FORGETTING THE ORDINARY: THE LAST STRAW
19 August - 5 September 2015
Opening Night | Thursday 20 August 6-8pm
Michael Georgetti, Ross Coulter, Andy Hutson + Paul Wotherspoon
First conceived in 2011, Forgetting the Ordinary is an unlikely yet likeable collective of Melbourne artists: Ross Coulter, Andy Hutson, Michael Georgetti & Paul Wotherspoon.
After a brief spell at Grizedale Arts in the English lakes, Forgetting the Ordinary takes on some of the most complex questions facing contemporary art today – can art be useful? (And if so, what distinguishes it from everything else?) Where does the authenticity of experience lie? And what is it that transforms something from the banal to the beautiful?
Drawing from a disparate range of experiences – from rural drudgery in the English countryside and run-ins with London bobbies, to fatherhood and fruitless fishing trips – these four artists come together for the last time to make a defiant stand against the relentless onslaught of everyday ordinariness.
A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS OF MADNESSESS
Grizedale Arts and Lawson Park: the context of the collections
Grizedale Arts is an arts organisation based in the Lake District of England from where it runs a small-holding and residency base that aims to help artists find use for themselves in society and more particularly in the immediate community.
Lawson Park is the farmhouse and headquarters of the organisation. Designed by Sutherland Hussey it attempts to create an inspiring example of a creative way of life – it is constantly beset by reality.
The connection of one thing to another is arguably a form of madness. The Japanese have a way to negate such lunacy by seeing everything as connected but no big deal – just say that in a deep way and it will sound wise – something like ‘all things are equal, it is the spaces between that are not’ well not that but like that.
A popular contemporary art trope is the endless identification of connections – often utterly pointless or accidental – the pumping up of such connectedness is then used to hang often overblown art works or lazy finger pointing exercises – see that intrestin innit.
Grizedale eschews such nonsense, the house collections poke fun at these tropes however the collections still illustrate many of the ideas promoted by the organisation – offering examples of previous failures of utopian and dogmatic approaches, but the things do still offer multiple inspiration for many visitors despite the fact they should really do the opposite.
Lawson Park hosts a collection or two – a collection of people – a growing dispersed community of people – often artists – that have engaged with the programme and its ideology – people that will join the collective somewhere at some point to do something useful.
The garden is a collection of plants, many long term like the meadow or the orchard but many temporary – resulting in a refined collection of particular plants that find the filthy weather and dismal light to their stem slapping taste, the iris, the primula, the lily and the fern to name check a few enthusiasts for our meagre pleasures.
Reflecting the area, the people and the landscape is ‘The Collection’. A body of things that create the interiors of Lawson Park, these things are set out under a number of headings and organised into different sections and sub sections – a matrix of material that becomes the context, content and often the inspiration behind much of what is produced here.
The 4 headings covering the aesthetics of the collection are intended to suggest the local predominant styles – the specific identities of different communities of interest and class:
Farm style is the self conscious and rigorous adherence to a mode of aesthetic choices, apparently studied in its casual nature but fat chance to get a farmer to buy a pink or purple tractor, wear a Gortex jacket or drive a city 4X4 – there is a very specific style to be adhered to strictly. It’s primary colours, jeans and rugby shirts and beaten up pick up trucks of the chunky variety. Our accidental adherence to this code is often rewarded by passing farmer drivers with the lightest twitch of a finger or spasm of the eyebrow, mistaking us for the real thing – that is until they are close enough to see the inappropriate clothing, hair, faces, but by then it’s too late
to withdraw the hint of friendship.
Heritage style mainly refers to buildings and their interior decoration – the leaders in the field are the National Trust who have for the past 30 years been steadily covering the British Isles with their own brand of paint and heritage colours. These colours are now commonly believed to be the colour of vintage. A kind of neutral collective agreement of what constitutes good taste and the look of the past. Now so instilled into our psyche that it is hard to believe in a highly decorative or coloured historic aesthetic.
B&B style is the popular interpretation of Englishness – new old style, pinks and greys, shiny shade toned brown furniture, everything in the style of something else without actually being much like it. It is common to hang pictures of the local beauty spots and to make multiple references to the immediate environment and its acknowledged highlights without actually absorbing any of the finer points.
Hairdresser modernism is a reaction to the B&B style from a younger generation and is intended to demonstrate a clean modern look and attitude by following the tropes of 100 years ago – chrome, black leather-look and glass but done on the cheap. A curious rebellion without teeth, but with lots of hair.
The collections themselves, although referenced throughout these aesthetics, are then divided into further actual groupings, being: When modernism does bad things: A history of modernism and its attempts to create a new and better world against the wider populations wishes and failing in a miserable piss stench in the corner of a lift kind of way.
Authenticity: Or not – this collection includes every idiocy from the denim cup made of clay. There are even moments of actual authenticity including the last of the unselfconscious object where function and capacity determine design – or folk art as some like to call it.
Mugs or tools: A brief history of design through the vagaries of the mug – a most odious object willing to bend its ways to any hand or finger.
Branded/patented: In a world where the brand seems ever more prioritised this collection celebrates the origins of branding from Ruskin cigars to the millennium – there is perhaps an emphasis on the lost brand – the ones that didn’t quite become a household name. The world of visual art is perhaps the latest victim of culture branded into a boring corner.
Within this quite rigorous definition of the objects there is still some room for the odd additional small collection, as only a mad person would require:
Museum of Forgotten Use: Includes objects where the function is less clear – once useful now decorative, like the garden fork – ‘wassat for’ – it seems an apt metaphor for a contemporary malaise.
You Better Patent That Thing Quick: Things that have
been pointlessly patented – the collection only includes objects on which the patent is stated and ideally numbered. The collection is remarkable for its idiocy, a jug with a changeable handle, a pickle fork with a spring action, a candlestick with an alligator clip.
The collecting impulse is no doubt drawn from some kind
of security derived instinct – in a place where it is hard to adhere to any immediate popular mode and where importing an identity seems inappropriate, the end game is the invention of an identity as a protective padding – a kind of puffer jacket. It is from this cotton wool nest that Grizedale attempts to engage with what makes life bearable and what might help take the edge off the rest of it.
- ADAM SUTHERLAND