Monday, 26 January 2009

Penthouse and Pavement - Simon Bedwell 'The Asphalt World', Studio Voltaire, 15th January – 15th February 2008,

Nice pad. That was my first thought, but actually, is it really? There are a few things missing, and I bet Bryan Ferry has much more luxurious furniture than wicker, man. That stuff catches on your clothes, so watch your tights girls. Oh yeah of course, I said there was something missing didn’t I. So I suppose it’s all supposed to support some sort of cerebral supposition. That’s why it looks less like a home and more like a showroom, an exposition, an expo. An exposé.
Uh-huh. Okay, asphalt. Apparently the ancient Egyptians used to use it to embalm mummies and I guess there’s some form of tragically anachronistic preservation at work among this collection of half baked amateur ceramics, blank expressionism and bored bill posters. I think it’s nice. To go to Bedwell’s title though, one must travel down Walter Benjamin’s One Way Street, a collection of kinda dull diaristic writings with a title perhaps hinting at the inevitability of the future and all that, although Bedwell’s work suggests an attempt to travel in the wrong direction. Walter wanders wondering whether the fact that advertising has become so insidiously an integral factor of the fabric of society, has become so impossible to separate from the beauty and the tragedy of everyday life, that fine art as it was understood then, could no longer be relevant. And to go back to Bedwell, perhaps his use of billboard posters is intended to evoke art’s attempts to subjugate any imagery or cultural content to its all encompassing will, where the empty gestural hand of the artist gives and takes in an abstraction of the rules of subtraction.
There’s a paradoxical statement often thrown about that is “political correctness gone mad” which is usually invoked whenever the user of the phrase is inconvenienced by an enforced duty to make a hypothetical leap of faith in consideration of the welfare of a person, or persons, who at that moment are present merely as an abstract concept. But you know, as much as I’m looking forward to the newly expanded Whitechapel Gallery or whatever, it’s nice sometimes just to look at, like, cool stuff.
I was trying to imagine who would live in a house like this. A nostalgic male, gazing into the reflected glory of the consummate consumerism of a time when a commodified art object could be easily integrated into one’s home décor, the private hegemony of work, rest and playboy. Yet even from the first glance it presents itself as a failed fantasy, in every flaccid phallocentric fallacy of a dream home, a negation statement of tragic, nostalgic, anachronistic heartache.The fuzzy museologic and the detournamental arithmetic of the presentation serve to emphasise the temporal and cultural distance from the days of Bryan’s penthouse and Walter’s pavement. I mean these days adverts are like, for the birds and while it’s good to have a subjective objection to the objective subjugation of the subject, the recognisably male gaze has become a marketing technique aimed at women. Hello boys.
I dunno, what’s a guy to do? So Benjamin would have us believe that an advert’s power comes from its place in the very fabric of society, its integration into everyday ‘language’ as represented by its reflection in the asphalt. Its impersonality is its strength, a strength that art meekly attempts to reclaim from time to time between doses of relational anaesthetics. Similarly women seem to attain a collective power from the very objectification of an idealised vision of the feminine. The untouchable, unattainable bride that keeps the bachelor in a permanent act of aspiration, even. I’m sure Vanessa Beecroft probably said something similar to Kanye West.


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