Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Connoisseurs of Crap

I have always liked the Tate in Liverpool. One of its most appealing features is the absence of art connoisseurs swooning over the magnificence of crap. Not that there isn't any crap, you understand. It's simply that Scousers are not yet comfortable with the terminology, and so instead of the breathless Enlightened with their “Can’t you just feel the artist’s anguish oozing out of the rubber?” (whenever anything starts oozing out of rubber, you know it’s time to run) you tend to get unimpressed schoolchildren seeking confirmation from their teachers that “That is shite, isn’t it Miss?”.

My own personal highpoint in the museum was some years ago when I was privileged to see at first hand a work entitled “An Oak Tree” by a certain Michael Craig-Martin*. The oeuvre consisted of a glass of water on a raised wooden shelf, and an explanatory text from which I was able to divine that although the glass of water resembled a glass of water, it was in fact an oak tree. The power of this kind of work lies in its ability to inspire an enduring emotional response in the spectator: my own initial “FUCK O-OOFFFF!” is as fresh in my guts today as it was when I first beheld the sculpture.

And at this point – though I have by no means finished with the Tate – I shall retire to quell my art-inspired rage with some breathing exercises. Or maybe some booze.

* I believe the Oak tree is now at the Tate Modern, where it can be admired by a wider audience.

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