Well, actually, just a couple of pieces on this occasion, the first one really an update to an earlier post, that on Environmental Art in which I was extremely critical of Mark Wallinger's proposal for a white horse 33 times life size to occupy a currently vacant field on the site of the not-yet-built Ebbsfleet. It will, it is said, do for Ebbsfleet what The Angel of the North has done for the North East: it will regenerate the area by giving it an identity, an iconic image. My reservations mainly concern the scale, and would extend to any other naturalistic sculpture plonked down out of scale and out of context with its surroundings. The other contenders are: Rachel Whitehead's pile of recycled rubbish with a house set on top; Richard Deacon's towering 26 interlocking steel frames; Daniel Buren's disc, rather like a huge T.V. receiving dish, set with wings and Christopher le Brun's tower of cubes of diminishing size. They all, to my mind, qualify as that which Joan Bakewell has called plop art.
I said that my objections relate to naturalistic works out of scale and context. One of the comments levied at my May post raised the example of The Colossus of Rhodes, a valid point. The Colossus was a represention of the Greek God Helios. Unfortunately, we cannot know what the Colossus looked like or how it related to its environment. It is thought that it stood at the entrance to the harbour at Rhodes. Some authorities have it standing astride the entrance, in which case, of course, there would be good reasons for its size, reasons that would put it in some sort of relationship with its environment, as, for example, is the Statue of Liberty.
As also is, I believe from what I have seen and read, the new statue Aspire at Nottingham University. Aspire is meant to emphasize to the students that they may aspire to anything. It was unveiled on the 24th of June, its completion having been delayed by high winds. An inverted cone shape, with a somewhat lacy feel to it (Nottingham is famour for its lace), it marks the sixtieth anniversary of the granting of the university's charter and it stands sixty meters high, and is the first reason for this post. It is, I believe, the perfectly acceptable face of "non plop" art.
To give some comparisons: The Angel of the North is 66 feet high, The Colossus of Rhodes was 110 ft and Christ the Redeemer is 120 feet, Aspire is 197 ft.
But we are not finished: there is more updating to be done as the taste for bigger and yet bigger art works grows apace, for a few days ago Amish Kapoor stepped upon the stage to unveil plans for five colossal works of art, a joint project of himself and Cecil Balmond, a structural designer. This autumn Kapoor will be working on the first of these, Temenos (Here for virtual tour), a £2.7 million steel structure which will dwarf its chosen site in Middlehaven, Middlesborough. A series of circular steel rings and cables, it will weigh in at some 66 tonnes and be almost fifty meters high and a hundred and ten meters long. The plan, the hope, is for these sculptures to go a long way towards regenerating the Tees Valley and "be a potent symbol for the whole of Tyneside".
And the motive for me posting this update? It is to put the other side of the coin. I possibly gave the impression in my previous post that I was "against" all sculpture conceived on a colossal scale, but so far as I can judge from what information is available at present, these latter proposals strike me as being in tune with their surroundings and the very opposite of plop art. I may prove to be wrong in that, of course. Kapoor's proposals have not even receivd planning permission as yet.
A surprise decision by the judging panel of the
Man Booker Prize has been to plant trees for every poor novel submitted for their consideration. The philosophy, it would seem, goes something like this: trees had to be pulped to produce this rubbish, so the least we can do is try to replace them. That is as far as they have yet got in the decision-making. They still have to decide where to plant these trees and how many. Should there be just one tree per bad novel, or a whole copse, perhaps? How many trees does it take, I wonder, to launch a crappy book upon the unsuspecting public? And what sort of tree? A weeping willow springs to mind.
But perhaps the most important decision still to be made is whether or not the offending novel(s) should be named and shamed - as is inceasingly becoming the custom these days in all walks of life. If so, I have a sneaky suspicion that the sales for the duds will soar by at least as much as the long- and perhaps even the short-listed books. Perhaps in twenty-five or fifty years time (or some other Man Booker Prize anniversary) we might even hear of a book winning the "Dud of Duds Award" - maybe having a whole forest to itself?
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