Sunday, June 11, 2006
Over the long Memorial Day weekend we went out of town to visit friends in Vermont, verdant and glorious. On the way we stopped at MASS MoCA, an art museum that spectacularly occupies a 13 acre area of repurposed 19th-century industrial buildings in North Adams, Massachusetts--factories, machine shops, mills, a former electrical company, etc. Lots of great stuff: a retrospective of Huang Yong Ping (piece de fucking-hell being the fuselage of a wrecked plane whose interior is bedecked with hundreds and hundreds of dead bats) , an entire floor given over to Carsten Höller's amusement park (literally, a whole load of rides and rollercoasters, vaguely sinister in the semi-darkness, completely still -- you couldn't take rides on them, sadly--if nothing an impressive physical feat to get them onto to the second floor of the building) and as part of an exhibition called "Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History" some really excellent sculptures by Dario Robleto, which reminded me of Matmos in the way that the works are made of materials that are historically-loaded but painstakingly reprocessed (e.g. he'll have some writing on paper that he'll have made out of, i dunno, pulping together First World War blood-soaked bandages and a circa Civil War letter from the US army informing a mother that her son's been killed in combat; or he'll melt down a bullet and use that as a component of another piece, that sort of thing). As with Matmos, the intricately assembled results are attractive/impressive even if you don't know the specific historical sources/symbolism they have, or even the project's overall polemical thrust (in the case, Iraq etc), but accrue in richness as you read the accompanying description of all the materials and processes involved in their creation. One of the most striking pieces used a skeleton of a pigeon of the kind used during the First World War to carry messages, wearing an actual WW1 ID tag as worn by a messenger pigeon round its leg.
Anyway, these trips out of town, the idea is you go away to get away from your everyday self and concerns, but the first thing I clap my eyes on upon entering MoCA are the images above: practically a diagram of Energy Flash! (And at the leftmost corner it crosses into Rip It Up territory with DAF/Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV). It's a graffiti piece called The History of the World 1997-2004 and it's by British artist Jeremy Deller, also showing as part of the "Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History" exhibtion, and it's related to his reenactment of 1984's The Battle of Orgreave, a video of which was also on display at MoCA. (And he's apparently the guy behind that Acid Brass thing, acid house tunes redone by brass bands, a continuum of Northern working class recalcitrance-through-music). So the whole thing is about the Miner's Strike, connections between the control of public space, rights of assembly, large popular gatherings, the organised masses and the disorganised rave massive, etc.
I would like to get The History of the World 1997-2004 as a T-Shirt. Or maybe a duvet cover.