MSB brainstorming

20 March 2007

Moogee, Brighton UK: Raining on their Parade...

“Historians when they come to write about New Labour, need to look no further than our council (Brighton) to see where it all went wrong; an administration that consistently ignores core services in order to spend its money on headline-grabbing projects which benefit an elite few”
Julie Burchill quoting a Brighton resident in Guardian Weekend 17.03.2007

vision of future market square

What has this got to do with Parade, the Angel Row Nottingham showcase of local artistic talent? Well everything and nothing. The title itself is an oblique reference,I presume, to the coincidental ‘parade’ of dignitaries, binge drinkers, (or are they one and the same) community groups and past their sell-by-date musical acts which are launching the opening of the new ‘city square’. By an act of stupendous largesse the Nottingham City Council have managed to spend £7 million pounds ‘renovating’ the city's market square and as if that not enough then celebrated their municipal munificence by spending another £400,000 on opening celebrations. This in a city about to see community funding go into freefall pre-olympics and which despite multiple funding initiatives still has some of the worst crime and social problems in England to deal with. Hey ho let them eat cake ...

On the opposite side of this mock-Spanish square replete with silver chairs (Café Nero not Yates is our cultural destiny) we find a rather worn Angel Row which in its heyday was something of a noise in the IAW (International Art World). Ironically that golden period was long ago and far away and after a time when local-bred initiatives such as the Playhouse and Midland Group actually gave the city some claim to ‘avant-garde’ status.

Fast-forward and although the Polytechnic has blossomed into a first-rate art-school the Angel Row seems curiously caught in its own reflection. Parade number 2 curated by Mary Doyle is the second in a series of 3 showcases promising the newly ‘Europeanised’ residents of Nottingham a taste of local artistic produce …a sort of organic vegetable box of the brightest and best from the region. Well.. Nottingham actually if the map on the wall is correct then contemporary art is alive and well only within the city and at one location in Lincoln and Northampton. How fresh and sustainable is this box of goodies?

This show using the usual curatorial ‘premise’ of a trendy title is called ‘Out of Place’ so is it and what does it have to say about this place here and now? Well first thing seen is a screen showing two of Roger Suckling (Nottingham resident – Lincoln teacher) shorts which are amusing and well made musings upon just such a notion. Train tickets flicker and hand held video jogs and yes we get the message…global/local. Short, well crafted and communicative. Hats off Roger and more like that please. The fresh carrot in the box and no wilting yet.

Open the door on the gallery space and another interesting piece – Eric Rosoman’s ‘Muckle Flugga’ lighthouse in miniature and a series of marks (in tasteful artschool tape as crosses..religious symbolism?) across the grey floor. A successful and intriguing piece especially when related to the framed ship’s names. Out of place certainly but fresh still and another carrot.

The rest of the room contains a few mouldier items. Simon Withers has managed to be featured in two shows on the basis of continually shifting his ‘practice’ to suit the prevailing winds. This particular vessel. ‘Rokeby Venus by jumping’ can be safely dropped in the ‘an idea you’d have in the pub but dismiss as too silly when you woke up’ school. Flimsy but attractive to funders and small children because it is funny even if it isn’t meant to be.

Candice Jacobs is big in an ‘a-n’ (that's artists newletter to the unsophisticated) land sort of way apparently and boasts of having Damien Hirst ‘view’ her work which marks a new low in ‘solipism’ on art c.v.’s. On this basis expect lists of ‘Famous people what walked past my work’ soon. Her work…contemporary ironic with a capital ‘C’. Ironic references to other artists in same leaky boat and to be frank dull. Apparently her work uses ‘ everyday objects in unexpected ways’ - old vinyl records, glasses and artwork that looks faintly like photos in back issues of art magazines circa 2000. You get the picture. Kids like it when it revolves though so not all bad.

Oh there a site-specific wall-piece so bland I’d almost forgotten it which managed to make one corner of the room look like habitat across the road. So two limp lettuces and a mouldy parsnip there folks.

Second room and we into the potatoes (no meat..this is council funded remember). Paul Matosic and Roger Suckling both showing large films both of which enabled through munificent Arts Council funding. Both interesting and of a piece with their careers and as older members of show surprisingly fresh still. A couple of solid cabbages. Neither piece in my opinion as good as other work they have done. The third pillar in the room by Tomas Chaffe tells you all you need to know again kids like it because it a game working out which is the 'false' one. It no more an artistic revelation than the glorious reworking of an old idea (sadly not his own) by Niki Russell which proves that a good idea (Rachel Whiteread’s in this case) can keep you in funding for a while. As an actual object it was built by somebody with all the building skill of a member of the Royal Family. Fabulous but not as fabulous as Mayer’s film of a woman regarding a step ladder. Maybe she waiting for Niki Russell to finish his room? Three very limp turnips.

So there you have it. Global influenced local produce. If shown at a vegetable show I’d say that Suckling and Rosoman would get rosettes for at least truly describing things that were ‘out of place’. The rest I’d maybe use in an art stew like this but a couple probably end up in bin as ideas too far gone to be edible.

Re-emerging into a beautiful European-influenced marble square with trams gliding surreally through the St.Patrick’s Day parade do I feel that Nottingham’s contemporary art has suddenly risen to such a degree that it deserves attention. Well no. Decent enough attempt but lacking that particularity and individuality that is going to storm the IAW (International Art World). No point in musing on what might have been in last ten years with real support and funding for these artists and what could have been achieved with the same old square in place and all that money. No we live in a world where initiatives replace commitment and PR has supplanted common sense. Nottingham had a very strong art history before all the art-speak and interventions got in the way of the expression of raw talent.

The Angel Row and its apparachiks are not a cause of this disease they just attempting to deal with a plot of ground infected with the symptoms. Even this small plot of ground is under threat too now. The powers that be say money is needed for athletes and sports stadia not exhibitions. Maybe this isn’t the rosy dawn of a new European era but the last 'Hurrah' of a New Labour dominated agenda that said let everybody eat cake and things will come right.....more parades, more bread (foccacia not hovis) more circuses, more lottery money for everyone....

They didn’t come right…….but we have some lovely fountains to piss away our sorrows in.



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