Thursday, September 15, 2011

The living dead

Strangely enough this year we have seen two performances using living sculpture in glass boxes as their central idea. The most recent was last week at Wellington's Bats Theatre in a play by Kate Morris called Sketch. Here a small room-sized vitrine encasing the living sculpture was located in a commercial art gallery somewhere in New Zealand. The premise was that the living sculpture was stricken with a terminal illness and it was not hard to see the links with Damian Hirst (large glass display case, a back wall filled with shelves crowded with bottles of pills). The death theme box was certainly ticked off but the depiction of the art world was the usual the-art-world-is-full-of-shrill-idiots-who-talk-nonsense. 

Can't say we weren't warned. The director Eleanor Bishop called up in her programme notes the “huge, fast-paced, superficial art world.” And sure enough the visitors to the exhibition postured and shrieked and generally behaved like sugar-filled kindergarten brats. The dealer was togged up in venal with a trimming of dishonest and the curator stepped out in plain old pretentious. Clearly no one involved in the production had been anywhere near a dealer gallery where usually you’re lucky if you can get anyone to look at the art at an opening far less talk about it.

Image: the vitrine set for Sketch