Category Archives: relational aesthetics

Alex Bowen, This is How I Roll 24/7 (2012)

To give this work it’s full title: This is how I roll 24/7…Not Just On A Satrday Night in a Shit Basemnt (sic). And the shit basement in question was Brighton’s Grey Area.

It was indeed Saturday night when this work both previewed and closed. The artist was nowhere to be seen. We still cannot be sure how he rolls.

Yet Bowen did leave us with a few clues as to his style of comportment. Ropes bolted to the wall turned the space into a fight ring. In the centre were a crateload of beers. No nonsense.

With varying degrees of daring or innebration, visitors were lounging off the ropes. The DJ explained that the structure was inspired by a detail taken from George Orwell.

Down and Out in Paris and London reveals that ropes like this were once employed as beds or minimal hammocks for the hobo classes in the French capital.

Although the beers were gratis, the want of money hemmed us in on all sides. Grey Area, which in reality is a fantastic basement, is going through a phase of transition. It too might be on the ropes.

This is not the first time Bowen has cried off from a private view. He was notable by his absence from the launch of the most recent show at his nearby gallery, Mingles Calypso (sic).

On that occasion visitors turned up to find the space occupied by an unmanned bar. You get the feeling he is goading us with our thirst for alcohol rather than art.

But those arty drinks won’t pay for themselves, so if any philanthropists are reading this (and according to prevailing wisdom there are plenty of you out there), please step in the ring.

This work was at Grey Area, Brighton, on August 11. See gallery website for future events.

Yoko Ono, HELMETS (2001/2012)

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.

Louis Brown, MAKERZINE (2012)

The Pure Good of Theory is one of the most oft quoted poem titles around. Wallace Stevens seems to have nailed it, but are there more spheres of pure good?

Visitors to Brighton University last week might think so. At a degree show, you could argue for the pure good of art education, which after all does entail plenty of theory.

But my eye was caught by the clear benefits of MAKERZINE by Louis Brown, a digital printing press on which you could churn out your own copy of the eponymous zine.

I’m sorry to report I picked up a pre-made copy, so cannot report on the experience of cueing up a new zine. But it was simple enough with the clearly chalked instructions.

Reclaimed scaffolding boards and hessian wrapped benches gave the workstation a sense of rough and ready utility. You could forget this was a piece of sculpture.

Louis Brown therefore succeeds in his aim to demystify the creative and fabricational process. This was a demonstration of the pure good of making.

The zine itself contains recipes, homebrew instructions, tips on recycling scaffolding boards to make furniture and interviews with T-shirt designers.

As manifestos go, it could not be more pragmatic, or more optimistic, or more realistic. Its spirit of ingenuity will serve us well when civilisation collapses, or may even avert that.

Artists are often thought of as impractical souls, dreamers, romantics, fools. But this piece is a great testimony to a more contemporary spirit of art, certainly a more purposeful one.

MAKERZINE could be found in the Brighton University Faculty of Arts Graduate Show 2012, in the Fine Art Sculpture BA(Hons) section.