“We’re all so mauled by information, but it’s recycled information. We need to shut it out. So, you’ve got to get bizarre. This is an artist’s purpose – to break away from the recycled. Performance art can do that.” (Jack Bowman) Breaking away from the recycled was exactly the theme of Ruskin Shorts 2015. Ruskin Shorts is an annual event which has been running for several years, and this was the first year the competition was based on performance art. The acts were strikingly innovative, even disturbing. We began with a show of extraordinary clothing designed to fit multiple people, by Mirren Kessling, and Mark Mindel, making a potion under a sheet with a haystack printed on it. The audience then proceeded downstairs to witness Simon Raven perform a strange busking act, using the sounds of a silver egg pregnancy charm, a slide whistle, a camera flash, and a novelty barrel orgab to echo the chimes of the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford. This was followed by a hilarious diaristic reading by George McGoldrick, a skype call by Angeli Bhose in avatar form, a clinical description of a series of unconscious bodies discovered after the allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria, and finally the serenading of an ‘iProp’ by Hannah Catherine Jones. Each brought into question a particular cultural norm through a brilliant mixture of soothing entertainment and unnerving absurdity, but especially probing was the work of Angeli Bhose. I spoke to her about her performance:
What was your performance and how did the idea come about?
For my performance, I took on the role of a character, Mystical Phistical. She is a yoga teacher, Watercolour Palm Tree Artist and the Ruskin School of Art’s first Visiting Digital Student (VDS). She is an avatar or character who I have been “working with”. Her yoga company has recently been bought up by oil giant Haliburton, and she’s also beginning to exhibit and sell her paintings on the side. Performing as her, I skyped our friend and fellow artist Elaine Ang to catch up, and discuss how ideas around commercialisation, collaboration with “unethical” companies, copyright, and artists’ labour are affecting us. The idea was that the audience would be almost awkwardlyspying on a loaded conversation, but also drawn close by a discussion of problems which affect all who live, work and distribute content in this contemporary context.
Why did you choose to engage with social media specifically?
Social media has become a central part of how we communicate and relate to each other. To me, it’s really important to find in artworks themes, materials and mediums that we deal with every day and to discuss how they might be affecting us. Social media has created new platforms for expression, but also as a storage space for personal information which can be used to target advertising and make us more likely to buy things which fit with our personal brand. Skype is a rare application where the information we input cannot be used in this way yet, so I felt it could be used to create a more open space for this discussion of issues in art and production. Elaine and I also Skype regularly anyway, and end up talking about many things which were discussed in the performance, so it felt honest and appropriate to use the same platform as we do other times we are “in dialogue”.
How does performance art compare with other forms of art?
As a medium, it has a directness of expression that feels unique. During a performance, a tension often descends on the room, and creates an atmosphere of concentration. This allows the artist to hold the attention of an audience member in a way that may not be possible if they were wondering through a gallery space, glancing at works, or walking past public outdoors work, for example. To me, it feels like a special platform where a relationship can be forged between the artist and the viewer through reciprocal concentration, presence and engagement, permitting a more open conversation.
What’s your opinion on the work of the other performance artists at Ruskin Shorts 2015?
I felt that overall it was a fantastic event. The range of performances was interesting to see, and the whole thing felt energetic and exciting. Foxymoron’s aria created by translating the code of a documentation photograph into Italian and singing it was dense, comic and transformative. Mark Mindel’s performance as some sort of creature making a potion out of beer and temporary tattoos whilst hidden by a printed blanket was enveloping, tense and careful. We were very lucky to have a full house and I really hope people keep coming to the Ruskin Shorts to see what’s going on in and around the Ruskin.
In a record-breaking transaction this February, Paul Gauguin’s 1892 painting ‘When Will You Marry?’ was sold for as much as US$300 million. To put it in perspective, that’s around three times as much as the British nation raised for Comic Relief this year, or ten times Oxford City Council’s 2015 budget. Something in all of us can’t help but wretch at such an obscenely large amount of money being spent on the private acquisition of a ‘trophy piece’ of visual display when both the money and the painting could be better deployed elsewhere. We all know that the true value of art lies not in its monetary tag, and that the ‘success’ of an artist cannot be gauged by the price paid for their work. Yet we continue to allow art to be priced, bought and sold like any other commodity, make our society’s artists compete for commissions and sales to earn a living in the capitalist marketplace and permit ‘wealthy’ individuals to buy and ‘own’ a work of art that they have not created themselves. In short, we are allowing art to be subsumed by capitalism.
The real value of art lies in its ability to inspire and enthuse the viewer, listener or reader. A good artist transforms a palette of external colours, sounds or words into a spectrum of internal emotions by conveying, as the philosopher Clive Bell put it, a ‘significant form’ or meaningful arrangement to their audience. The ultimate aim may be to convey or portray a particular message or scene or simply to engineer aesthetic beauty through visual, aural or verbal patterns and shapes. Each one of us will experience a work of art in our own way and draw different but equally valuable meanings from the feat of human creativity we behold. Roland Barthes held that the writer – and the same might be said of the painter, sculptor or composer – is not the ‘author-God’ of their own work, but merely an intermediary channel through which the culture and society of which they are part speaks to itself in the form an audience that, through their own interpretation, actively participates in the creative process.
In this sense, the most ‘valuable’ art is that with which the public most engages, which means that it must not only be emotionally significant in and of itself but also be accessible to a large number of people. That’s where the problem of ‘ownership’ of art comes in. In a capitalistic world in which each person’s ‘success’ is gauged by the size of their bank account, the wealthy can buy the right to choose whether to keep a work of art for their private friends or show it to the public, in either case showing off their own wealth and superiority.
Works of art can be reproduced of course, and it is through copies of the original recordings and manuscripts that music, film and literature are generally experienced. But here, too, capitalism has art in chains. In the capitalist world, writers, performers and producers are not automatically provided with the money or resources they need to live on the basis of their contribution to our collective culture and enjoyment of life. Instead they must continually prove their worth through the fickle measure of sales to a ‘consuming’ public. The result is that we are brow-beaten into listening to particular songs or watching particular reels by music and film industries that greedily employ their own art of mind-moulding marketing and fickle persuasion to ‘sell’ their commissions to the general public. But if that public dares encourage that art to flourish by sharing it freely with their friends and neighbours, they risk being hauled into court for breaching copyright laws.
This control of art by neither the artist nor the audience but by intermediary profit-driven corporations demonstrates without a doubt the stranglehold upon our culture that capitalism exerts. The need to make money out of art assaults the freedom of the artist by constraining them to move upon a plane of convention and proven saleability that satisfies their corporate masters but undermines the quality of their expressions. The ability of the disgustingly rich to squander their unjustifiable wealth upon privatised paintings in denial of the cooperative pleasure that could be achieved through public ownership is a further symptom of this capitalist drive towards the pursuit of individual success at the expense of equality and collective prosperity. The distinction between the ‘High Art’ media of the rich and well-educated and the ‘Low Art’ of the television-opiated masses serves as a powerful indication of the excruciating lack of equality of education, aspiration and power that ails our society today. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, it is this distinction between different artistic media that conveys a profound message. Society is in crisis, and capitalism is to blame.
PHOTO/ Jonny White
Born at the end of the 17th century into a period of growing social inequality, William Hogarth’s engravings and paintings are one of the best insights we have into the people’s world of the early Georgian period.
Hogarth’s work is more than outwardly critical of the society in which he lives. Each of his engravings is intricately done, with minute details adding yet more context to the face-value story they’re telling.
And, of course, it’s the story-telling which makes Hogarth’s pieces so memorable. The Rake’s Progress, perhaps his best known piece, is remarkable for the way in which not just a man’s life, but the strata of society, is conveyed through just eight images. Tom – the anti hero of the cycle – journeys from middle class comfort to the gaudy excess of the New Moneyed elite before tumbling downwards the debtors prison and, finally, Bedlam.
No section of society escapes the harsh wit of Hogarth’s brush. In his world, the rich are vapid, the poor wretched, and the protagonists unlikable. In The Harlot’s Progress, a precursor to The Rake’s Progress, a priest passes by on his horse while an innocent Moll (soon to become the titular Harlot) is inspected by a brothel-keeper and a pimp. Even the clergy are objects of ridicule in this step beyond the normal into the absurd, and every detail of the world has been scrupulously created, down to Moll’s date of death inscribed on her coffin, noting the age of this “old woman” – 23.
Hogarth’s social world also gives us an insight into the rich diversity overtaking London. Forget the white-washed façade you’re probably imagining. Looking into the engravings, there are African prisoners, Jewish merchants, syphilitic prostitutes and French dancing masters, showing off a rich tapestry of characters coming from a distinctly London-centric artist. There’s glorious chaos in almost all of Hogarth’s pictures of the lower classes, painting a world for his wider audience which speaks of a city expanding as they begin to reach further across the globe.
And all the time, he’s doing this with his audience in mind. Hogarth’s paintings are more than simply critical of the world he lives in. They’re deeply satirical. As well as commentating on the state of things as they are – and Gin Lane, perhaps his most famous painting, showing a mother so intoxicated by gin that she throws her baby into the river whilst laughing manically – doesn’t just comment on the poor who were driven to cheap alcohol. It’s also a comment on the demonization of these same poor, particularly by the wealthy, who viewed them not just as another class, but as another species. When he draws an image of Moll the prostitute, sat on her bed aging and syphilitic, he does so in resemblance of the Annunciation of Christ. No object is sacred from Hogarth’s scathing brush, least of all established religion.
His work also turns towards the upper-middle and elite classes, especially in London. In Marriage a-la-mode, our two protagonists have entered into an arranged marriage in which they both engage in a purely superficial version of “love” masked by the fripperies of velvet and lace. In true Hogarth style, the story soon takes a dark turn, with the wife’s lover murdering her husband and the subsequent suicide of the widowed wife. Pretty grim. But also a morality tale with a clear message to the observer: don’t get caught up in money and material goods, not when it comes at the expense of true feeling. That’s some deep stuff, direct from the pen of the 18th century’s artist of choice. But it’s not all Protestant work ethic and rejection of the trappings of middle class life. Check out some of Hogarth’s jokes hidden in the plain sight: in the scene Shortly After Marriage in Marriage-a-la-mode, the wife’s spread legs underneath her broad skirt indicate that someone’s been enjoying at least some of the advantages that marriage can bring.
The first true social commentator and satirist, Hogarth was an artist who worked everything around him into his pictures and engravings. To look at his work is to get a glimpse into the complicated world of early 18th century London, to walk in the streets and hide behind the velvet curtains of a wealthy family’s drawing room. Hogarth’s work was characterised by its biting social commentary, and even today we can maybe learn something from looking at ourselves through the lenses of another world.
IMAGE/ Wikipedia Foundation
Linda Nochlin, in her 1988 book Women, Art and Power and Other Essays, asks, “Why are there no great female artists?” The answer is that we are looking in the wrong places. Rather than unearthing unappreciated women artists from history, or rediscovering forgotten female painters, “ the question involves shifting the ground slightly and asserting, as some contemporary feminists do, that there is a different kind of ‘greatness’ for women’s art than for men’s”.
It is a question that is central to the Pembroke Art Gallery’s first major exhibition, ‘John Bratby and Jean Cooke: Who is Slaving at the Kitchen Sink?’, which explores the creative products – and creative tensions – of the artist couple John Bratby and Jean Cooke. The exhibition is comprised of paintings drawn from the Royal Academy, the Piano Nobile Gallery, the Government Art Collection, and a range of private collections – including those of Lincoln College and St Hilda’s College – and is due to open on 30th May with a lecture by the art historian Dr Greg Salter.
The impetus of the exhibition is “something of a riddle”, says the Pembroke Gallery’s curator, Sarah Hegenbart. It began with the discovery of an unknown painting in the Pembroke College library, which bore no label and no mention in any archival records. Once the dust had been blown off the impressionistic, dark-toned image of a woman painting in a studio, it became clear from the style of the work that it was by John Bratby, famous British modernist, and founder of the ‘Kitchen Sink’ school of realism.
“We couldn’t figure out who the woman in the painting was”, Hegenbart recalls, “but we had the suspicion that it was Bratby’s first wife, Jean Cooke, who was a painter in her own right”. Research revealed that this had been a violent relationship. Bratby, apparently, would often paint over his wife’s canvases in anger, and his depictions of Cooke chart the disintegration of their relationship: she would later describe how “he always painted me as a very old woman”.
Research revealed that this had been a violent relationship
The breakdown of their marriage is chronicled, whether consciously or not, in their paintings of each other, and is highlighted in Pembroke’s exhibition. On one wall hang portraits from the couple’s early years, depicting their children and family life. Hegenbart describes these as “very loving… they seem young and excited and passionate about their art”. But follow the paintings chronologically, and watch as the portraits become darker: Bratby and Cooke begin to depict each other as haggard, angry, and old.
“We were also interested in charting aesthetic parallels between the artists”, says Hegenbart. The aforementioned ‘Kitchen Sink’ school of realism, the foundation of which made Bratby famous, made prominent the detritus of middle class life. His work The Vice and Tools in the Pembroke exhibition provides a stark example: the strong contrasts and thick brushstrokes make clear that the tool box is the sole focus of this picture. Cooke differed stylistically from the ‘Kitchen Sink’ school, but her paintings Fruit and Tin and Hand with Matches demonstrate a softer, arguably more feminine interpretation of the couple’s everyday surroundings.
Stark and dirty, light and soft. It is a contrast that reappears in the couple’s later works, and can be seen particularly in Hegenbart’s pairing of two portraits by each artist, both of women. Cooke’s rendering of the former St Hilda’s principal, Mary Bennet, is soft- focussed and respectful. There is a deliberate ‘ugliness’, however, in Bratby’s portrait of Kathy Wilkes. She is painted like the The Vice and Tools, in contrasting greens and blues. The painting seems to be simply tone and form, disconnected from its female subject.
Stark and dirty, light and soft
What makes an artist great? We may well ask this of John Bratby, who became something of a celebrity in the 1970s, with a raft of television appearances, and his works rumoured to be collected by Paul McCartney. But, the Pembroke Gallery argues, it is Jean Cooke who more deserves the title of ‘great’. The eye naturally returns to the back wall of the gallery, where Cooke’s Cinema Paradiso hangs. It is an example of her later work, and the starkly modern, visually piercing image speaks of an artist who has finally come of age. Pembroke Gallery’s first major exhibition leaves us with the thought that yes, there are of course great female artists. But sometimes they need to be taken out of their male counterparts’ shadows.
Claudia Zwar is the Chair of the Pembroke College JCR Art Committee
The exhibition will be open to the public throughout Trinity term, on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 12-2pm. For more information visit www.pembrokejcrart.org
As I stumble out of the urban swirl, through the usual madding crowds of tourists, into the British Museum’s new exhibition, I am met with a sudden and imposing sense of serenity and beauty. Three visions of the classical Greek ideal of the human form stand to face me – a Roman copy of a statue by the great Phidias, the infamous marble Discobolos of Myron, and the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. Despite their elegant pose and their quasi-Platonic physical perfection, despite the colours they have lost (most statues would have had at least some paint), they live and breathe before me – I find myself slightly disconcerted by the vacant, hollow gaze emanating from such vital forms. As I soon realise, this exhibition has a profound central concern, namely the unique and uniquely influential way in which the Greeks conceptualised the human form, and how that ideal evolved through the centuries.
[caption id="attachment_65262" align="alignnone" width="194"] PHOTO/wikipedia[/caption]
The first thing that strikes me, as I amble further through in amazement, is the way in which Greek society and art of the Classical period were so at home with nudity, at least of the male form. As I behold the juxtaposition of powerful nude Classical sculptures with reliefs from Assyria and elsewhere in the Middle East, where nakedness marks humiliation, failure or defeat, used in the depiction of victims and vanquished foes, the thought crosses my mind that there has been no other culture of such sophistication that has so completely banished the Edenic shame which has haunted us for so long, and perhaps haunts us still today. For us, nudity is usually the province of nudists and free lovers, of pornography and of our most intimate moments – we can scarcely imagine this tranquil, desexualised concept of nudity, this objective viewing of the naked form. As the curator has written: “the Greeks were the first to make the moral distinction between the nude and the naked body,” and it is perhaps a distinction that our highly sexualised culture has blurred.
[caption id="attachment_65263" align="alignnone" width="146"] PHOTO/wikipedia[/caption]
For all that, as I move into the next section, devoted to the female form, I am met with a much more restrained artistic attitude, perhaps unsurprisingly given the unequal rights of women in ancient Greece, especially in Athens. The statues of (mortal) women shown are always covered up, yet they are often depicted in a much more sexual way than the male figures, as the sculptors have wrapped them up tightly in sexualising drapery. The Greeks’ complex relationship with female nudity is palpable, and seems even more manifest in their willingness to build sculptures of naked gods – one of the most striking pieces in the exhibition is a 4th century statue of Aphrodite (also known as the Lely Venus), bending over and ineffectually trying to cover herself with her hands. Looking at it seems an almost deliberately disquieting experience – I feel as if I am being forced into the role of an intrusive voyeur, but at the same time the statue seems, especially given the associations of Aphrodite, to convey a highly self-conscious sexuality. An intriguing (albeit slightly disturbing) story told by Lucian (writing much later) sheds a strange light on all of this: apparently an Athenian sailor broke into the temple of Aphrodite in Cnidos, and was so entranced by the statue of her (made by Praxiteles, ca. 360 BC, famous for its aesthetic perfection) that he tried to have sex with her (leaving a stain on her leg), and ended up killing himself. A dark vision indeed of the phantom beauty of art and its destructive power.
[caption id="attachment_65267" align="alignnone" width="85"] PHOTO/Marie-Lan Nguyen[/caption]
I feel as if I am being forced into the role of an intrusive voyeur
As I move on, there follows a series of pieces which have interesting implications for Greek thought about gender and sexuality in a wider sense. Images of bearded satyrs with absurdly enormous erect penises and grinning features, frolicking with each other on red figure vases (a far cry from the demure elegance of Keats’ Grecian urn) seem almost to parody the excesses of male sexuality; a statue of a seemingly female corpse on a slab of rock is revealed, when the viewer reaches the other side, to have male genitalia (this is the famous Borghese Hermaphroditus, a Roman copy of the Greek original). The sculptor of the latter seems to be playing significantly with the viewer’s expectations; when I see it, I think of the elaborate and bizarre myth unfolded in Plato’s Symposium by Aristophanes about three sexes of spherical double-humans (male-male, female-female, and male-female) who dared to attack the Gods and were punished with division in two, to which Aristophanes attributes the pangs of romantic love. Clearly the idea of the hermaphrodite was prominent in Greek thought, and indeed just as Plato’s Aristophanes uses it to explain the varieties of human sexual desire, so the sculptor of the Borghese Hermaphroditus almost seems to highlight the arbitrariness of sex and gender – there seems, even in a society with fairly clearly delineated gender roles, prejudices, and discrimination, to have been some reflection of such ideas going on, though perhaps this intuition I feel is merely my projection.
Less obviously bound into the structure of the exhibition, but implicit throughout, is a sense of the historical development of the Greek vision. Although, of course, it dwells on the idealised classical form which most of us think of when thinking about Greek art, we are given glimpses, however fleeting, of the full scope of its history. A figurine from the 8th century BC, seemingly of the hero Ajax about to kill himself, is the most alien item on display: two to three inches tall, with a vague sense of a nose and chin, a slender, straight torso, bendy spaghetti-like limbs, a peculiarly erect penis, and some sort of beret-esque headgear, it presents a potent contrast in its primitiveness to the immensely sophisticated visual language that had emerged little more than two centuries later. Nearby, an abstractly geometric female figure – reminiscent of (perhaps an influence on) works by Giacometti and Henry Moore – from 2700-2500BC also stands out in its strangeness. Black figure vases (6th century BC) show the Oriental, solemn and godlike figures that preceded the Classical vision, picked out in eerie negative; a few busts of Greek thinkers display the Alexandrian development of interest in individual features and expressions far beyond the Classical ideal type. These glimpses of the pre- and post-classical are compelling, and I find myself almost more fascinated by the alien and sharply geometric features of the pre-Classical than by the ‘humanist’ figures of the Classical period.
[caption id="attachment_65266" align="alignnone" width="276"] PHOTO/ Jakob Bodagard[/caption]
solemn and godlike figures…picked out in eerie negative
At last, I walk into a pleasantly understated room that has chosen a few of the most striking echoes of the Greek concept of the human body. Astonishingly, I am confronted with a statue of a Gandhara Buddha (1st-2nd century AD) which looks conspicuously Greek, not only in the features, but also in the flowing, carefully arranged drapery: Alexander the Great reached India, after all, and it is from this interaction that figural depictions of the Buddha seem to have emerged. There could not have been a more powerful reminder of the invisible threads that bind the cultures of our world together, and of the fact that no culture ever can, or will, exist in a vacuum.Beside this, two colossal but fragmented statues face each other – a statue of Dionysus with worn-away features and stumps for hands opposite the ‘Belvedere Torso’, a muscular figure seated on a rock, headless and legless. In these sculptures, despite (perhaps because of) their anonymous dilapidation, Michelangelo (together with other figures of the Italian Renaissance and many others) sought a Greek ideal of physical beauty and perfection to aspire to: the statue of Dionysus contributed to his own sculptures (perhaps especially the prisoners emerging from the rock, as the Dionysus sculpture was itself carved from a huge rock), and he seems to have used the Belvedere Torso for his sketches for the Creazione di Adamo (The Creation of Adam). And so I float out of this exhibition, awash with both a sense of wonder at the aesthetic and humanist revolution the Greeks had wrought and its reverberations through time, and a sense of sorrow for what little remains; for just a moment, I feel the fingers of the rosy Greek artistic and humanist dawn brush against me.
Art and robots: an irresolvable dichotomy between art and technology, or a symbiotic and novel way to exhibit art to the world? The Tate Britain’s showcasing of the After Dark project invited the public to decide. Created by design studio The Workers, After Dark was the winning project of the IK prize inaugurated this summer by the Tate Britain. Between Wednesday 13th and Friday 15th August those who logged onto the Tate’s website had the chance to view its galleries at night with the aid of four camera-equipped robots. This interface between art and technology begs the question of whether art is the experience of the viewer or the innovation of the creator.
The IK prize was conceptualised by the Tate with the ambition to “widen access to art through technology.” The Workers, a digital product design studio, received a prize of £10,000 and a £60,000 development budget in order to make the publics’ access to art fun, easy and educational. The robots were created in collaboration with RAL Space, and Colonel Chris Hadfield, former commander of the international space station, was the first person to test the robots out. The four robots roamed the deserted galleries and gave viewers a unique experience of nocturnal art accompanied with commentary on the pieces. Select viewers even had the chance to remotely control the robots and therefore what the rest of the world could see, and I was lucky enough to have this privilege.
I was left to wander through the museum at night, catch glimpses of dark corners, and see art against the backdrop of abyss-like uncertainty… Space was redefined and separated into the known and unknown.
At 9.58pm sharp I sat in front of my laptop praying that the online streaming was not going to be a cultural rendition of Robot Wars. It wasn’t. Instead I felt like a commander of a space station with four screens in front of me linked to four different robots in various exhibitions. I was left to wander through the museum at night, catch glimpses of dark corners, and see art against the backdrop of abyss-like uncertainty. The robots and the commentary ping-ponged back and forth through the centuries, rendering the commentary spontaneous and exciting. A connection was forged between the commentator and the viewer since we were both at the mercy of the robots and we were constantly being taken by surprise. Throughout the night there was a heady sense of suspense. Space was redefined and separated into the known and unknown. Works by Turner, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst were excavated from unusual angles and areas of light. A Francis Bacon painting of three figures seemed ghoulish in the eeriness of the dark and cavernous space whereas Gainsborough’s ‘Carthorses Taking a Rest’ was bathed in synthetic light illuminating the colours, giving it a whole new concept of technological realism. After being randomly selected, I was able to control the robots on my keypad. This proved to be a challenge for someone who has no spacial awareness. I was allocated room 4- 20th century art, which housed pieces such as Damien Hirst’s ‘shelf’. Once I learnt how to avoid hitting things, it was actually an enjoyable experience; but I lost focus on the art I was supposed to be viewing and instead became ensnared by this novel mode of transportation. For me the robots had taken over and the art was receding further and further into the dark.
[caption id="attachment_59282" align="aligncenter" width="779"] After Dark Interface[/caption]
One of the creators Tommaso Lanza said, “We’re not trying to give you this perfect representation of the art…It’s giving the art a different angle, and different light.”
[caption id="attachment_59284" align="aligncenter" width="779"] Screenshot of the experience[/caption]
The Tate Britain has joined the voyage into the modern, an odyssey of technology that promises to make our lives faster, easier and, in the case of art, damn right cooler, but I fear that on this journey we are travelling too fast to take in the view. Admittedly, the idea of enabling the whole world to see 500 years of British art would be impossible without this project. One of the creators Tommaso Lanza said, “We’re not trying to give you this perfect representation of the art…It’s giving the art a different angle, and different light.” He achieved this and at the same time pointed to an important dilemma; the notion that we must sacrifice personal experience for mass convenience. I couldn’t help but wonder if the robots were a fun kind of symbolism for our technologically capable society’s inability to stop and smell the roses. Often It was very difficult to see the paintings clearly since they were partially subdued in darkness and restricted by the diameter of the robot’s light beam. I could not make out the individual brush strokes, materials or composition of the pieces clearly, nor have time to reflect on the effect the art works were having on me. Unless I was controlling the robot, I was completely at mercy to the will of others, saw what they wanted to see, heard what they wanted to hear. I found it hard to locate myself and connect to the artwork in this strained compromise of artistic experience and artistic globalisation. The experience was crazily cool and solemnly sacrificial.
So between the hours of 10pm and 3am I found myself wondering how ubiquitous can art ever be if it has to be technologically transmitted within the rigid constraints of time and at the will of those few who were in control? Is this a glimpse of the future or a subtle reminder that, although the world is becoming globalised, humanity is becoming perpetually cemented in front of an LCD display?