a transient work,
an ephemeral work.
It is an ambivalent presentation
of art that is ridiculously self-indulgent,
whose connection to ‘the real world’ is tenuous at best.
And yet this is exactly why I like it so much.
December 25, 2016
The Goon Sax - ‘Up To Anything’
As the year swings inexorably to its close and I contemplate wrapping up my 50/50 project it is inevitably a time for reflection. Many will be writing and publishing reviews of the(ir) year and inevitably one suspects these reviews will be less than cheerful. These reviews will wonder if ever there was a year more filled with loss and desperation, and so devoid of light and hope. Me? I think perhaps, perhaps not.
What has struck me most as I have plumbed the/my past 50 years of song and arts however is that it has left me feeling oddly incomplete and frustrated. The very process of producing this series has illuminated the fact that it’s not really very much at all, is it? Fifty years and what is to show for it? Stood beside the bodies of work I have attempted to illuminate it all pales to insignificance, doesn’t it? Perhaps this sounds self-pitying as only the middle classes can sound. Perhaps not.
As I fumble around then for an artwork to slip into 2016’s slot I cannot help but come close to home. To Dawlish Warren and to an ongoing project whose evidence of existence is intentionally low key. Timid, even. It exists, for the moment, in a tiny window ‘gallery’ at the Exeter Phoenix and comprises a few collected artefacts. ‘Throw Only To Alert Catcher’ is a transient work, an ephemeral work. It is an ambivalent presentation of art that is ridiculously self-indulgent, whose connection to ‘the real world’ is tenuous at best. And yet this is exactly why I like it so much. This is not work that is artfully constructed in a studio, meticulously catalogued and perfectly presented. It is art that is raw; art that is unsure of itself; art that dares to whisper; art that doesn’t care what you think of it; art that cares passionately about what you think of it. It is a work that is collaborative and communal; art that both celebrates the individuality of place and the paradox between the uniqueness and universality of experience. It’s not everything but it is close to nothing and that is important. The value of making art that is as close to nothing as is possible, perhaps. The conflict between our urge as humans to leave a mark and an educated desire as environmentally aware individuals to leave no mark at all. This or that. This and that. Either or neither.
In ‘Throw Only To Alert Catcher’ we see a woman mimic a seal, shuffling across the sands. We watch hands wrap rocks and trace the tracks of the sea’s motions as a lark sings somewhere out of reach. We admire lines of whipped cream that mark the march of the waves which lick their lips, gently acknowledging the barriers with kisses before sweeping all before them. We listen to a detached voice as it describes stones within a circle; an act that addresses our need to connect to the natural world we gaze at yet simultaneoulsy acknowledges that the language we might have at our command to do so is essentially ineffectual.
‘Throw Only To Alert Catcher’ suggests that here is art that exists uncomfortably within its own skin. ‘Throw Only To Alert Catcher’ is art for whom that very discomfort is perhaps its most important quality. For whilst this is a work that explores relationships between the human and the non-human, its ultimate message is perhaps that any attempt to define such a relationship is doomed to at best discomfort and at worst abject (but glorious) failure. If this sounds bleak and dispiriting then perhaps such a reading of the work has been infected by the spirit of the year. Perhaps too though it clings to the notion that even within the atmosphere of loss and desperation we might make attempts at light and hope. Times are tough but we can still picnic, right? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Written by Alistair Fitchett who pens UNpopular.