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A woman tripped over next to ‘Beacon’

Today I was walking past the site of ‘Beacon’ and a woman fell over very close to where the beacon had lay.  I was the closest person to her when this happened so I rushed over to see how she was.  She said that she was fine, not injured.  However, she said ‘I’m so embarrassed’.  I said that I was pleased she was okay and we said goodbye.

I reflected on this afterwards.  The whole thing about the beacon not allowing itself to be sick and the metaphor of how that has applied in my life came to mind.  I identified very much with what this woman was saying.  She had fallen over and appeared quite shocked even if not physically injured.  However, she was very keen to get up and say she was fine.  Her embarrassment at not being okay is exactly what I would feel in her situation.

This is why ‘Beacon’ was such a strong metaphor for the way that I have approached sickness, accidents and other difficulties in my life.

Reaction to ‘Beacon’

As of today, I have completed six walks around the Radical Gallery Tunbridge Wells with a total of 14 people.

I’ve enjoyed bringing ‘Beacon’ back to life.  For me, the work is very much there and I really appreciate being able to occupy the space that it occupied.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the density of particular spaces.  It feels like a good word to describe how certain spaces (e.g. the space inside a cube) feel different to others.  There is a resonance, an energy of the work that remains and I seem to be communicating that to people.

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This is one of the works where it feels like I have to be present for the art work to be active for new viewers.  There is no doubt that my enthusiasm about, and faith in, ‘Beacon’ is selling the work to participants in the Radical Gallery Tunbridge Wells.  But I am interested in exploring how much it is true.

Eventually I will have a podcast of me talking about the work so that people can visit the work by themselves yet hear my experience of it.  This website is making the works available and communicating my experience of them through the blog.  I’m interested to see whether these other means of experiencing the work (i.e. without my physical presence) are as effective in activating these as authentic art works.

Human rights and art

The absolute starting point of my Radical Gallery Proposition is that all human beings are equal.  Someone pointed out to me the commonality of this objective with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.  This person happened to have a copy of the Declaration associated with the fascinating performance series ‘acts of memory’ and printed in the context of the Brighton Festival 2011.

I read the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and three of its articles particularly stood out in relation to thinking about what the Declaration might imply about art.

Article 1- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

If all human being are born free and equal, is it implicit that this can change after birth?

Article 27(1) –  Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

The first half to the statement is all-inclusive and creates an ideal of communities having a cultural life.  However, the second half the article states that everyone has the right to enjoy the arts.  This suggests that ‘the arts’ might be something different than the cultural life of the community.  Worse, it possibly implies that the ads are something separate from everyone.  The right to enjoy the arts is not the same as the right to create art to be an artist.

Article 27(2) – Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

I find this potentially problematic.  It suggests that ownership of art is possible.  I would question this.  Ownership of the object, the transmission mechanism, is possible but not the idea/experience in the artist and viewers’ head.

The thought of an art work

Having walked through the space previously occupied by ‘Beacon’ on a daily basis, I have realised that I am still engaging with the space.

The removal of the work created a sense of physical loss and that was my focus at the time of the event.

However, as the days have passed, I have come to realise that the work is very much still alive.  When I stand on the spot where the beacon lay, I can still experience the work.

This raises a fascinating possibility.  To what extent to other people need to see the work in order to be able to engage with it?

I have a friend who, two years ago, described a piece of his art work to me.  I have never seen the work but he described it so well that I have a good picture of it in my mind.  After two years, the image of the work is very strong even though I did not actually see it.  I’m wondering how my current thought of his art work would compare with the thought I would have if I had seen it two years ago?  I have a gut feeling that the thought might not be so different.

So this is something that I am really interested in exploring in my work.  I’m seriously considering including this work in the Radical Gallery Tunbridge Wells that I have been activating.  If I lead others in a walk around the work, I’m going to try including this work.  I will describe my experience of the work in the actual space that it occupied.  It will be interesting to see whether anyone else can have an experience with the work as a result of this.

The sterility of the space

All evidence of both the construction work and ‘Beacon’ has now gone.  The area is completely cleared.

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I feel very sad about this.  I’m happy that the art work existed for a discrete period of time and was such a successful piece.  However, the place seems very empty without it.

I previously talked about he disruption to normality opening the possibility for art to occur.  The scene now is completely the opposite of it.  The space feels empty, sterile.

The saving grace is that I now have two other art works in the same location (‘Ascend’ and ‘Is it Minimalism or do I just have OCD’).  So the space very much remains a gallery space.

‘Beacon’ has come to an end

This morning both beacons have been removed.  This has brought the work ‘Beacon’ to an end.

It’s a bit of a shock for them to be completely removed and not put back in their old place.  However, I do have a feeling that this is the best way to close the art work.  As I have discussed in previous posts, it wouldn’t have been the same art work if the lying down beacon had been returned to its normal position.  A clean end to the work seems appropriate.

Also, seeing ‘Beacon’ as an work has been made even stronger by its removal.  The continuous flashing throughout the whole work was not because the beacon would be re-positioned in its old location.  The flashing was completely futile and purposeless in terms of its normal function and also the construction work.  It therefore leaves open the possibility that the only sense to be made of this is through art.  It feels as if the flashing continued because it was an art work. I’m happy about this.

It’s the disruption to normality that has made art here

The area around ‘Beacon’ is really changing.  It must now be close to the end of the construction work.  There is still no indication of what will happen to the beacons, whether the zebra crossing will be returned to normal functionality.

I have the feeling that the work is coming to an end.  Even if the beacon is returned to the crossing, I am now clear that it will no longer be the same art work.  One of the reasons why I believe this to be true is that it’s the disruption that has provided the opening for art to occur here.  It’s not normal to see a flashing belisha beacon on its side.  It’s this disruption to normality that catches my attention.

The other belisha beacon (the one still standing at the ‘crossing’) is now part of an overall installation but, by itself, it is not as interesting as the beacon that has been on the floor.  It’s the disruption that makes the opening for something creative to happen.

Visiting a friend

There are certain art works in the Tate Modern and the National Gallery (the two galleries that I have visited most in my life) that I have a relationship with.  I have seen these works many times over the years and they have become living things for me.  I have a relationship with them.

This is the first time that I have had the experience of seeing an art work daily for a sustained period of time.  It has been a great experience.  Ultimately I have the view that all of my art work is a self portrait.  To this extent, it’s not surprising that I personify the works as I get to know them better.

In terms of having a daily engagement with particular art works, I read an interesting book a while ago called ‘The Sight of Death’ by T.J. Clark.  He viewed the same two Poussin paintings daily for a period of time and recorded his changing experiences with the work in a notebook. He was effectively ‘blogging’ about the experience but his posts have been published in a book.

I’m finding this to be a very satisfactory way to appreciate and engage with an art work.  The model of entering a large gallery as a tourist attraction and seeing lots of art works as a one-off is certainly a very different experience.

Back to ‘Beacon’, tonight I was there late. I love this time as usually there is nobody around.  It’s just me and the art work.  Tonight I had the feeling that the beacon was a very close friend and that my daily visits were akin to visiting a friend regularly.