The Eye of the Fish

December 14, 2008

Stout Barricade

For one day only, – Sunday, today, you can see the city barricaded off. By tomorrow, it’ll be gone. It’s part of the Litmus series of One Day Sculpture, and this time has been brought to you by artiste duo Heather and Ivan Morison. It’s called the Journee des Barricades, and to me, seems site specifically reacting to the inspired sculpture outside the Athfield renovation of the old State Insurance Building, where discarded columns and lettering litter the street. If you didn’t get to see it during the day, sneak down tonight, as I have a feeling that it may be resident and spotlit until midnight.


From the front it is very fluid and the bicycle remnants flow down in smooth slope to the ground – an avalanche or perhaps more of a glacier of detritus. 


From the rear however it is more static – more barrier and barricade, more urban jungle frontline than urban throwaway society.  From the rear it looks as though the entire street could be full: however, the back of the blue bus gives it away that the depth is actually quite slim (can I have the bus when you’ve finished? It’ll save you taking it back to the dump…)   


But it’s good to see that more giant scale street art comes to the capital. A previous work by the Morisons apparently was a truck full of flowers breached on its side in the road, flowers strewn across the road (“I lost her Fantasy Island. Life has not been the same”). It reminded me a little of the large scale public artworks that have been taking place in Europe recently, such as the giant spider coming alive in Liverpool in September. Yes, I agree that a giant 40 foot high mechanical spider has more pulling power than a street barricade, but the success in people terms also relates how well it is publicised. Ideally: more publicity before the event, rather than after…. 


14 - 12 - 08

I visited the site this afternoon. When I first saw it, I was immediately reminded of something very similar that took place earlier in the year, literally just around the corner from here – back in June, the natural disaster porno Aftershock was being filmed, and Maginnity Street was the scene of a giant pile of rubble, including vehicles, that emulated a post-tsunami downtown.

And funnily enough, when I was walking around Stout Street, I heard various people trying to figure out what the giant pile of rubbish was, and many people guessed that it might be part of the filming of an ad or a film, which says something about Wellington.

15 - 12 - 08

My, my…anything passes for art if it gets enough press, doesn’t it.

I’m sorry – but that is sh*t. Its a pile of rubbish, no more no less. It has the artistic merit of a random dog turd on a public street.

If I was the creator of the giant spider in Liverpool, I’d be appalled at being compared to that pile of junk.

The artist is taking the p!ss. Surely.

15 - 12 - 08

I create art like that on a frequent basis.

But then I find a rubbish bag and tidy it up.

I’m with KLK on the piss taking.

16 - 12 - 08

I’m like that with Damien Hirst’s “sculptures” of dead cows / sheep / sharks etc. The man is a total charlatan, a total blagger, and a historic scumbag – especially after having just sacked a load of his staff (ie the ones who actually do the work) just before Christmas – despite his millions.

However, all that aside, the cognescenti of the art world oooh and aaah over his work. Total piss-take if you ask me. I think a large part of his success (apart from Charles Saatchi buying his work up at a rate of knots while he was starting out) is the naming of his works – ie The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) (ie a shark in a tank), Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purposes of Understanding (1991) (ie many fish in many tanks), or Away from the Flock (1994) (dead lamb in a tank). He doesn’t actually make his work – he employs others to do the embalming etc, but his skill at self-promotion is unsurpassed by virtually anyone (except perhaps Madonna, who is pretty rubbish, but still manages to get herself hyped up by all and sundry).

So this work: this barricade? Rubbish? Garbage? Or just plain crap?

Well in my eye the artistes appear to have worked a lot harder at producing a “happening”, an “event”, a thing to see, to be at, to have witnessed – and thought about it a lot harder perhaps than Hirst. But sadly they failed at the promotion of the work: relatively few saw it in the 24 hours it was there. Now that’s not to say that something has to be seen to be believed in – but few artists produce work that is not intended for an audience – if a painting falls in a forest, and no-one sees it, was it really art?

16 - 12 - 08

It needed zombies.

I liked it – from the picures as I didn’t get to see it. It may be just a pile of rubbish, but it’s interesting. It’s a talking point. People I’ve had conversations with saw it in different ways, but surprisingly the one that I’ve heard the most so far was: Why didn’t they put it across Aotea Quay or the motorway?

Now that would’ve been good.

Art and my life
16 - 12 - 08

You know, to me art is a lot like wine. It may be a world class bottle worth $1000, but if you don’t like it – its crap. Some experts would say “you just don’t understand it” but I don’t think you should need an art degree to appreciate what you are seeing either. If you asked me about this artwork a few years ago I would have said its just a heap of junk but I’ve had a bit of a revelation about ‘conceptual’ and performance art this year.

I love this artwork. No I don’t love the big heap of scrap in itself (Although that is pretty cool) but I like the idea, I like the placement and I especially love the impermanence associated with the 24 hour time frame. To me its a great bottle of wine. I didn’t read all about the artists’ intent until after I’d viewed it as I believe art should be able to hold its own without curator-speak. But I got from it waste, excess, urban decay, barriers and with the 24 hour time frame – just how fleeting time/human existence etc is. Of course that’s just me.

I must confess I don’t like all ‘conceptual’ art (I use quotation marks because conceptual is a debateable point) but this street art on a large scale and it says something, something important, it resonates with me – and that’s art

16 - 12 - 08

Art and My Life – ok, each to their own. I’ll give you the fact that as an idea, its placement and the fact that it creates discussion, its a success.

Personally, I have always found the “art is in the eye of the beholder” and reasonating thing a cop-out, but then I freely admit to not being the most artistic or cultural person in the room.

Is it just me, or could I could sneak up when no-one is looking and make some major changes to that, and no-one would notice? It would still be a pile of junk. No doubt someone would tell me I am merely expressing my different perspective on the message or the delivery but really, I am just rearranging a pile of junk. I wouldn’t consider myself creating art – conceptual or otherwise.

Maximus mentioned Hirst earlier – he’s the guy with the preserved cow right? See, thats original, thats different. This? Nah…..

But as I say, each to their own. Its what makes the world interesting.

Art and my life
16 - 12 - 08

I think Hirst was original – for a start but then he just started pumping out “weird and expensive”. I am hardly an artistic or cultural person but I really stand by the idea that my art is not your art. My personal artistic taste runs to 1970s NZ painters – hardly fashionable or everyone’s “cup of tea”. But there is something about this heap of trash that works for me. See I didn’t really like the same artists’ crashed flower truck work which I thought was pretty blah.

I guess it IS (or WAS) just a pile of junk – but a pretty damn interesting one.