I went to the new exhibition at the Barbican yesterday, which was kind of weird and confusing really. It seems to have a good idea behind it, in that it's supposed to be the Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, and that aliens have curated a bunch of Earthling art to present to other aliens.
Which sounds like a great idea! But the actual stuff they have seems really off-message. It's full of pseudo-surreal things, all the 'WHAT IS ART?!' type of art that annoys people.
There were some things I loved, and for an art show that was a collection of surreal modern random-ass art, it was kind of cool (I'm not the biggest fan but I don't hate it). But it's supposed to be an alien's view of Earthling art- and it isn't. Unless it is, and it's just kind of turned in on itself again to become the biggest reflection of a reflection ever.
If I were to make an 'aliens made this show' art exhibition, I would comment on the idols we as cultures celebrate, the billboards, the tv, movies, magazines, the crap that (western) cultures really do celebrate. On both the stuff that is renowned as art, reproductions of mona lisas and the stuff that isn't renowned as art- mass consumer, ubiquitous things. Not 'but is is art' art that is hard to get a grip on, that regular non-art history graduate humans, let alone aliens, wouldn't think of as art.
But then again, perhaps this is all supposed to reflect on these 'aliens' who made the show. What they consider art to be on their home planet. Me saying they should choose things that are obvious and ubiquitous in human culture is me just projecting what I imagine an outside point of view to be on the world. Perhaps the viewer is supposed to see the whole thing as some sort of art show within an art show. Maybe the whole thing is a piece of performance art. Or maybe not.
This seems like it had a good idea at it's core but just kind of unravelled. It wasn't coherent. It had the wrong direction if it was supposed to just be surreal modern stuff, and it had the wrong collection of it was supposed to be some sort of aliens-meet-curation-of-art-show thing.
There was an awesome totem pole made of golf bags, which I really liked, some other cool totem things. Some Andy Warhol Mao prints (I don't think I have ever been able to get so close to an actual Andy Warhol print, and I was glad to), a huge collection of ties a guy had sent to different diplomats and world politicos asking for a tie in return, which had mostly been returned to him with letters of thanks but no thanks. Those were the stand outs for me. There was a lot of stuff that I didn't really like much, and overall, as you may imagine from what else I have said about it, I didn't really enjoy the show as a whole. I do, however, feel inspired by the whole thing- alien-as-viewer is an interesting idea.
picture of the golf bag totem pole from Tlingitculture.com