Friday, February 23, 2007

Tom Morton and Tom Morton's Mum and Dad

I'm at Cubitt, looking at some art from the 1970s by Rose Scott and Jack Morton, or, to give them, for this show, their more relevant and, shall we say, more meaningful names: Tom Morton's Mum and Dad. Tom (above) has curated a show of his parents works stretching from the 70s to, so it says on the press material, the present day. It all looks fairly old and dated though; like relics. But, whatever, we are not here to look at the art at all, really. We are here to understand the back story, because this is a show that is not really being shown. Or, maybe, the work on show is only a small part of the show. It also includes the information in the press release, the interview with Tom by the Wrong Gallery, Tom's position as a curator, the current artworld, the last twenty years of curatorial practice, the past lives and histories of Tom, Rose and Jack, and conceptual recontextualising.
The details are these: Tom parent's married in 1970, they both worked as art teachers and produced their own work that was exhibited in the Cambridge area. They separated in 1982 and divorced in 1985. Tom answers questions on the separation and divorce in the accompanying information and you can read the full interview here. The show, of course, is really about Tom. Or about the curator Tom Morton and the questions that are still up in the air about curating. Tom has said, and I'm sure he won't mind me dredging up this particular quote (ok, actually, he probably will, but, he said it, so tough), that 'I am no more an artist than I am a plumber.' Well, I'd say this show suggests that he could, at a push, install a toilet or unblock a drain. Probably couldn't quite put in a whole new central heating system, but there's still time. The whole artist/curator thing has been rumbling on for a while now - and I think, still has quite a way to go - but Tom's show here really is the curator stepping into a relational dynamic with the work on show that we would more comfortably associate with the sort of position taken by an artist.
But the truth of it is, that, despite myself, and the fact that Tom always seems to wear his shirts unbuttoned very low on his chest like some cheesy 70s actor, I really quite like this show. And I know I really like it because it sort of annoys and irritates me. It's too clever clever and too gestural and, in many ways, only as good as the idea behind it, but I do really like it. I like thinking about it. And it's a very rewarding show if you like thinking...
I'm talking to Bettina Brunner who works at Cubitt. We talk about Jens Hoffmann and Jens replacement at the ICA, Mark Sladen, and we talk about Rob Bowman who is also a curator there and we talk about the ICA in general. Bettina worked there for a while in the exhibitions department so she knows the score.
I also see Simon Ould there. You see, I told you: he is at everything nowadays. 'It's because I have nothing else to do,' he says, genuinely and sadly. He fishes a newspaper out of his pocket. 'Did you see MM in this?' he asks. MM is his name for Mark McGowan. There's a picture of Mark in the paper, on all fours with a George Bush mask over his face. This is a work he's doing in New York, asking people to give him a big kick up the backside. 'That was taken in London, though,' says Simon. Behind Mark, in the picture, is a girl, carrying, rather ostentatiously I now realise, a plastic bag with I Heart NY on it. Simon talks about being in MM's shadow and that it's time he moved out of this and made some stuff on his own. 'I've always been the prop maker for Mark - or the prop. Remember when he did that piece about kicking a crack addict along the street? I was the crack addict,' he says. I've also seen him being the gambler in Gambler Eats a Horse - in which he had to eat a lot of horse meat and cover himself in horseradish sauce. And in other things, usually as the stooge to Mark's showman. Like the Ernie Wise to Mark's Eric Morecambe. It's high time he stepped out of all that.
Asking him if he's always worked with Mark gets me the answer that he first met him at Camberwell College and ignored him for the first six months and then struck up a friendship and then they worked together. He also goes on to tell me a long story about meeting Harry Pye for the first time. Initially he was given a flyer by Harry for the Peter Cook Appreciation Society. Then 6 months later he was looking at some work in Winchester, I think, and it was Harry's work - pens and pencil sharpeners with little cut out Harry Pyes on them and then he met him and said: 'Ah, so you are the world famous Harry Pye!'
Then he talks a lot about cardboard and footballers buying art, but I don't think I quite follow this.
Anyway, we move on. I say goodbye to Bettina and head off. It's pouring with rain and I am thinking about the show and Tom's mum and dad's work and then about Harry and his show and him including those paintings he did when he was five and then I think about shows in which the archive becomes the work and how the representation of a subjective reality becomes the basis for a historical documentation. And then my head starts to hurt.

mum and dad pics


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