While there may be plenty of government departments in castles all around the world, we are lucky in Britain to broadly avoid that particular Kafkaesque motif.
And yet the darkness of a homegrown bouncy castle made of leather, with its many turrets, and its relentless air pump, is every bit as oppressive as the Czech writer’s elevated seat of bureaucracy.
Dale’s work pushes and it pulls. The only way to confront your fears would be to kick off shoes and leap aboard, but kids of all ages will need restraining. This is only for show.
Indeed, it is one of contemporary sculpture’s great jokes. He presents authority as a funhouse. He brings adult play into the public realm. The UK Parliament, with its green leather, is forever changed.
So what sado-masochistic fantasies do we all work through in our relationships with power? There is little doubt that our bondage to jobs, and to mortgages, etc. must satisfy something in the Id.
That’s why Department… is such a quick get. The words ‘leather bouncy castle’ render it mythic. It feels to have been around forever. It shows a paranoid humour of limitless appeal.
Note also that Cambridge shares some topography with Prague. The highest point in town is Castle Hill, although the Normans failed to build as extensively as the Bohemians and their forebears.
The fenland city is nevertheless dominated by a network of colleges. And one is inclined to observe that most of the machinations which govern life here take place in a cloistered realm.
But to look on the bright side, Dale’s forbidden piece is also a monument to emptiness. There are no lawmakers jumping on that thing, no dons in black gowns flying back and forth like bats.
We should fight paranoia, clearly, so as not to manifest our worst fears. So anything which pulls back the veil or delivers a punchline is to be welcomed. Dale does both. Roll up and laugh out loud.
This work can be seen in Tom Dale: Zero is Immense at Aid & Abet in Cambridge, UK, until Saturday 16th.
Throwing a party, like making art, is one of those activities we can attend to when all of our most basic needs have been satisfied. Food, shelter, art – that is surely the order.
But if we are to suppose that ancient people ever let their hair down, who would decorate the cave? With a bit of help from the shamans, you could say those private views got out of hand.
In latter times, say the last 500 years, art has sobered up but celebration has never fallen out of fashion. It could apply to, say, the reading of a mass in church.
By the by, the first recorded use of the word in English is in a 1580 in love poem, Arcadia by Sir Philip Sydney: “He laboured…to hasten the celebration of their marriage.”
Central to this piece is indeed a plastic bride and groom such as you would find atop a cake. They pose for a strobe flash surrounded by the residue of their bash.
If it is theirs… Other cues lead elsewhere.Pierrot hats and animal masks feature in few weddings. The discarded beach ball suggests that even the honeymoon is already over.
But the party is kept going by a revolving glitter ball and changing filters on a spot light. Strings of fairy lights animate the scene long after the guests have left. It is a lonely sort of installation.
What sets the defining tone for this celebration is a psychedelic and glammy rock soundtrack which beckons you into the party from the moment you step into the gallery.
Most poignant is when Bowie’s Five Years comes across the speakers. This now sounds like a party for the end of the world, or at the very least, glancing at a portrait of Lenin, the end of history.
What can it mean to go home after a party like that, the very last of its kind. In 2013 it looks like Chaimowicz’s empty piece is the celebration of a celebration. Realife (sic) has caught up.
Celebration? Realife can be seen in Glam: The Performance of Style, at Tate Liverpool until 12 May 2013. See gallery website for more details.
Is it fair to say that a monarchist in Britain has an easier life? Certainly, they have a less paranoid one. They have got behind the head of church and state and can accept all that is bidden.
It is, strangely, as easy for a contemporary artist. Your collectors are rich. The Queen is rich. And neither should have any problem with you celebrating Her Majesty.
The occasional blogger calling suchwork into question is not even a fly in the ointment. As Warhol said, just measure the length of the text. Don’t worry about the content.
QEII has been captured in many portraits, but she would surely be most hard pushed to see herself in the centrepiece of a current show at Haunch of Venison.
Because this Valkyrie Crown, this metonym for the state, is really something monstrous and anarchic. A wealth of colour fabrics have been knitted, stuffed, stitched and patched.
The Valkyrie series glorifies a Norse goddess who dishes out fates on the battlefield. And so the most shadowy conspiracy theories about earthly power have an origin in myth. This reassures.
But hard to say whether this Portuguese artist would ascribe similar powers to our monarch; just note her tentacles trail the height and breadth of the two storey gallery.
In a short time here (it is stressful to be this end of the Great Chain of Being) I noticed visitors make their way into the heart of the piece and ‘wear’ the outsize crown.
Two staged positions were possible: loyal subject or omnipotent queen. The sprawling work leaves little room for citizens, republicans and other condemned beings. You have to watch your step.
But on the way out, I check on the status another piece in the show: a flowerhead of steam irons. The gallery assistant confirms it is out of order that day. Not even royal decree could get it working.
Valkyrie Crown can be seen at Haunch of Venison, New Bond Street, until 17 November 2012. See gallery website for more details.
Visitors to the Yoko Ono show in London may well come away with a piece of debt to the redoubtable artist. To be precise that would be a jigsaw piece of debt.
Early in her show at Serpentine hang some half a dozen WWII helmets filled with segments of a giant puzzle. You can guess the overall picture from a glance at any one of them.
Were these pieces fit together again, the pattern to emerge would be blue and fluffy bits of white. It’s an invitation to think of a line by Yoko’s husband, “above us only sky”.
Gallery notes indicate that the artist hopes her visitors will get together with their individual pieces and recreate this map of the heavens. That is really blue sky thinking.
But we won’t of course, not in this life. Our single pieces now serve only to remind us of how atomised and unknown to one another we remain.
The ironic twist is that military uniforms bring people together a lot more definitively than exercises in what you might call relational aesthetics.
Nevertheless, the broken blue pieces and the grim metal lids make for a poetic juxtaposition. The same quality of patience is perhaps required to do a puzzle and to negotiate a truce.
On the back of each piece are the artist’s inititals. You may now feel you own an orginal Yoko Ono artwork, but you don’t of course. This is very much an indefinite loan.
Yoko Ono: To the Light can be seen at Serpentine, London, until September 9 2012. See gallery website for more details. It is a good show IMO but that won’t stop you from enjoying this savaging in the Independent.