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Crying Shame

Forum > Reviews

Sam Taylor-Wood

Sam Taylor-wood at City Gallery Wellington
9 Oct 2006 - 29 Jan 2007

by tripod
Article of the Month October 2006
563 I had some time in Wellington this week so I popped into the Wellington City Gallery. Gosh, I had to pay to see the three exhibitions, it was just like being in Auckland. Downstairs Sam Taylor-Wood had an exhibition that had come across the Tasman from the MCA. Photos and videos including her crying men. I found the videos rather cloying, a man tap dancing with a bird on his head (really), a man floating (well, more suspended) above a small chamber orchestra and others of a similar type. Lots of photographs, including Ms Taylor-Wood herself holding a hare as one does when one is caught in front of a camera making an art historical reference. Next door were the crying men photographs. oh dear. celebrities either pretending (my guess) or really (Ms Taylor-Wood’s assertion) crying, isn’t really all that interesting. It is true that some of them were compelling portraits but the subject, I don’t know, it was very hard to care. Celebrities, most of them are actors, cry professionally, it’s part of their job. Female actors do it too – does Ms Taylor-Wood know this? We are told this suite of images is a comment on gender issues, well if it is, it isn’t a very productive or insightful one in my opinion. What it is, if you ask me, is a bottoms-through-the-door exhibition. I can see that venues like the Wellington City Gallery have to get their head counts but Ms Taylor-Wood is a high price to pay – much closer to Cecil Beaton than you might think. Just what is it that makes today’s British art so indifferent, so unappealing?

Upstairs there was a lot of gold leaf. I felt up set for Mr Lane. I’m sure he is a very nice person. Someone should have told him that less, a great deal less, would be more. This is a sorry case of a survey making the artist look underdeveloped and shallow. I personally think the gallery should have been kinder and offered a smaller space, but I suppose artists have to take the rough with the smooth like those poor hippos in the Congo. I don’t want to sound mean about Mr Lane but I really did feel he was out of his depth in a show this big. Next door, in the smaller gallery Mr Lane should have been, in was Mr Peter Madden. Not my cup of tea I’m afraid so I wont go on as I know lots of people like his work - but why the theatrical lighting? I expect he was wanting his work to look museum like…. yellow pools of light and mysterious objects in glass cases. It all felt a little Harry Potter – there I’ve said it. So not much of a review - more of a rant (awful word) I’m afraid, maybe I shouldn’t post it. On the other hand…

images: http://www.city-gallery.org.nz/mainsite
more images: http://www.matthewmarks.com
A-Single-Tear-1999-oil-on-g Leave-2004-leather-shoes sam-taylor-wood-self-portr

1 to 20 of 76
6 articles & 46 comments since 2 Sep 2006
CAG nearly had Sam Taylor-Wood.

I hear they're after bums on seats. Could have been a nice lead-on from Beaton. I know what you mean, you get the feeling that if Cecil were still around he'd have happily snapped Beckham sobbing.
Chris Taylor
1 articles & 308 comments since 30 Apr 2006
Sam Taylor-Wood is sort of

Nan Goldin lite with a strategy of depicting emotion as spectacle which is so prevalent in fashion photography. Male actors crying....give me a break. I find her work to be totally uninvolving. Is it going to get people in, who cares?

There is so much great photography to be seen, what is with celebrity photos in art galleries...isn't there enough of this shit in our visual landscape. Sad really.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
I've noticed some people [like the above] get really irritated by Sam Taylor-Wood's

project but I think it is a great idea to look at masculinity that way. Maybe the celebrity thing is too blatant?

I'd like to see the female equivalent, in terms of defying gender stereotypes, as a project too - ie. the opposite of STW's project: actors playing the part of boozed, aggressive women beating the shit out of their mousey innocuous male partners who've been devotedly slaving away in the kitchen.
Chris Taylor
1 articles & 308 comments since 30 Apr 2006
It's the celebrity and the insincerity that

seems (for me anyway) to ooze out and over any emotional engagement. All those really really well known luvvies, lit in glossy magazine style, baring themselves, which is what they get paid to do, seems to nullify any possibilty to say anything about masculinity. In fact it reinforces stereotypes by suggesting that only 'arty' people are in touch with their feelings.

Sure, it's a rich vein to explore (ask Walter Logeman, John!) and artists working with photography such as Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman and Tracey Moffatt have explored stereotypes, gender and race, in much deeper, subtle and multi layered way. By the way John I think your idea is a good one, perhaps you could suggest it to Margi Moore. Who needs actors, they get in the way.
Chris Taylor
1 articles & 308 comments since 30 Apr 2006

3 articles & 69 comments since 13 Oct 2006

I find myself surprised to read that you think the opposite of 'celebrity men crying' would be 'boozed, aggressive women beating the shit out of their mousey innocuous male partners' Mr Hurrell. Perhaps I am misreading you.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
You think it is too extreme and obnoxious?

You see I'm trying to take the opposite of s.n.a.g. and think up a cliched scenario that women actors could do.

How would you go about it? You don't favour something uneqivocally gross? It has to be I think. It needs violent content to counter the gentleness of STW's project. Afterall the time-worn conventions are that only men  fight, get drunk etc...

Of course we all know differently but that is not the point.

3 articles & 69 comments since 13 Oct 2006

I don't want to sound offensive, but I don't think a rich upper class art celebrity taking photos of celebrity men having a wee weep warrants the publication or depiction of faux injured women. Perhaps I did want to sound offensive after all.

As Mr Taylor has already mentioned there are plenty of real stories being depicted by women artists. I personally believe that Ms Goldin's bruises and Ms Moffit's psychological scars stand as an affront to the idea you posit.

Honestly Mr Hurrell these photos by Ms Taylor-Wood are mainly produced for relieving collectors of cash at the White Cube, they are as deep as a puddle and just as soggy. I'm sorry I ever even mentioned them.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Faux injured men is what I was

saying.. caused by faux violent women.

STW is about popular cliches and turning them around, surely.
3 articles & 69 comments since 13 Oct 2006

Yes, I misread you, my mistake.
3 articles & 69 comments since 13 Oct 2006
On reflection

Mr Hurrell I should make myself more clear along with apologising for my mistake.

I may have given the wrong impression in my rant. The Taylor-Wood images were in no way violent. In fact they were rather indulgent images of men turning on their eye taps at Ms Taylor-Wood's whim. Some certainly managed to dredge up a tear or two, a couple got a flow going but you felt, or at least I did, that they were probably just thinking about something sad like that awful day their puppy got run over by their Dad's car or that horrible afternoon when they weren't allowed to go to the movies until they finished their meal. Not tears so much as sentimental stains. So you can see your suggestion that a corollary might be some butch woman putting the boot in to some ineffectual male, seemed a bit out of place.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
By 'violence' I was referring to my

idea - not STW's. I'm interested only in another gender cliche to turn upside down. Just as STW's project subverts 'masculinity', so mine would subvert 'femininity'.
One is about male sensitivity; the other is about female violence.

'Butch' is not an appropriate term because of it's overtones of masculinity. It's not useful. Why should a violent woman be 'butch' rather than say 'fem' or something else again? Those words are about surface only.  I'm interested in something else beyond binary descriptive cliches.
Chris Taylor
1 articles & 308 comments since 30 Apr 2006
Taylor-Wood's work doesn't

subvert masculinity. In some ways she assists in perpetuating a tired stereotype, by her work which depicts actors "being seen to be crying". Has she told them something terrible or are they being asked to employ the Stanislavsky 'method'. Subversive...not.

Why don't I read or hear work by documentary photographers being called 'subversive' when they photograph men crying. Because it's about humanity (not a fashionable subject in some quarters), of course men cry, have always done. This is a photograph by Salgado. Subversive?
3 articles & 69 comments since 13 Oct 2006
Last word

Mr Hurrell, I really don't want to have this conversation. I felt I owed you an explanation, that was all. I can see I was wrong to use the word butch, I guess, it does have some gender overtones I didn't intend. Your claimed interest in "something beyond descriptive cliches" chimes ill with with your "boozed, aggressive women beating the shit out...." Your seeming glee at anyone "beating the shit" out of anyone leaves me slightly chilled. I now bitterly regret ever bringing the subject of crying men to the forum.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
As I haven't seen the show I can only speculate.

It is wonderful tripod has introduced the subject. It's an extremely stimulating topic.

Let's talk about the types of men. Let's assess the masculine genres...

Forget Jude Law.....Are there any gorillas there? You know, All Black forwards..thuggish looking louts.

Wouldn't you agree that to have guys that looked like the proverbial brick shithouse pathetically weeping would be really something?

Imagine if STW got Ray Winstone to do it. That would be very special because he specialises in playing appallingly violent men.  And he has a certain beefy, oafish body type to match. That would make him perfect

There was nothing gleeful intended at all in my description of my idea, tripod. However I do enjoy paradox so I willingly confess that the sight of a diminutive woman thumping a hulking gorilla I would find amusing.

Chris Taylor
1 articles & 308 comments since 30 Apr 2006
STW did get Ray Winstone

Here it is.........styling by ? make up by ? hair by ? shirt, Versace, shot on location at the White Cube, Hoxton. Thanks to Charles Saatchi and Viscount Linley for moral support.

Anyway Ben Kinsley in the movie 'Sexy Beast' shows Ray for what he is, a plonker.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
That's very interesting, Chris. It shows STW to her credit is not just interested in pretty boys.


'Plonker'? .....Ha!

Go and look at 'Nil By Mouth' or 'The War Zone '. And pop a spare pair of undies in your schoolbag because you'll need them.

3 articles & 69 comments since 13 Oct 2006

Mr Hurrell what is wrong with you? 'pretty boys' (and you having come over all weak at the knees at my using butch - really.) 'undies in your school bag'. I know this can be a bit of a men's room but could I ask, beg really, that you give some thought to what your violent and now scatalogical imagery might represent. Mr Winstone is indeed a fine actor but, HE'S ACTING. When he comes over all tough and agressive IT'S AN ACT. I'm told at home he is most of ten mousey and innocuous.
1 articles & 141 comments since 11 Aug 2006
It's 9pm

Saturday night, don't you guys have a life? this conversation is SAD! I'm going down to the video store. If my kids would let me I'd go further!
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Excellent, tripod, I thought I had permanently offended you - which I've no desire to achieve..

By 'Pretty boys' I was countering charges that STW was solely preoccupied by a certain sort of twenty-somethings magazine glamour. Winstone's presence proves she's not.

Is this a bit of a man's room? Actually I'm not at all sure about that? Just because some men choose to use their real names doesn't lead to any solid conclusions about other Artbashers.

The 'butch' issue. Well my proposal's point was to subvert the gender expectations. To succeed the violent woman needs not to be butch. It is vital she is not 'masculine.'

"Undies in school bag?" What's wrong with some adolescent scatalogical humour directed towards Chris? That you are not amused says a lot about you perhaps. I'd be most interested to hear what that joke says about me. {Walter? Are you out there?]

I'm delighted you finally realise we are talking about actors because you were pretty agitated for a while about my violent description. I still think excess is required for that sort of project to make its point.

I'm puzzled why you would regret introducing this topic. It's a rich field, and it would be great if we had more people who've actually seen the show contribute.
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