Laura Gascoigne: Is It The Real World Or An Exercise? – November 2016

The Ukrainians have a lot of empty plinths where statues of Lenin once stood and last July, taking a leaf out of the Gormley Sutra, steps were erected around the one in Kiev’s Bessarabska Square so that people could climb up to admire the view

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and/or take selfies. The installation, Inhabiting

Shadows, was the work of Mexican artist Cynthia Gutiérrez, apparently intended to prompt reflection on “imposed memory, system
failure, emptiness, identity, and occupying space.”

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an artist to
play this game.
Elsewhere in the Ukraine, protestors have filled the vacuum: in Odessa, Lenin’s place has been taken by Darth Vader (right). Which of these gestures


seems the more artistic? One has humour, the other a pretentious title, but both make similar points, the first more forcibly.
When it comes to politics, protest has the advantage over art of single-point perspective: it doesn’t offer the viewer a
range of potential meanings, and it often pips art to the post. The 2,500 used life jackets laid out by the International src="//"> Rescue Committee in Parliament Square to coincide with the UN summit on the migrant crisis on September 19th took most of the wind out the google_ad_width = 970; inflatable lifeboats with
which Ai Weiwei clad the facades of the google_ad_height = 90; Palazzo Strozzi for his retrospective opening four days later. The IRC’s installation was nameless, anonymous and free; Ai Weiwei’s was fashionably titled Reframe, stamped with the artist’s identity and priced accordingly.

style="font-weight: 400;">As so src="//"> often,

addict from Halifax who had himself buried alive for three days in order to live-stream exhortations from beyond the grave discouraging other addicts from joining him. (Whether he rose again has not been src="//"> reported.)

If you think these sorts of ‘true life’ stories are not material for art, Chinese artist Xu Bing would disagree. The plot of his new film, The Dragonfly Eyes, released in January, was based //--> on the case of a husband who sued his cosmetically google_ad_height = 90; enhanced wife for tricking him into producing google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; ugly children. In contemporary art, there is no silly season;

it runs from January to December. Appropriately, it was the subs at Metro who came up with the inevitable Turner Prize headline ‘Butt Is
It Art?’

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So much is art these days that ‘But is it real?’ is /* xin2 */ a more pertinent question. As Gavin

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Haynes commented

in his Guardian report on a hoax Corbyn talk staged by Lancaster University art student Lucie Carter in May: ‘The question

In the


process of being produced, art borrows material from life, and the traces of life still shine through the completed work google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; of art. google_ad_width = 970; But at the

same time, the distance from life is the essence, the substance of art. The more scarred the work of art is by the battles waged on the borders between google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; art and life, the more interesting it google_ad_width = 970; becomes.” His position is more nuanced than Nietzsche “Truth is ugly. We have art lest we perish from the truth.” But how could Nietzsche have foreseen the

course of art? As it was, the great
philosopher made the wrong call. It is falsehood that is ugly – without truth, we are in danger of perishing from art.

“Can you use real life as a subject?” was the question Gormley posed with his Fourth Plinth project. Which prompts another question: does a plinth make a more eloquent statement by remaining empty? I passed the Fourth Plinth between installations

the other week, and it seemed to me


that it did.

Laura Gascoigne
The Jackdaw Nov/Dec 2016