Raft of the Medusa (Pt.2) – Mad MarxismPosted: July 28, 2011
“The discovery of the material, or rather, the consistent continuation and extension of material into the [Working Title gallery space, has] removed two chief defects of earlier [exhibitions]. In the first place, they at best examined only the ideological motives of the [creative] activity of human beings, without grasping the objective laws governing the development of system[s] [of making]… in the second place, the earlier [exhibitions] did not cover the [creative impulse and curiosity] of the masses of the population, whereas [WT] material [has] made it possible for the first time to study [those impulses and satisfy the curiosity] of the masses and the changes in these conditions.”
Again, I’m hacking away, with a machete of misappropriation – this time, it’s Vladimir Lenin on Marxism. Because, isn’t there something inherently communist about Working Title. It’s definitely a utilitarian. And it’s egalitarian. Some might think it a little ‘vegetarian’ in its Greenness, its recycling ideals – but, thank heavens, for Scrapheap Challenge and Robot Wars, which lend WT a garden shed/Mad Max charisma. The concept of making transparent the physical and mental machinations of practitioners, so others can examine, test and partake in an otherwise obscure process, well, if that’s not Communism I don’t know what is. Working Title is an attempt at equalising the experience of art, for everyone to feel empowered whatever their chosen role. It’s not about ‘social mobility’ – where education and opportunity means audience could become artist, or visa versa – because participants in WT are introduced at a common level, there’s no reason for an artist to feel superior to the audience, visa versa, the audience can enjoy the experience without feeling patronised. Plus, the usual ‘governing’ role of the gallery (selecting, arranging and essaying) is limited to the seemingly menial – to that of House Elf (kind-of magical slave, my non-Potterian friends). WT is communal, its concerns are productivity and commonwealth and social functionality. It’s as ‘Red’ as Tony Benn’s y-fronts. We agree, don’t we, Brother & Sister Art-Artisans-ists, Brother & Sister Audience-Artisans? Yes, yes agree us lackeys of aspex.
Naw. Of course, Working Title isn’t Marxist. It isn’t anything but what it is and what it will become. I could approach it from a plethora of political or philosophical or theoretical directions, shoehorning WT into them. I must say, it’s WT‘s superlatively plastic nature that excites me. It also worries me.
Fundamentally, Working Title‘s is a simple premise. A pile of unwanted stuff, a selection of artists who recycle stuff in various ways to create artworks, an audience primed by simplicity to interpret the show themselves (allowing for a greater depth, breadth to the interpretative material aspex can make available). Great. But. Without artwork framed in an expanse of white space, which bestows gravity on anything, where is the mutual subject that drives discourse between maker and viewer? The commonality is the scrapheap. Is this what visitors discuss with the artists? ‘What can you make out of that old green handbag and those plastic coat hangers?’ some punter might ask. Well, there is a conversation to be had, few jokes to be made. Only, is it the conversation we’d hope for? It boils down to what a gallery like aspex ought to be delivering. Should the experience of visiting be an ‘entertainment’? Or, ought a visit be ‘educational’ in its broadest sense? Where do we pitch, to the larger audience of those generally disinterested in contemporary visual art, who expect us to convince them or confirm their preconceptions (the best of all, those with no interest, expectations or concern, as they leave as they arrived, untouched)? Or do we fixate on our natural audience, those who want to explore the world through the eye and experience of others, who are effected by visual art – who seek it out, be they practitioner and/or consumers? And we all know, you can’t please everybody…