Category Archives: site specific art

Sam Ayres, Work Programme 28


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.

Klaus Weber, Sandfountain (2012)

If gardens are symbols of mankind’s dominion over the natural world, then fountains are the suggestion of a triumph over physics. That’s one in your face, gravity.

Having said that, there is nothing too agressive about the many spouts of water you can find in many a city square, many a palace or not-even-stately home.

Fountains are decorous pieces of defiance. Perhaps they are the ultimate bourgeois placeholder. They certainly seem so in this famous scene from one of Jacques Tati’s films.

But as we move into what has been called the anthropocene age, in which we prove we can do just what we damn well please with the planet, traditional fountains are redundant.

That is what makes Klaus Weber’s Sandfountain so timely. It’s a technological swansong which swaps a single water pump for some dozen sandblasting units.

The sand will erode the concrete and you can already see the disconcerting way it shifts and cascades. The sculpture mesmerises just as much as any abyss.

Weber jokes about the global need to save water and one thing seems fairly inevitable: there will be no shortage of sand in the world to come.

This is not the first time the German artist has perverted a piece of garden furniture. He once concocted a homeopathic solution of LSD (1:800) and put that into circulation.

That’s one you can try at home, because it was apparently all legal and above board. Whether or not you do, spare a thought for Weber’s recycled desert next time you turn on a tap.

Sandfountain can be seen at 5 Sugar House Lane, London, until 26 August 2012. It is part of Frieze Projects East.

Meaning Decoration Mass at Grey Area

Just as there is decorative art, so too is there decorative news. The lightweight stories in freesheets like Metro are there to soothe. The editorial is designed to sell advertising, and this is more or less true for any commercial publication.

But as soon as a newspaper is used to decorate a gallery, meaning returns to the pages. You can see them for what they are: wallpaper. And the colour pictures and image-driven ads become eye candy without any pretension to meaning.

Worse still, the messages which do emerge from this flat and neutralised scree of information become absurd. (The England manager says of a football game, “This is important,” and the pull quote is reprinted about a million times, as can be seen from this show.)

You would have to say that given its context in Metro, nothing is important, and yet Metro itself, and the news culture to which it belongs, is of real concern. Here artists Huw Bartlett, Chris Smith and Lulu Allison have all highlighted the paper’s anodyne force.

Using only scissors, glue and a few hundred copies of an August edition, the three have created a series of site specific installations at Grey Area. A 1926 quote on the wall by Theo Van Doesburg proclaims the end of art. These days he might have added something about journalism.

Meaning Decoration Mass is at Grey Area, Brighton, until August 29. See the gallery website for opening times.