We have had my brother-in-law staying Jeremy Deller’s latest project, It is What It Is. We have been working with Jeremy on the Bat House Project. Both works provide a mechanism, a vehicle (literally in the case of ‘It is What It Is’) to encourage debate and engagement with particular issues.
Dragging a wrecked car from Iraq across the States is simply not art, said my brother-in-law very firmly, fixing his attentions solely on the object rather than the discourse generated.
An alternative to the car being in the States, it could have been on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square instead of Antony Gormley’s forthcoming project. But both works pull us members of the public into art that ultimately is process not product.
Why is it that many people just won’t have it that the purpose of art is to elicit participation from us, to open up thinking, to encourage us to review the human condition and to nudge or provoke a response? Why can’t they relax and just accept that artists can use whatever materials they damn well choose – be that the human body, a urinal, oil paint or bronze or a cork screw to actify that purpose.
The site is still up of the road diary by Nato Thompson that is part of It is What It Is, although the trip ended on 17 April 09. I urge you to read it and see what, as Thompson says, “digging into public life”, has revealed.
Meanwhile off line It is What It Is has provoked more conversation in our house than any more conventional piece of art over the past two weeks. This is far more important to me than convincing my brother-in-law that it is art. I did get a rueful smile from David when I noted that having argued for half an hour the night before, he came down to breakfast the next morning wanting to begin all over again. And then seemingly tangentially, we started talking about war.
After all the second part of the work’s title is ‘Conversations about Iraq’.