Trafalgar Square

Feeding the 5000! – Trafalgar Square 18 November

free lunch was served to over 5,000 people in Trafalgar Square. All the ingredients used for the lunch are fresh and would otherwise be wasted – wonky carrots, mis-shapen potatoes and other fresh surplus produce.

There were live cooking demonstrations and plenty of other activities to get stuck into, all of which involved enjoying delicious food rather than throwing it away. Feeding the 5,000 invited citizens and businesses to all join in a pledge to reduce food waste. For more information please check this website http://www.feeding5k.org , or you can find it on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Feeding5k/141410032625501) and Twitter (Twitter @Feeding5k).

Go to Arcola Energy

Ice Bear by Mark Coreth, for WWF, Copenhagen Dec 10

There’s a lot of discussion about the role of dystopian art in creating new stories about climate and the environment. I have to say, if I was a kid, Mark Coreth’s sculpture of a melting polar bear would scare the bejayzus out of me.

Ice Bear is in London’s Trafalgar Square from today.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Ghost Forest by Angela Palmer, Trafalgar Square

Ghost Forest – London from RSA Arts & Ecology on Vimeo.

It’s an amazing achievement, to unlock this space for this kind of exhibit. The crowds I saw were drawn to the sheer strangeness and hugeness of the shapes of the trees, which are supposed to link the ideas of deforestation and climate change. Angela Palmer has done something remarkable in persuading the Mayor’s office to let her use this space for this work. Its scale and ambition makes the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth look rather irrelevant.

But, being honest, I’m not sure it works that well, either as a polemic or as art; I’m not sure it left people convinced. Palmer had originally envisaged the stumps as standing straight up, which would have made it easier to understand them as the leavings of human greed, rather than the lumber they look like. I’m guessing that it simply wasn’t practical to display the stumps like that. And the huge text billboards seemed to be as much about Palmer’s struggle to realise the work, with Antony Gormley saying “the project can’t be done”, as they were about the issue of deforestation and simply added a level of  Fitzcaraldo-in-reverse hubris. (This is like dragging the rainforest to the opera-house rather than vice versa).

When artists create events like this why don’t they let the art speak for itself and instead work closely with an NGO who can make the polemic explicit on site, and far more effectively?

Anyway, please disagree with me.

www.ghostforest.org

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Ghost Forest by Angela Palmer, Trafalgar Square

It’s an amazing achievement, to unlock this space for this kind of exhibit. The crowds I saw were drawn to the sheer strangeness and hugeness of the shapes of the trees, which are supposed to link the ideas of deforestation and climate change. Angela Palmer has done something remarkable in persuading the Mayor’s office to let her use this space for this work. Its scale and ambition makes the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth look rather irrelevant.

But, being honest, I’m not sure it works that well, either as a polemic or as art; I’m not sure it left people convinced. Palmer had originally envisaged the stumps as standing straight up, which would have made it easier to understand them as the leavings of human greed, rather than the lumber they look like. I’m guessing that it simply wasn’t practical to display the stumps like that. And the huge text billboards seemed to be as much about Palmer’s struggle to realise the work, with Antony Gormley saying “the project can’t be done”, as they were about the issue of deforestation and simply added a level of  Fitzcaraldo-in-reverse hubris. (This is like dragging the rainforest to the opera-house rather than vice versa).

When artists create events like this why don’t they let the art speak for itself and instead work closely with an NGO who can make the polemic explicit on site, and far more effectively?

Anyway, please disagree with me.

www.ghostforest.org

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Jeremy Deller: how art “digs into public life”

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’.

www.conversationsaboutiraq.com

EDIT. William Shaw adds: Here’s one interesting example of the conversation started by the Deller artwork, nicely reported by The Artblog.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

The Fourth Plinth: a call to artists

This is my blatant call to artists to use the Fourth Plinth – particularly with respect to bringing fresh ways of exploring social issues in what you could argue is the country’s most central space of debate – Trafalgar Square. I’m not at all sure I want to see myself as the Linda Snell of the RSA but I have a similar yearning for public performance and spectacle – but by artists!

Go to www.oneandother.co.uk and press the “Register your interest” button.

It’s interesting to see that Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth project is rapidly becoming a lobbying prospect. The idea of using the plinth as a site for contemporary art was initiated by the RSA , no mean feat as it turned out and we learned a lot about the complexity and the ambiguities of the word “public” with respect to both public space and public art.

William Shaw will shortly be interviewing Bob & Roberta Smith for the website. His idea for the Plinth was shown at the National Gallery last year – very much referencing environmental issues, as does his current work at TATE’s Altermodern exhibition. I went round this yesterday. Bob is having a weekly conversation with the show’s curator Nicholas Bourriard and then makes a new work replacing the previous week’s piece. This latest work addresses climate change and as ever his work debunks – it puts the public into art with no affectation and no patronising – with a directness that is exhilarating.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology