This was my first study visit with the OCA and it was probably the first time I have been to an art gallery for many years so it was quite an experience, I did not really know what to expect.
Firstly I need to say that if you haven’t or don’t go to study visits you are making a big mistake, the people are not going to eat you they are the most friendly bunch of people who all seem to give a lot back. Gareth seems to me to be an Amazing man organising all of these trips and having a very wide knowledge of the subjects is a great person to discuss the exhibits with.
I took my Camera and it didn’t leave the bag, these things are not really photographic events although there are some die hard’s who love to photograph everyone there for the record.
This exhibition was primarily an art exhibition and not specifically a photography exhibition, the exhibits ranged from an installation to a video to a tapestry and even some photos.
Now I have to confess, this was the start of a very painful journey that I have been documenting in other posts. I have made the mistake of writing this up long after the event and now benefit from some other experiences but I will try to write the way I felt at the time.
Let me start by putting in a reference post about myself, when I was about 12 years old I went to the national gallery and absolutely loved the Canaletto’s, temper this with my formal education as an engineer and my love of things mechanical, you have someone who likes things that he can understand how they work. Add to this my Photography teacher at school would steer us away from exam boards where we had to study other photographers preferring instead to teach us techniques and keep us in the darkroom (in a decent way)
You can hopefully understand that from this background comes a person who can marvel at the beauty of the geometry in a photograph of a halved sea shell but looks on in confusion at the un made bed.
This was the me who walked into that gallery so the Exhibit by Arnud Desjardin (doesn’t that mean The Garden Arnud?) to see his work Business as usual, it didn’t make much sense, it was an exhibit that contained some shelves a table with a printer and a table full of books with every page covered by the words BUSINESS AS USUAL in bold huge type. Having read the book on the exhibition afterwards I think the book was the exhibit but I may be wrong, apparently its:
“A graphically bold book containing rhetorical economical expressions of both outrage and resignation, ready for occasion where ‘business as usual’ prevails”
The london open Guide book
Sorry it did not work for me, but I did learn that it was ok, one of the big learning lessons was that its ok not to like something and not to agree you do not need to be intimidated by either the artist or the other members of the group (who were lovely) you do need to debate and discuss and after that its still ok to disagree.
There were a lot of videos on display and I found that in the visit format we were in they were rather difficult to watch and take in for me there was fundamentally something wrong with displaying videos in that situation. I am sure they were good its just that they were hard to digest.
There is always one exhibit that defy’s the rule though Greta Alfaro’s In Praise of the Beast, this was a video taken at night of a wedding cake left out in a snowy field which over 14 mins and 58 seconds is devoured and rolled in by a bunch of wild boar, it’s rather compelling to watch and is meant to depict the tension between shared social values and nature. For me it conjured up an image of the constant fight between man and nature so I guess it works. This video worked despite my comments generally about videos in this exhibition. During the tour we caught this towards the end so I returned after the visit was over and watched the whole thing.
My favourite exhibit was Thomas Ball’s Overburden, This is a series of photographs depicting the mining of oil from Tar Sand in Canada, Toms web site explains that these tar sands are only profitable when oil prices are high and their extraction causes massive damage to the ecology you can se the narrative here : http://www.thomasballphoto.com/ If you select the inescapable Limits menu and select Athabasca as the sub menu this will take you to the photo series and underneath is a link to the explanation of the project.
Tom’s work struck a chord with me I felt some of the images were very striking.
So I having seen the exhibition my parting thoughts were that there are a lot of angry artists out there and a lot of art that’s not for me but when I like something its a good feeling.
I learned it ok not to like something, I learned that OCA trips are great fun and nothing to be scared of.