Wednesday, 2 March 2011

When did totalitarian “Big Art” become acceptable in Britain?

Over the years, there have been many proposals by advertisers to project brands and products on the night sky, using everything from massive spotlights to lasers. Check out this item, which appeared in the New York Times in 1922: and there’s this one from a 1931 issue of Modern Mechanix

There’s always someone determined to spoil your view: for instance, last year, there were complaints about the new LED advertising banner on the BT Tower, visible for miles at night.

Now, one might expect the traditional agents of Mammon to show scant regard for our right to gaze at the heavens with no more than the occasional airplane (and general light pollution) to spoil the deep feelings of awe, reverence and inner peace which usually accompany this age-old activity. After all, up is the one direction we can look without some insensitive, megalomaniacal, interfering bastard (or committee of bastards) trying to ruin it for us with ugly mega-structures.

        Anthony McCall’s “Cloud”

But now, today’s Telegraph informs us,  the Arts Establishment is panting to join in. The “Cultural Olympiad” (a pox on their house) has commissioned the installation artist (i.e. not really an artist) Anthony McCall to create a spinning column of cloud which anyone unlucky enough to visit the North-West of England in 2012 will be unable to avoid seeing, as it will rise a mile into the sky from the Wirral Waters dock site on Merseyside. The artist explains, “the fact that Merseyside ... stands as a focal point for the whole North West, makes it absolutely ideal.”

Ideal for whom, exactly?

Ideal for the millions of people who sort of prefer Nature as it is, and who loathe the childish, facile, pretentious, witless, plonkingly obvious idiocies in which  installation “artists” specialise? Or ideal for the elite coterie of Arts Establishment luvvies and the bunch of talentless charlatans and pseuds they use our money to support (usually without our permission, of course).

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director for London, Arts Council England (Oh God, don’t you just know everything about her without having been told anything about her?) enthuses: “I was hoping for ideas that would reflect the incredible richness of our culture, and show the world what’s so special about our country... I think it’s going to captivate the North West, and the world.”

Listen, dear, one of the things that’s special about this country is the Country. And while I’m sure the whole thing will make fellow-Arts luvvies around the globe wet their moleskin trousers with excitement, it will be a massive irritation to 90% of your fellow Britons, who, one presumes, will be paying for the whole silly exercise. (And all it says about our “culture” is how pathetically tawdry and tenth-rate it currently is).

Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad swoons, “This towering idea shows the heights to which the Cultural Olympiad can climb.” No, love, it demonstrates the depths to which it can sink.

A very, very, very, very big horse

It reminds me of that other “Big Art” project, the £2m giant white horse commissioned from the Turner Prize winner, Mark Wallinger, which is set to be 33- times life-size, as tall as Nelson’s Column, and which will destroy views of North Kent for residents and visitors for decades to come. Local villagers tried to get it stopped, but sod ‘em – what do those hayseeds know about Art? (A lot more than the fools who commissioned this nonsense, that’s for sure).

Whenever I hear the phrase “Turner Prize Winner” I always think “Nazi War Criminal” – after all, they both specialise in crimes against humanity. There’s another connection, because fascists don’t half love Big Art – e.g. the “fascist” Christs overlooking Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon, Albert Speer’s buildings (which managed to be dull and intimidating at the same time) and vast, stillborn Nazi statues of idealised Aryans. What they all had in common was that they were designed so that you couldn’t get away from the bloody things! They force themselves on us: we are the State, they shout, and we know what’s best for you.

I mean, what the hell is Anthony Gormley’s unappealing Angel of the North if not National Socialist Art? Six foot high, fine –  but it’s sheer overwhelming scale lends it a sinister quality. You don’t choose to go and see it – it’s just there! (Though, to be fair, it’s not as overhwleming as that stupid horse is going to be). Bigger doesn’t automatically make things better – if Michaelangelo’s David were the height of Nelson’s Column, it wouldn’t make it more impressive or more beautiful – it would become pompous, inhuman and plain ridiculous.

Not for the first time, I have to ask – nay, beg – the Powers That Be to just damn well leave us alone! 


  1. Oh I don't know Gronners. Isn't there something entirely appropriate about the idea of capping years of showering public money on the Scousers by sticking a massive publicly-funded cloud over them. Those Merseysiders who don't follow Arts Council newsletters all that carefully will wake up one morning, see it hovering over them and conclude that it is some sort of Biblical omen. We could then see an upsurge in church attendance accompanied by falls in the crime rate, teenage pregnancy levels and demand for expensive social services.

    Moira is right. We should be encouraging this sort of thing.
    Friday, March 4, 2011 - 08:21 AM

  2. Appropriate, indeed, Ex-KCS – I also imagine the Cultural Olympiad were hard-pressed to dream up something those loveable, warm-hearted Scousers couldn’t vandalise, steal or shoot. If it also manages to scare them into mending their ways, our Liberal Arts Establishment may not be as pin-headed, profligate and pretentious as I'd assumed!
    Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 06:00 PM