Friday, July 07, 2006

Graham Hudson

"Please note that these objects are not works of art - they are gifts from the artist to you..."
I am thinking about this sentence - which was printed on a flyer handed out with all the objects - toys, mostly - picked up by eager punters at the end of Tomoko Takahashi's installation at The Serpentine last year - while sipping from a plastic mug of red wine, standing on the terrace of Graham Hudson's installation/house/castle/sculpture on the evening of Friday July 7th, the one year anniversary of the London tube bombings and looking across the detritus of Chelsea Parade Ground which Graham has now almost completely covered with his continuing residency down here...
There's a lot to think about, because there's a lot going on. Since I was last here for one of his evening parties back in April, the whole place has changed. His original small house is still here but there now seems to be another, slightly smaller house, beside it. And across the rest of the parade ground his work stretches out. Many piles of wood and wooden frames, traffic cones, plastic chairs, armchairs, sofas, a wardrobe, cupboards, lumps of metal, huge rolls of plastic sheeting, hazard tape, hammocks, pallets, bicycle wheels, umbrellas, an old briefcase...where does it end? Windows, carpets, wire, some stuff half in construction, or maybe half in demolition, or maybe even complete by some standard that we have yet to recognise and affirm....where does it all end? Rubber hosing, radiators, broken electric fans, huge chunks of polysterene, boxes, metal just goes on. And as for the end? Well, I guess it doesn't end, does it? I am standing in the middle of something that long ago did away with concepts of beginnings and ends. Graham doesn't break down or step over boundaries, he just works without them. He lets us worry about them, if we choose to. This is one of his gifts to us, if you like, a glimpse of how things could be, or are, if you are Hudson. And talking of gifts he is also very generous with all this. I am talking to Ed Greenacre at one stage and we are pointing at various things across the parade ground. I delineate the sharp right angles of what looks like an enormous wooden box, standing, improbably, on only one of its corners. 'That was one of the students pieces,' says Ed. And so too with various bits and pieces lying around. Where Hudson's work ends and others begins is impossible to say. But there I go again, worrying about boundaries.
Ed says that someone he knows described the place like the result of a tsunami, bringing all this stuff in to the parade ground and dropping it there. I think about this. And I think about the date, July 7th. There should be a link between all this cacophony of objects out here and those terrible events, but I think it's clear that we are looking at something that is coming into being, not being destroyed. I think this is a happy place. It's a celebration and not a lament. It's a party, not a wake.
And as it's a party, let's say hello to a few people. Hello, in particular to Sally O'Reilly. Yes, it's her again. Since I met her at Kitson Kaleidoscope I can't turn round without her standing there, walking past or cycling along. It's one of those strange things, like when you hear a word for the first time and then it subsequently appears in everything you read. Was it always just there, unnoticed and unremarked, or has it really just started appearing? Have I stood beside Sally at openings and views for the last year and never noticed her? Or has she only just started going out to all the same things as me? Unfortunately for her I decide this is an interesting thing to tell her about, obviously risking the charge of 'stalker' that I always find it so easy to fall into on account of always logging people's names in this blog. However, she doesn't run off screaming, fumbling for 999 on her mobile phone, and pointing at me, she stands and lets me politely talk to her. Then she, also politely, I think, relates a similar, or at least comparable, story about wearing a bright blue coat and, feeling slightly more self-conscious than she would like, therefore notices the colour bright blue everywhere, as if the city itself was bent on making her feel even more awkward. Finally, she comes into an area where she feels she can relax. Grey buidlings, drab walls, and turns down a street as if to gulp down an huge lungful of the lack of the colour blue, only to be confronted with a gang of KwikFit Fitters, their bright blue uniforms stark against the grey street and grey houses. See, she does understand what I was saying...
Then she leaves...
I'm looking around the ground at all this stuff. Collected from skips mostly, picked off the pavement. I feel like I want to go round and look at everything in detail, to really look at it and investigate and know it. But conversely Hudson's work isn't really about the objects. It's a great adventure which will be here for a while then disappear back to where it came from, like an apparition or a dream. It could be hard to sometimes say what it is that Hudson makes, but I think I'm right in saying that whatever materials he uses and how he arranges them, the one thing he always makes is history. I can't help but stand here thinking that this really is history being made. There will be some documentation (of which this will inevitably be a part), but more than that, for me, it will be a memory. And that's a very real and powerful thing.
And while this whole installation is a bold, heroic stand against nothingness, it's also, let's not forget, a shrewd and canny way of drawing a lot of attention to your practice. I can't help but think that Hudson's house has it's chest puffed out towards Tate Britain not a few yards away, like a challenge, goading it into some sort of fight. 'Think that's art?' it seems to say, it's little wooden jerry-built fist waving about, 'come and have a look at this if you think you're hard enough. Let's see what you're made of.' Hudson is a revolutionary. And also, as someone who I was talking to the other day described him: 'a businessman'. He is a man with a plan.
And it's good to have a plan. Lisa Penny is there and we are talking about this. Lisa's not sure she's got a plan. So we talk about plans for a bit. It's just about getting stuff on your CV sometimes. 'Well,' I say, 'you can just put shows on it, can't you? You don't actually have to have been in them. Who's going to check?' I'm thinking about a certain artist I knew who just put a whole bunch of shows on his CV to get a residency. I'm thinking of another artist I also vaguely knew who submitted slides of someone else's work to get a placement. It happens. Maybe that's the art. Maybe to make a name for yourself all you need is a name. The work isn't that important. You don't actually need to make anything. The CV and the history and the work in private collections and the years you spent at Goldsmiths - how valid is all that? What does it mean if it's all untrue? Lisa and I start cooking up ideas. And I'm thinking back to that line from Takahashi's show. What does that mean? Where is the art? It seems we have spent years trying to convince people, right back from Duchamp, that art can be anything. And now, finally, when everyone has caught onto this, the artworld is backtracking like crazy, going, yeah, but actually that's not art...It makes me laugh. And Lisa laughs too, because with all this talk she has forgotten to tell me her news: she's just been signed up with Hauser and Wirth.
So congratulations to her. That'll look good on her CV...
parade pics


Blogger michaeljosephk said...

That's a great idea, Russell, hadn't thought of it that way: moving from Duchamp (anything can be art) through Beuys (anyone can - or was it could - be an artist) to today's position where anything's art as long as there's an artist attached to it somewhere, that sort of seemed the end of the line. To push it on + start cancelling things' status as art, that seems a terrific way to go. I'd sign up for that, it can't be right that everything's art, that doesn't make sense. There's a story about Hemingway being shown a new avant-garde magazine called 'Transition' and saying: 'No it isn('t) art'. I wanted to use that as the title of a show here at studio1.1, a group show of course, everybody submitting - well, the idea kind of broke down there. No point in exhibiting, say, a shoelace, that could be perfectly acceptable as art. Otherwise: way too many bruised egos, silly jokes, broken friendships. A great way to settle old scores, though. Not, of course, that that would be permitted, there'd be a rigorous screening process, we'd only want genuine non-art.
Any suggestions?

2:31 AM  
Blogger Shara said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:58 AM  
Blogger russell herron said...

I have no idea what art is. And I have no idea what art isn't, either.
I think everyone is as confused, or as liberated, as everyone else nowadays.
Heck, do the show - invite some contributions, see what happens.
The point, surely, is not to have to think thru all this, the point is just do it and make more people ask more questions.

3:54 PM  

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