For the past several months I have been thinking a lot about art in a Brexit, Trump, Syria world, as art appears to be coasting along in a rather vegetative state nonetheless. This isn’t necessarily a call for a more politicized (that’s fine too) response in art, as that can feel just as estranging or partisan in its symmetry—but then what of it? Yet from here a crucial engagement or immediacy has been displaced (displaced: like refugees; like political?), which points to this sense of something missing… Artist Gustav Metzger is wary of this idea, utopia: this sense that something is missing or absent. Instead he suggests, something might already be here latent or disappeared, and that we must instead discern how to see—and perhaps this is the challenge of art at this moment.
I recently wrote a review on A-N about art I had seen at Teesside University as part of the MA degree, and how it felt like something fresh was taking place—a nice immediacy in mixing of practices and approaches. Here: a somewhat rag-tag group in the Northeast was coming together to do something that felt very timely and like the beginnings of an intriguing enterprise was starting. In these moments: it becomes our vocation to nurture these things when we see them, when we find them.
In the review I wrote a bit about David King, a mature student and a naturist to boot (apparently featured in a recent Channel 5 documentary Carry on Caravanning as he teaches a life drawing class to fellow naturists) and how he had read Marcus du Sautoy’s book The Music of the Primes from which his studio work traced a challenge to some of those premises. I also wrote a bit about Stephen Irving, a rather loud Geordie, doing sound work as a series of improvised performances in the gallery, and Amy Brannin, a gallery assistant at mima developing work around the evanescence of memory using materials like plaster, bleach, old photos. Or: Linda Stannard whose prints were on display along with her documentation of terrace houses in central Middlesbrough that were being torn down to make way for vacant lots by the council. Conversely, I didn’t write much about Stu Burke, whose attempts seemed a bit unresolved—but maybe this sense of unresolved is at the heart of something I’m trying to get at here—or how he was documenting “performances” in which basic objects like lumber or books or cardboard were put in precarious situations (inserting himself into these situations as well), and Ross Cummings and his light projected on polystyrene and unfinished objects, or Rachel Dodd and her boat as a vision for a revitalised working river, but all of these works in their own way were hinting at something immediate or tentative (in a positive sense) that is noteworthy.
These efforts set a tone for something even momentary—and isn’t that what conceivably might capture this particular cultural moment—give it form, inhabit it? There is a sense that these artists are each connected/connecting, they have their lives and these attach and intersect back into what they attempt, and that gives the work and what is going on at Teesside this sense of vibrancy. Keep watching. ‘A world in motion wants to be changed.’
To read the review in its entirety, go here.