Thursday, March 02, 2006

Room At The Top

I wonder what it's like to stand, with a cocktail in your hand and your reputation buffed and glowing; exquisitely dressed, comfortably warm, poised, admired, adored, and to look through the window to the the street far, far below where a multitude of students, liggers, turn-uppers, drinkers and mad people are swarming about some bins of beer at the edge of Hoxton square, and turn away again and laugh with your attentive guests in the room at the top of White Cube, on a freezing night for the private view of Liza Lou's new work?
Well, who knows? Not me. We stand outside with our beers and look up longingly and enjoy a sense that there may be a fabulous world from which we are denied - like little starlets who have travelled across the states to realise their dreams in Hollywood. 'One day,' we squeak, 'our names will be up in lights!' It's a romantic notion and we like that.
(The following day I meet someone who has actually been to the top room. 'Well,' he says, 'there were no girls, no drugs, no music. It's just a room. The carpet seemed a little dirty.')
Anyway, we are here for the Liza Lou view. The work is ferociously good stuff. A large fenced off square with barbed wire around the top; an enormous tree branch growing from the gallery wall; a man bent over, head between legs, mouth pointing towards his...knife. The whole of it covered in her now familiar tiny sparkling beads. We all marvel at the sheer amount of time that something like this must have taken. It makes my head spin. It is a mindnumbingly huge amount of, what must be, very tedious work. I wonder how many assistants she has? Enough, I guess. She has certainly made the sort of objects that galleries love. This is big time art world stuff.
I pretty much get asked to leave after having taken a couple of pictures so pick up another beer from the wrapped up barmen outside. 'Hello, Russell,' says one. I look blankly at him. He politely eases my mind back to who he is. 'I was at your opening for the Jordan magazine thing.' I figure there's no wonder I don't remember him if it was my view. I scarcely remember much about those nights.
Anyway, this is Matt, always doing the bar at White Cube. I decide I ought to get a photo to follow on from Pearce at Rokeby's bar. Thankfully he doesn't put a bar towel on his head.
We decide to move (to keep our circulation going) and carry on to the next show: Assemblage 1 at Museum 52. I recognise some work by Kate Atkin who I saw in Second Nature at Imperial College some time ago. And there are some other nice pieces from Peter MacDonald and Frank Selby. There's a good crowd. I bump in to Nick Hackworth, art critic for the Standard and arts ed for Dazed. The poor thing. I am continually nagging him to one day write something about what I do. He has that look of fear that these people have when confronted by an art nagger like me. First there's the apology for not getting back to me, followed by a look which pleads, 'don't ask me about your work, and, PLEASE GOD, don't talk to me about it.' He then looks around quickly to see if he can see anyone he knows, SOMEONE who can rescue him from me....
But it's ok. We talk about Tino Sehgal's work, which we both like. Then we move on, him breathing a sigh of relief and heading off for the room at the top of White Cube and me to the street outside, where Lena says, 'Oh, you must come and meet Barry. He has some work in the show.' We race across the street, me opening up my camera, thinking, I'm sure there wasn't a Barry in this show. We meet up. 'Hi,' says Barry. 'I don't have any work in this show'. I get a photo just the same. As well as of Phoebe, though I have no idea who she is.
We carry on up Redchurch street to Kate MacGarry and Stuart Cumberland's Carry on Painting. Opening the door reveals a floor stewn with the smashed remnants of beer and wine bottles. 'Blimey,' we think, 'it obviously kicked off here..' But no, this is part of Cumberland's schtick: stunt wine bottles made of wax which he has been smashing over people's heads all evening. Not so much Carry On as Benny Hill but it looks like it was fun. There's some big paintings and some photographs. I particularly like the latter. Key famous photos of artists, digitally doctored to reveal an alternative art history: Kenneth Williams as Warhol, Sid James as Picasso, Charles Hawtrey as Duchamp. These are a lot of fun.
I see Warren Neidich (above - author and artist and lecturer and whatever else) - or rather, he sees me and lunges forward: 'I saw you on the subway! I saw you on the subway, man! How are you?' Since I haven't ever seen him on a subway I figure he has mistaken me for someone else, so politely ease his mind back to who I actually am. And no sooner has he caught up with who we both are, he catches someone else walking past and points: 'Hey, I know you. From Anthony Reynolds - you wrote me a note...' The poor girl he's talking to looks blank. I tell her to just say 'yes'. Warren is like a man drowning in a sea of invisibilty, clutching onto people as they pass, hoping they will pull him safely ashore and dry him off, make him visible.

I wonder if he has ever been in the room at the top?


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