June 21, 2008

Green Drops and Moonsquirters

Months ago in this blog (more than once) I lamented the state of the English public gallery curating, specifically, as an example I mentioned how it was literally impossible to get into Manchester Art Gallery Asia Triennial video installation because there were so many playing toddlers and crying babies. The Gallery has now gone one step further with its latest offering: Green Drops and Moonsquirters


Of course, because success in the UK galleries is measured by numbers of visitors rather than the artistic quality of exhibitions, this is already a huge hit. But for anyone with any interest in the arts it is truly desperate - the galleries of the City Art Gallery must be hellish. In Manchester, the powers that be are constantly exercised with the notion that the city aspires to being 'world-class'. Every international visitor I have had, visiting the City Gallery can't understand it. Manchester is a great place to live, but without a world class gallery you wonder how it can aspire to be a world-class city; moreover, with a programme like this it is questionable whether the City Gallery is actually an Art Gallery. Maybe the logic of endless years of New Labour cultural pejoration are generating a category of museum practice that at the moment is nameless but is actually an anathema to art itself. In a lot of ways, it is close to the Victorian paternalist notion of the museum as a mechanism for worker's education and betterment. After all, virtually from the cradle citizens are given performance targets. It is frequently noticeable that even young artists, arts development and curatorial staffs have this conditioning which has removed the capacity for free thought. The state managerial approach to public mobilisation through intravenous outputs and outcomes with objectives set in advance means that many young artists dont know how to experiment or challenge themselves without knowing what the result of the experiment will be in advance. State funded galleries are as much part of this cultural ecology - I used "cultural ecology" ironically there because that is the latest jargon bollocks being used by the Arts Bureaucracies. It has been a long running idea in theatre that exposing children and young people to drama you are creating the audiences of the future. But the implementation of this has been didactic theatre endlessly addressing 'issues' of bullying, sex education, "citizenship", etc. So rather than creating the audience of the future, this model is creating citizens who think that is what theatre is. The same is happening in galleries. Children visit galleries either in school parties or with parents. So the school visit teaches them that all art has to be explained and that you have to do worksheets when you visit a gallery/museum. When visiting with parents, you play, dress up and do activities, which teaches you that the gallery is an indoor play centre. This sort of thinking is what has led to some libraries now to be called "ideas stores". So what should we call this thing instead of "Art Gallery"?

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