Let’s consider for a moment : What if we did not Work?
For the second time in two days I came across that notion of no longer working suggested as an action in protest against the many grievances uttered by many in today’s living environment.
Image: Catherine Wharfe,MA Photography, College of Communication.
At the Zabludovich Collection , the following evening I attended Future Map. The Zabludovich Collection hosts the exhibition showcasing promising talent from the graduates of the University of the Arts London. The opening was very well attended and busy.
A burly man at the entrance seemed to have walked out of The Madame Tussaud saving a little fledgling bird on the way. He stood alarmingly real and startled for a moment, I found it to be the work of Eun Jung Ha and tried to remember the name of that artist who made ‘Little Dad’… Ron Mueck?
The fact is that at first glance on entering the exhibition, the whole affair appeared colourless and a little dull or dry even. Boredom began to seep over me. I scoured the main room for suggestions of the innovative or rapturous, rebellion even. But then it was social commenting I found and work with reference to materialism and capitalism.
StrangMacFarlane’s work asked in big fat letters: “Want to be more attractive”? A series of black and white prints including a horse in a frame, all out of kilter, swung irritatingly from side to side and gave the whole room a disorderly messy sense. I was cheered thinking this work was kind of successful and piqued that this might shakes things up a bit.
A large chandelier of bottles lighted the second room beyond the main gallery. At closer inspection it was inlaid with strands of hair disaffecting the brilliance toward something more serious. The artist Youn Joo (Dari) Bae, comes from South Korea and she explained to me how her work reflects her experiences of living in the West for two years now. She told of how much the vision of Europe differs from the way people in South Korea learn about or form opinions about the west. The influence of globalisation on all our lives was foremost on her mind. Dari continued:
”Before I came, I assumed the West to be a kind of Disney land, more like a fairy tale. We too have Starbucks but it has a different image. Experiencing the realities of what it means to be living and working in the West at first hand, I have begun to experiencing and seeing my own country from a different perspective.
Why the chandelier? It expresses wealth, the beautiful and powerful. Hair can have many connotations, but while doing this piece my thoughts were directed back to when in 1895 the Japanese invaded South Korea. The soldiers were ordered to cut of people’s hair off. The short hair signifies a loss of power and identity. Hair is a very personal thing. My thoughts and the experience of living here are embodied in this work.
From the gallery above, I stood looking down at the crowns, having just glanced at ‘Rubbish Jewellery’ by Hollie Paxton and the concrete ‘Confinement Jewellery’, by Jin Kim. Amusing was a group of three girl models on the gallery in oversized fox furs dyed in patterned colours. They giggled infectiously like the three bears in Goldilocks. The colour and frivolity amongst the work offering social comments, was refreshingly out of place and I met Eliana Dimitrakopoulou , introducing innovative pattern cutting expressing the evolution of fur craftsmanship.
Not experimental but aiming at uncovering the market and capitalism was Lillian Suwanrumpha who’s work references female history in the textile industry. Her is aim to get behind the commercialism involved in football shirts.
Down in the main central gallery space again, I spent time with the grey slabs of concrete stacked in commercial cooling shelves generally found in supermarkets. Jess Blackstone’s valid comment on the possibility and impossibility of choice in a market driven world. So often overlooked but universally successful and powerful.
On my way out I was lured and disappeared into one of Janina Lange’s performance platform structures and into a TV lounge that hangs around your head. This could only be experienced standing or I might have stayed longer!
So referring back to the title, Catherine Wharf’s performance video work stood out for me. The simple act of the solitary artist sitting motionless in the vast expanse of the empty Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern conveyed a clear and direct message with ‘This is art sitting on its Ass in a Museum’. I like to see it as being an active call to inactivity and protest. Other connotation could include a holistic reminder to be still, have a rest, reflect and remember who we are. Looking at the work from a feminine perspective the artists singular presence within the walls of grey concrete and steel girders, does not diminishing her physicality and size or her confident pose contained within it.
Historically it is contrary and indicative to Caspar Friedrichs solitary figure in a late 18th Century landscape. The figure looks to shores afar and is an explorer of the land. Catherine’s figure in the Tate , is one of the mind and she looks inward. Overtly she has chosen to sit and rest within the very halls of power and monument to the proceeds of these early explorers, and the working public. Further in the catalogue the work is particularily referenced to ‘the refusal to work’ that emerged as a defining characteristic of post-1968 political action in the major Western capitalist economies.
Why do we work and who do we work for. We think we work for ourselves to maximise our wealth but forget that we are also maximising someone’s else’s wealth. Idea’s for working ideologies, were prominent in the 1968 student protests.
I quote from a lecture on the History Guide: 1968 was a year of revolution. That’s the year that John Lennon sang Revolution. It’s the year that Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane sang, “Now it’s time for you and me to have a revolution” from their album Volunteers. In a period of unprecedented material prosperity and cultural activity…. more on : http://www.historyguide.org/europe/lecture15.html
It’s a good start to the Year! Congratulations to all at Future Map.
The Zabludowicz Collection link: