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on Russell Herron Blog

Friday, October 13, 2006
My Dead Gallery

Fieldgate Gallery opening

Frieze week is nearly over and I end up on Friday with a bit of history.
Ah, history. You know, old people and bits of paper. That's what history usually looks like.
And this is sort of true for the Centre of Attention's very selective review of independent spaces and collectives of the latter half of the last century. At least three people ask me why City Racing isn't in all this; possibly one of the most famous independent spaces of the last 30 years. But there you go, there are plenty of others missing from this and, also, that's history, isn't it? Selective, subjective, incomplete, random, fickle.
The opening is at Fieldgate Gallery which is a pretty big space and more than adequate to the job of displaying all these bits of paper. The magazine Women's Art Library, which then became Make which then became nothing at all is presented as a carpet of magazines in the floor. Other historical organisations seem no more than a table, a chair and a title. There's bits of paper from workfortheeyetodo, 2B Butler's Wharf, Artslab and lots of others that I've never heard of.
BANK, who I have heard of, also have some bits of paper there - as well as some lifesize crucifixions that are leaning against walls and pillars. I still like all that mad BANK stuff. It was just so arrogant and angry and, really, downright childish. I can't think of anyone doing anything like this now.
But maybe that's no bad thing...
I look around. There's a whole mix of people here - lots of old people who look like hippies. There are also lots of kids who look like children of hippies. For a while a few of them play football with an enormous black balloon (above).
Near the back of the gallery there's a video screen showing a short piece of film of naked women with their bodies painted in a decidedly sixties type way. It all looks very...free, man. But also beautifully innocent. And fun.
There are a few women watching the screen too, wearing expressions on their faces that I'm sure could only be read as 'look at me there, what was I doing?' and then taking photos and howling with laughter...
The whole place seems to be a multi pocketed reunion for different groups. Some of them have faired pretty well, some of them have clearly gone mad. That Japanese woman who kept screaming and running around and then later, lying on the floor. Not sure if she was faring too well.
There's some interesting stuff here, but the best bits are actually to be found sitting down with the website and taking time to read thru the texts and looking at those old photos of groups of people inside and outside their galleries. I adore those photos. So of their time, so dated. So hopeful. It reminds me of some of the photos that I have on this blog, great people caught up in the little history I am writing; making history now, instead of waiting fifty years. And we all know what history is like: selective, subjective, incomplete, random, fickle....

old pics
posted by russell herron at 4:05 AM


Momus' Blog (16 Oct 2006)

...Soho, the Blue Room cafe. Then down to Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel for a really great opening at the Fieldgate Gallery, Fast and Loose (My Dead Gallery), organized by Centre of Attention. Amongst lots of other 1960s and 70s British art, this huge show resurrects David David Critchley's Pieces I Never Did. I thought it had been destroyed, but a suitably distressed copy was playing in an alcove at Fieldgate Street. CoA's Gary O'Dwyer comes up to me and asks if I'm going to give an unreliable tour of the show, but I'm too impressed to mock anything here. The evening ends at Bistrotheque, out in Hackney, where I meet Susanne from No Bra and actually get to hear her perform "Doherfuckher" in the flesh. It's powerful stuff, as she stands there baring her frigid poitrine in the most mannish way imagineable. There's also a performance from Bishi, who's a young Bengali singer obsessed by cabaret and circus songs. Wearing a tiny hat she plucks at a small mandolin, and it all feels very like the Tiger Lilies shows I used to go to. Somehow London feels more Berlin, sometimes, than Berlin itself does.


on Steve Smith's blog
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Counterpoints

you only hate us because we are working class
So the busiest week of the year in the London art world is over. Visiting the multiple art fairs this week was on the whole a slightly depressing experience, regardless of the particular fair be it Frieze, Scope, Year 06 the overall impression was the same, stylistically art across the world is homogenising into a core of several rigid styles, no doubt this is market led homogeneity but where is the space for experimentation or risk?. The Zoo art fair offered a little more variety and risk but the signs of market capitulation simmered in the background, however the inclusion of galleries from Mexico and a handful of UK galleries based outside London provided a small crumb of hope. There were a few galleries and artists scattered around the fairs who are pushing boundaries and creating something out of the ordinary and I strongly applaud their integrity and nerve, unfortunately a huge majority seem to be exerting massive stylistic control over the market, I am aware that art fairs are by their very nature a purely commercial, capitalist beast but in the past more variety could be seen even within this arena, national characteristics were in the past recognisable and distinct, art from the Far East, Latin America, Spain, Italy, Germany the US and UK would hold a geographical character despite its varying media but although this can be somewhat observed the variety is diminishing.
I have no problem with galleries, dealers and artists making money but for those of us either unwilling or incapable to adopt or appropriate the market ‘look’ it is a time of sombre reflection and doubt, for some, like myself it turns to rebellion and pride in ones own unique approach but perhaps for younger or unestablished artists the doubts may weigh too heavily.

Society gets the art it deserves but how many talented, hard working artists with strong integrity will be able to tough out this market led obsession with homogeneity and will be lost. Artists are often alienated from their own culture with public opinion lagging behind the vanguard of progressive artistic practice, visual art suffers from stylistic appropriation by the commercial arts through advertising and graphic design, only the very successful wealthy artists can test the potential legal implications of this.

With these thoughts in mind I was grateful for the respite and warm glow provided by the Centre of Attention’s look at the artistic world of the late 20th century with their show "fast and loose (my dead gallery)" at the Fieldgate Gallery in Whitechapel, it is a show tinged with sadness at the loss of projects, galleries and movements of our artistic predecessors. Karen D’Amico’s reflection of the past week and the parting shot of her latest blog entry shows the fears of many artists and reflects on the losses to come.

The rumblings of dissent against the current art market trends are there and regular readers of my ramblings will be aware of the varied galleries, artists, project spaces and studios across London quietly but strongly developing their ‘own thing’. Perhaps we are not so much a counter culture but certainly a counterpoint.


posted by golgonooza at 12:08 PM