Makes Prospects look Ornamental
at Adam Art Gallery
24 Mar 2007 - 14 May 2007
Watching Survivors recently I felt the bottom go out of their format, the poetic premise always weak, but Man only the fittest survive (so no one survives) was wiped clean. Society is filled with types, which we can plot against each other for our entertainment, may the good looking survive to cement perceptions.
Looking at Lange's work is nothing like looking at art in Wellington. Nothing like looking at Prospects… no nothing like that kind of pressure on a viewer here, the pressure to match your mental cushions with a range of drapes, Nope Lange’s work is from another kind of industry, one close to my own heart, one of a state of dependency on a state. A doggedness and social inclusiveness, at the expense of society... This is truly a most radical and magnificent exhibition, nothing short of historic, heroic and capable of creating great shifts of perception. It is an epic, Mercedes Vicente's Darcy Lange: study of an artist at work, suffers badly from limp marketing. Which should be the first clue to its brilliance.
Given the enormous amount of radical perspective locked into the content of Lange’s work, the show should be a marketers/ advertisers wet dream. Poster of a man at the meat works, or a dirty faced miner is about as relevant and near the point of what is going on in this show as to show the back of a Rembrandt painting. After showing what work looks like, I love how the question first bashed around a bit like tethered balloon in a windy hallway, I knew it was there, only the pleasure of eventually asking “why do we work” and “what is work” did the exhibition and all its matter of factness explode in colourful murmurings, suspicious and conspiratorial over the nature of Man and the tasks we are allowed to keep. See the man straighten a piece of metal, with some help from a younger man smoking a fag, on a machine to straighten bits of metal, see these two do it, straighten the metal and make it into a fit part for a ladder. The kind that sits outside windows, fire escapes always there you feel you can depend on its welds in a dis-appropriate way, given its age, but some how these Man made stuff that is all they did, all they were, like the matter of their spines holding them erect was scraped off and emitted into this object. Watch the man gather hay, or the Woman, by some miracle she doesn’t cry, I cry looking at her, wiping bits of metal with a cloth, they pile up around her, her neck bent, her eyes with binders, what do you do with the history of those that spent their lives so that we don’t have to now, or that did and some how scream at us, HEY I LIKE MY MATES DOWN IN THE MINES, BUT TO BE HONEST I COUND DO WITH OUT THE POOR WORKING CONDITIONS.
I live in a world that is too rich. Gates’s Billions or a dead child, things are by economic design not a backdrop nature. When everything we want can be done, when forces exist to right world mistakes but aren’t, cultural and market forces restrain, you have to watch work with a measure of why and who for and what kind of bomb are you building.. “for we have changed fundamentally from a society that produced a culture to a culture rooted in no real society at all.” Here Darcy Knew this in a way that became too much, seeing him interceding within his documents frame, implicating hey I don’t know but I see it… see it. Amazing.
 Faludi, Susan. Stiffed: The Betrayal of the Modern Man. 1999. p34
Looked through all the videos yet, Flake? Which are in real - unedited - time. I bet you haven't?
Some would say this sort of work is better as history, not art? The social content must surely be tainted by the streaky sensuality of the medium, now transmuted into nostalgia. Just because it is historical in its use of the mediium, doesn't necessarily mean it is good? Anthropologists and seventies obsessives find it interesting but ......
And the sculpture, is it any good? And the flamenco music? Is Mercedes' curation convincing? I'd love to see the show.
I tend to think, along with John, that this show needed more art to hold my interest. "...enormous amount of radical perspective.." Er... social studies rather than socialism I thought. Country Calender or a Dog's Show could have been piped in. Hell, it would even work on t.v! (..on Sunday night, of course).
That's a lazy defensive move, Flake. Can't you come up with anything better? Ha ha!
To quote from the Eflux Govett-Brewster media release: "Lange never saw these tapes as finished works but as â€˜researchesâ€™ and â€˜an educational processâ€™. " So a debate about whether the work is social studies or art is not really the point.
Granted the exhibition is more like a catalogue or archive evironment. Doesn't it raise a whole lot of interesting questions about:
The role of documentary in contemporary video art
Using video as a form of drawing, as a research tool
Allowing access to and discussion around working process
The value of primary research and oral histories
In an archive style environment like the one created, we can edit as we choose, by watching and listening... or not. It's a brave move, and yes, I'd say radical.
I think it is fascinating that this show came about post-humously, not while Darcy was still around. Definately a retrospective canonisation, and revealing that it took an 'outsider' to go into bat for this work.
If they are ongoing researches, does that make them art or social studies? A lot of artists are nuts about history, but they tend to be painters or photographers.
Would the videos be drawings in that they 'draw out ' conversation from the subjects?
There is an issue about the installation, that maybe Vicente has been too successful in creating an exciting visual experience with her rows of monitors etc. Originally the artist probably would have had one monitor by itself, in the middle of the room next to a stack of tapes, opposite a chair for the viewer. But that in 2007 is really boring. MV has created something alluring to hold the viewer's attention and keep them in the space.
This is a standard problem all curators face. To reinvent old work to keep it fresh and tasty in new contexts. But is the work compromised? I think not.
Join or Login to comment
In fact it shows to some degree remarkable constraint, if I had a chance to get hold of the work I'd twist it into all kinds a abstract configurations, to think there is really only, that one strip of monitors (that fits that awkward bottom stair space) that mess with a direct one on one realation, and are more of a wall of image and sound is both a relief and an indication of how this wrk could be ripped off just for its pattern, Ahh the future...