Ice Trade (or, What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You...)
I'm saying goodbye to Matt Packer, above, shaking his hand. 'Great,' I say, 'great. It all looks good,' I say, nodding around at all the people who have turned out to the viewing for Ice Trade at Chelsea Space tonight - and it's a very appropriately icy night too (ie fucking freezing). Matt's curated the show. He used to work with me at the ICA Bookshop.
'Look,' I say to him, 'this is good, but I don't understand any of it.'
He splays his fingers, his palms upwards, like he is giving me a gift. 'You don't have to understand it,' he says. He smiles.
There's a big, awkward, messy sort of installation in one room. I think this is by Thomas Kratz, though I could be wrong. There's also a bell hanging from the wall beside it in the same room. Throughout the night various people ring it - to no obvious effect. But it does make a spectacularly satisfying clanging sound. There's what looks like a sheet of greeny blue lino on the floor, but all messily folded and rolled up, and with the edges cut to resemble ramparts on a castle; there's a sheet or towel or something, sort of petrified in some white casting...
Who really knows what any of this is about...
'Think of it in terms of a set of propositions,' he says. 'I'm doing this project which is about the ice trade, about transactions, history...and I've asked these artists to...'
'Respond to it?' I suggest.
He thinks for a moment.
'Not respond - that would sort of mean that I had nothing to do with it - no responsibility...'
'They're riffing on it...?'
He nods. 'Yeah. I like that better,' he says...
Cecilia Wee is there. I have a chat with her. About Rational Rec, the Graham Hudson
film, stuff... I introduce her to James Ford who is also there. I think about how to contextualise him in Cecilia's world...'he had a car, and stuck loads of little toy cars on it to make it look like that car from The Dukes of Hazzard...' Cecilia nods. I have no idea if this has provided any context at all.
I also see Colonel K there, looking grim and pissed off. 'I just want to see some good art,' he grumbles, 'I haven't seen any good art for such a long time...'
I guess tonight isn't helping.
We both look down at the lino piece.
I can feel him seething beside me. This whole thing is making him very angry.
I used to get angry. Now, very little makes me angry - at least in the artworld. I'm usually interested to see most things and if it's not something I like, well, there you go, I'm not going to be wasting any energy on it.I used to get angry because I
saw other artists works in galleries and I wanted to be in their place. And some curator had had the idiot sense to choose this artists work above mine! And the world was so unfair. And no one realised what a genius I was. And - and - and - well, then I would just stamp my little foot on the ground and cry...
I also used to think you had to be angry to make art. But then later in life, when I got less angry, I made much the same kind of stuff. Not necessarily better stuff, and certainly not worse, just the same sort of stuff, but without all the suffering. Suffering for your art doesn't make the art better. Suffering doesn't make anything any better.
It takes Colonel K until the next day to calm down. He emails me to say he left the show and then read the press release and that got him started again.
'There's a story about James Rosenquist,' says Matt.
I nod, meaning: please tell me.
'James Rosenquist is due to put on a show at a gallery and the curator, the gallerist, makes a little maquette of the gallery, with little models, and plays around with arranging the works until he has got it just right. Then, when Rosenquist finally arrives he ignores the model and just starts hanging the works wherever he wants. The gallerist is really upset and confused and in a panic. But, if people ask what we have done, what should we tell them?
Well, says Rosenquist, tell them we don't know.'