14 Sept - 9 Nov 2002
Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Lichfield St, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV1 1DU - UK
"How does/could/would the withdrawal of art affect the world?"
The curator Gavin Wade posed this question to more than 100 artists
and arts writers around the world. Now their responses have been
wall-mounted by the artist Liam Gillick in an exhibition whose
design has all the red, black and white geometric bravado of
traditional revolutionary graphics.
Well, what if artists were to go on strike? Would anyone notice or care? Or would some clever-dick theorist simply redefine the strike as an alternative form of conceptual creativity and have done with it? Could Wade really be serious?
He must have known he was asking for it. Artists aren't always very lucid when it comes to justifying the social utility of their work. And arts writers are often at their most obtuse when reflecting on art's political relevance. Surely Wade must have known that quite a few artists would respond in a spirit of mischievous irreverence suitable to the rhetorical preposterousness of the question.
So the exhibition amounts to a clamour of voices ranging from the ardent through the awkward to the absurd. Of the more sober-minded replies, the painter Leon Golub's contradictory response is perhaps the most sensible: "The withdrawal of art wouldn't affect the world one iota. The withdrawal of art would be a disaster." More intriguing are the respondents who were sufficiently imaginative to leave the question behind. Aleksandra Mir states: "I cannot imagine a world without art, but here are the contents of my fridge," before listing everything from "one red onion" to "five bottles of Corona beer". Fiona Banner, for some reason, gets all heated in a texts titled Solar Anus: "Pushing through her stung pouting vulva, sweat the only thing parting them—each time it comes out shinier, wetter."
As with so much contemporary culture, some of the best stuff is the most bewilderingly peculiar. Martin Vincent presents a script written in a trembling hand: "Like a vampire's soul. Like a Gypsy's curse." But for me, Gardar Eide Einarsson takes the prize for getting to the point with the simple graffiti scrawl: "You just don't get it dad, so fuck off."