The exhibits have all been re-captioned by Tim Hunkin, but even he only gave it a 2/5 score.
We didn’t go to see anything specific, but we did look around the current exhibition: Fashination, about the grey area between fashion and art. It seemed a rather strange choice for the NMPFT to put on. I suppose the connection was the importance of fashion photography, which was touched on in one part of the exhibition; but it really would have fitted better at somewhere like the V&A. The most interesting section – given more prominance on the website – was the “street fashion” polaroids of random people and their clothes. As someone who wishes they could just wake up, throw on something random and still look great, I love the idea that fashion is not the province of Great Artists whose work is more suited to a catwalk or photograph than to everyday life. Which seems to be entirely the opposite opinion to everything else in the show.
So, on Sunday, I was sat around at home idly playing with Movable Type and seeing what some of the more obscure options do when A Friend In The Suburbs phoned. “I’m having a crap weekend,” she said, “want to come round some art galleries?”
So, I went out and we wandered down to Queen Street, to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, because they have three rather good exhibitions on at the moment. We got there. And it was shut.
So, we walked back the way we came—in the rain, of course—and said “I know, let’s go to the Fruitmarket Gallery, they’ll be open even though it’s Sunday.” So we did. And they were open. But they didn’t have any exhibitions on.
So, we wandered round their wee shop and ooh’d and aah’d all the books and postcards, and Friend In The Suburbs said: “Why don’t we go to the City Café and get some food?” So we did. We looked at the menu, and thought “mmm, desserts.” We tried to order pancakes.
“Sorry, we’re halfway through changing the menu. No pancakes.”
“Ummm … do you have any desserts?”
“Sorry, no. We’ve got rid of them all. We still have milkshakes, though.”
“OK, I’ll have a chocolate mint milkshake.”
“Sorry, we only have chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. No mint.”
So, in the end we went to Favorit and had lots of cake there, whilst spying on all the other cafe-users and saying we wished we’d had our camera with us so we could photograph them all.