“Artists are so bizarre and come from such strange places”: Glenn Ligon interview below

Nathan Coley, You Imagine What You Desire (2014)

nathan coley

What a difference a new occasion makes. The last installation of You Imagine What You Desire was over 17,000 km away at a Biennial in Sydney. Now it appears in a festival in Brighton.

But geography is the least of it. In Sydney it was on a gallery facade; in Brighton it is in an ancient church. It’s from the streets of a big, young city to a reflective space in a small, old world one.

So what gets imagined in a church and what gets desired? Well, heaven obviously, but also hell. It is the go-to place for imagining the outcomes of our actions, for guidance in the way we live our lives.

You might ask why anyone would desire a burning pit. But perhaps we like to be kept in line, on some level. And a sense of justice is useful to both society and the individual. So why not.

The builder’s scaffold which holds these letters is blunt about this. It too is utilitarian. And here it tells us that imagination and desire are the pole and grip structure of our morality.

But a scaffold is temporary and the fairground lights remind us there are plenty more things and people to desire in this seaside town of ours. Out there, on the pier, desire is still a thrill ride.

There are lots of risks, but few spiritual consequences on the pier. It is a very modern institution in that way. So Coley brings the amusement park into the last place you might expect to find it.

After all, Saint Nicholas’ is the oldest church in town. The pier may be one of our best known landmarks but, until now, the twain have never met. They have to turn off the lights during worship.

So, apologies to Sydney, and all future venues. But this really belongs in Brighton, and you can’t say that about too much art. More is to be desired, even if it be hard to imagine.

You Imagine What You Desire is a HOUSE/Brighton Festival co-production and can be seen at Saint Nicholas’s, Brighton, until May 24 2015.

Read my review of Nathan Coley at Brighton Festival on The Arts Desk.


Jakob Dahlgren, Peinture abstraite (2001 – present)

dahlgren

Artists often go too far. Sometimes it can seem that any art worth its salt has to do just that, to show some form of excess, to do something inordinately repetitive, or of course skilled.

Jakob Dahlgren’s thirteen year-long durational project will have many scratching their heads, asking what is the point? But to provoke that very question seems to be the point.

The Swedish artist has worn a striped t-shirt every day since 2001. There’s not much more to it than that. Although, apparently, he invites people to ‘curate’ the wardrobe for him.

It might not sound too impressive. He has an archive of 1000s of numbered shirts. He has as many photos on an Instagram site. But the work’s very lack of gravity could indeed be his point.

Dahlgren calls the work Peinture Abstraite and that smattering of French is not putting on airs. It is rather puncturing the work of those who have been historically content to paint coloured stripes.

People are still painting stripes. In austerity Britain they are probably at it right now. And Dahlgren compares this no doubt serious endeavour with just so many sartorial decisions.

He wouldn’t name names, but the artist said he drew inspiration from a range of artists whose work he didn’t very much like. He doesn’t like them, but they engage him.

In turn, you might not like his t-shirt project. But if you are reading this, it is hoped that Peinture abstraite has engaged you in some way too. It fights fire with fire, decoration with decoration.

And the fact he has just gone too far with the t-shirt idea, sporting them at weddings and funerals alike, just makes me warm to this deceptively simple piece.

For the stripe painters out there, fear not. Dahlgren is not above picking up a brush, dusting off a worn t-shirt and painting what he sees. There’s no getting away from it.

Peinture Abstraite can be seen at Fabrica, Brighton, until 26 May 2014. Check out Dahlgren’s Instagram site for more images and see the artist’s website for more info on the project.