Moping Owl: Eye spy

… from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such as, wandering near her secret bower, Molest her ancient solitary reign.


Dear old

Dicky Stork is still cawing away, if that’s what storks do, from his nest high on the chimney pots of Burlington House. I can hear him from here, and it’s even worse when the wind’s in the East. He seems to be quite a fixture there nowadays, but then if he caws what the Wildlife Managers in the Academy Zoo below want him to caw, he won’t get the chimney-sweep’s broom up the bottom for a while yet. He works as some sort of beady eye or look-out to give the ground-feeders early warning of what’s going on elsewhere. And what has just caught his eye is a foreign exotic or rare vagrant, blown in all the way from Mexico on all this Global Warming we’ve been having lately, and now come to roost at Tate Modern.

It seems this particular bird, Gabriel’s Orozco, is so rare a sight as to make any twitcher twitch like fury, Storky included. So unpredictable is he, indeed, that no twitcher can “pin him down” – which I thought was only what one did to butterflies. I may be wrong. Even so, perhaps it’s just as well young Ostrich (one of the rare flying ones, I’m told) seems to be pretty quick on his feet, for he has always “moved restlessly around the world” and won, so Storkage tells us, an international reputation for moving restlessly around the world.

But the main thing, in Sticky’s eyes, is that he has this wonderful gift for “employing a limitless range of found objects”. I sympathise: the world is such a big place, and just full of stuff – you should see the cellar of my old tow’r. I might ask this O’Roscoe round to take a look. Who knows, he might find just the thing. For what he does that is so special is that he ‘transforms’ these things, yes transforms them, ‘just like that’ as the Great Tom used to say, and does so, moreover, “so surprisingly that they catch us off balance.” I would have thought it more a case of looking where you’re going, Storky old thing, and laying off the Tate’s dodgy Sauvignon Blanc at the Press View.

Now you can tell when Dicky’s really excited, for then he dips deep into the adjective bag he always keeps handy. How he loves his adjectives, and his adverbs too, come to that. Any one will do. “We are often invited to participate in the sculptural structures Orinoco displays.”

301 Moved Permanently

Oh those structures: so sculptural, don’t you know, though quite how to participate in them I’m not altogether sure. “A bizarre (here we go) work, wittily (and again) entitled ‘Ping Pond Table’ (ho ho, my sides, my sides, oh, ha ha, do stop, please) sets two ping-pong tables, cut into four halves (I think I follow) in the form of a cross around a lily pond (now I’m lost). Although we can play with the bats and balls provided, the pond in the middle is strangely distracting.” Nothing strange about it, I’d have thought. Silly, perhaps. Cocky goes on 301 Moved Permanently to say that Orasbo  “delights in playing with vehicles”, just like most little boys, I suppose. He once sliced a Citroen DS into three and spliced the outside bits back together again, thus making it, transforming it I mean, into something rich and, yes, wait for it, “strangely thin and menacing.” DS, Dicky helpfully points out, “is a pun on déesse (goddess, you see: nudge nudge), so this work is a kind of double sacrifice – the cutting up of a legendary (there goes another one) car that is also a deity.”  How strange that is, Dicky. You can tell he’s flown down from Cambridge.

“In ‘Four Bicycles’ Rockio jammed together four old Dutch bicycles in a tangled, thrusting mass.” Those Dutch bikes, I must say, are the best, especially with a bit of age on them.  Nothing like them for a bit of massive tangled thrust. “They take on an explosive dynamism  (I’ve lost count), but also appear futile – there is often a playful melancholy in his work.” I should say so: he once rolled a large playful ball of plasticine through the streets of New York, picking up, well, just imagine…. “His Tate show reveals just how much he relishes the artist’s life-affirming ability to transform everyday objects into sources of wonder.” Corky, you’ve said it all.


It doesn’t do to brood too much, but sometimes it can’t be helped. And now a soggy scrap of paper I’d forgotten all about has fallen out of the ivy, to set me off again. It seems that wily old Farmer Nick has had a useful little purchase fund set up to the benefit of Tate Farm Holdings (Int.), to make sure that they never run out of stuff to fill their cellar shelves down by the river. This Outset/Frieze Fund can only be spent at the Village Church Bazaar & Bring & Buy Sale, held in the Park every autumn. It’s sole purpose is, groan groan, “to enable the Tate to acquire works by emerging and leading international artists”: in other words, any old charlatan, mountebank or flyby-night with a bright line in art-speak and a sharp dealer.

So who does the spending on the Tate’s, which is to say our behalf, amounting this year to the tune of £120,000? Why: “prominent international curators, whom we’ve neverheard of, alongside Tate curators, ditto.” Whew: so that’s all right then. “We are grateful for the continuing support of the Fund, which has enabled the Farm to significantly (of course) extend its collection of work by new and emerging artists,” says Farmer Nick. “This is increasingly importantat a time when funding for new acquisitions is so limited.”

So let’s see what he got for Christmas this time:

1. ‘Five Day Forecast’ (1991) by Lorna Simpson, an American aged 51 – ie. 5 black & white silver gelatin prints, and 15 engraved plaques.

2. ‘A long title in French all about native villages deep in the forests” (1993) by Jimmie Durham, another American, aged 71 – ie. A construction of cardboard, wood, bone, a Mexican (v. signif.) Coca Cola bottle, aluminium, steel, glass and text.

3. ‘Question Mark b (Anti-Painting, Text Painting’1969) by Julius Kollar, a Slovakian who died in 2007, aged 68 – ie. latex on wood.

4. ‘Universal Futurological Opening’ (1978), also by Mr Kollar – ie. toilet paper and felt-tip pen.

5. ‘Conceptual’ (1972), again by Mr Kollar – ie. stamp on paper.


Quite a bargain, I should say. And at least it will keep Chickens in the Conservation Coop in a job through these hard times.

The Jackdaw Mar-Apr 2011