The Meaning Of Art

After we’d meticulously choose the chairs we will have in our workshop once we’ve taken over our space, [laughing], and we’d looked at our space, and then came back and blasted down our ideas on paper, and gone down for our coffee, and didn’t received any cake, nearly lost the plot, Nikita took us into the William Kentridge’s exhibition to get an idea of a living room: we’re going to create one in our space when it is still a workshop for visitors to watch our memoirs etc and for us to have cosy times with each other thinking about how we are going to realise our exhibition. Photo by Whitworth's Ed Watts.

Well I’ve been in and out of the Whitworth for weeks and I think William Kentridge’s colonial-looking living room is beautiful but I don’t give it any more thought than that. I have no idea what it means and no fucking intention of working it out. But Nikita did something wonderful. She told us exactly what it is about. William Kentridge has recreated a room in a hotel where Trotsky is banished to or maybe he is just hiding and the text on the projections are the speech or manifesto that they have banned him delivering. So even though his speech wasn’t said in his time it is being said today.

It really resonated with me. We could use our exhibition to really say something. Then Phil said it at the table when we were going round asking what Kentridge had made us feel or think. Yeah we could use our space, to make a protest. But I’m missing the point. What is the fucking point of needing a Nikita the curator to explain the fucking exhibition to me?

The word of the week is elitism. My word of the week is elitism. There is another fucking word for it too: The Emperors New Clothes. Everyone pretending they know what is going on. What art is for? What art isn’t? What we should be looking for. Exactly what was I supposed to be looking for? Or if I am a rarefied knower of all general knowledge would I have immediately recognised the bedroom. Known it was linked to Trotsky. Known about his speech. But even the book that would have alerted me to that are written in a language meant to foil me. Meant to keep the average person out. Meant to keep the academics one level of elite. So they can have 12 months sabbaticals to write more shit that not even they give a fuck about, laughing.

Do you know what art is to me? In 2006 I was in Australia. The moon dropped out of the sky. The sky went black. The stars burst out. I mean burst. Ever fucking star in the Southern hemisphere. It was overpowering. It was frightening. I fell to my knees. The Milky Way was totally white. And I could see and hear and feel our most primitive ancestors telling each other stories about what the stars mean, maybe by a campfire. Trying to work it all out. Why are they here? Where did they come from?  I wonder which one of them first manipulated the language to mean they could have an extra bit of mammoth, him and his mate. Because him and his mate were special in a way the rest would never understand.

In the 1976 in the Reno when I met Tommy Brogan, Paul Collins, Phil Collins, Ozzy Saidey, Tony Atta, Dave Jawando and their Alan we loved interacting with this kind of question, pulling it apart, bringing in our gurus Kahlil Gibral, The Bible, Martin Luther King, William Baldwin, Malcolm X, Bob Dylan, Krishna, and loads of names I can’t remember. Looking for an alternative way to be. 

First the ladies choose chairs. Then the crew sum up their experience so far. 

Brian: 'Them days it all happened in a rush, but when you look back and look at yourself as well . . . and learn things about yourself . . . when you look back you can say I understand that.' 

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