contemporary art, site specific art

Sam Ayres, Work Programme 28

January 20, 2014

ayres

When even the pawnbrokers are strapped for cash, you know we are in trouble. This sign, using poor materials, was a focal point in Sam Ayres’ recent show at CAC.

Other exhibits included a local church made from cardboard boxes and thatched with the pages of homeless-vendor magazine Big Issue. The slates had apparently been stolen.

Then there was the small matter of a masonic bib gaffer taped to the wall. Thus Ayres drew together a strange trinity of usury, protestantism and clandestine power.

The avowed influence here is Max Weber, whose protestant ethic thesis ties the rise in capitalism to the increase in private enterprise in 16th century Calvinist societies in Northern Europe.

Perhaps there is an ironic dimension to the church in question. It is only five or six years since the French Protestant Church of Brighton was sold to a property developer.

Even if, before the church was consecrated in 1888, the local mayor laid a foundation stone with a special trowel. One imagines special trowels are pretty rich in masonic symbolism.

Yet, it was never plain sailing for the early protestants of Brighton. In the 16th century a refugee from Liège, Deryck Carver, was burned at the stake for holding bible readings.

And whereas more than £1500 was drummed up for an eventual church, the Rev J. Gregory warned that this was “stirring the Lord’s fire with the devil’s poker”.

With the announcement today that just 85 people are as wealthy as the poorer half of the globe, we can see that the devil’s poker continues to be hard at work.

Of course, pawnbrokers are pretty non-denominational. Indeed, they’ve been around for longer than Christianity. So the inclusion of golden balls in this show is tantalising.

But the practice is said to have come to these shores with the Norman invasion. So like the church, they offer another French spin (Hastings is nearby) on a fine site-specific display.

Work Programme 28 opened (and closed) at Community Arts Centre, Brighton, on Saturday 18 January. Sorry if you missed it.

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