CHRIS FREMANTLE

What art have I seen?

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 3, 2013

Reposted from www.publicartscotland.com

It’s common place to see elements of exhibitions spilling out of galleries (so-called off-site projects, and don’t get me started on that terminology).  But artists who work in public sometimes spill into galleries (although documentation of sited work doesn’t always make for good exhibitions).

Culture Hijack, curated by Peter McCaughey of GSA, and Ben Parry, PhD candidate at UWS, takes on this most slippery subject extremely well.  The artists in this show are pranksters and activists from across the world (including Japan, India, the US, Canada and a fair bit of Europe).

These artists take on the city, the streets, regeneration, consumerism, bureaucracy, capitalism, neo-liberalism: politics.  They’re at home in a pedagogical space concerned with urbanism and inhabitation.  And it’s therefore very apt that it’s in the Architecture Association and also all over the city.  The issues raised are the issues that embroil architects and planners as much as cultural theorists and artists.

Photo: Ben Parry,  2013, temporary intervention Bedford Square, London, for Culture Hijack Exhibition

Photo: Ben Parry, 2013, temporary intervention Bedford Square, London, for Culture Hijack Exhibition

And the exhibition points the spotlight at the blurred, constantly moving, shape of these practices.  Right outside on Bedford Square there’s an installation by Tatzu Nishi that has the formal elegance of sculpture and sometimes turns into the absurdity of a good happening.  He captures the circularity of the building industry: tearing down and piling up.

Inside, in an installation that borrows it’s language from outdoor exhibitions and temporary conferences, are a lot of videos, one of the best being by Tushar Joag, who spoke at the CCA in Glasgow last week.  In his piece a bunch of wide-boy London window cleaners join Tushar (in hisUnicell Public Works Cell boiler suit) to perform the cleaning of the Olympic landscape.  A bunch of trained performance artists could not have got into the spirit of ‘cleaning’ the vistas of the east end with more energy and sense of the dance of life.

Video: Tushar Joag collaborating with Gaze a Glaze.

In another space, created by scaffolding tubing and banner fabric, a solitary figure on a handcar travels the train tracks of a German city (Matthias Wermke & Mischa Leinkauf’ In Between).  It’s a beautiful moment of living on the edge, not angry, not ironic, just playful.

On the same day at the Barbican was the official launch of the evaluation report on the Cultural Olympiad, saying that some 43 million people had experienced this four year cultural programme leading up to the Games and that it had succeeded in raising Britain from 5th to 4th on the list of nations as desirable brands.

As the international-sporting-event-with-cultural-programme bandwagon moves on towards Glasgow we need to make sure that we question it, poke fun at it and make sure it doesn’t bulldoze anything that really matters (like a community or an allotment).

Culture Hijack is at the Architectural Association, Bedford Square, London and around the city 26 April – 25 May 2013

Chris Fremantle

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