Well, according to blogger this is my centennial post, so I suppose I'd better make a hooha of it? Though perhaps that would defeat the achievement a little, so I'm going to try and talk about the ICA instead.
I had my first trip to the Institute of Contemporary Arts yesterday, and if recent reports are any suggestion, possibly my last. The institute was recently bailed out to the tune of £1.2million, and a further million of job and salary cuts are planed. The chairman (him off of newsnight review) claims he is "confident" of the ICA's survival, but based on my experience yesterday I'm no overly sure why.
The current exhibition "For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn't there" is, as it's embarassingly long winded title hints, pretty much the closest to a cack handed tabloid parody of a inaccessible contemporary art show as I have ever seen. This is, somewhat impressively, no fault of the art on display itself, but entirely how it has been curated.
The high points of the work were many, two beautiful etchings ("Vari oggetti su un tavolo" and "Natura Morta") by Giorgio Morandi, a chaotic wall of thoughts, style instillation by Matt Mullican, an animated puppet sculpture by Peter Fishchili and David Weiss (who also had 2 other works in the show) which sat right on the border between being adorable and really bloody creepy, and some fun collage sculptures by Patrick van Caeckenbergh.
My personal highlight (although the Monandi's were probably on a par) was by Dave Hullfish Bailey, a large instillation of a half built roof (or at least possibly a roof) made out of a mad very Blue Peter-ish mix of wood, card, string and wool, all hooked up to a trailer. The title, "When there was nothing left to see we looked for a place where we couldn't be seen doing it" is, needless to say, just a little on the long side which does have the effect, much like the shows title, of adding an air of pretension, but, here I think its far more justifiably descriptive, you're looking at something from halfway through a story, and though its probably down to my own bias for narrative things, I like that very much.
The last piece I'll mention was the best known piece on display, and also the most telling one. A bound engraving of the "Ferrante Imperato" museum in Naples, from 1599.
Not a museum in the modern sense, but a "Cabinet of Curiosities", a vast mish mash of natural and cultural artifacts removed from any context and without any explanation. Basically, the ICA show in a nutshell. It's an interesting idea, if you remove explanations and justifications from a gallery you change the way people look at work for the better, you force them to interpret things on their own, and the result, if not a greater understanding of what they're seeing, is a far greater enthusiasm for it.
Unfortunately, it hasn't quite worked out that way, the collection here has also picked up on the failings of the cabinets of curiosity, the fact that they existed not so much for the enjoyment and apreciation of a viewer, but, for more reason than any other, to show how wealthy, well travelled, and educated the collector was, and the collections themselves were often no better organised than most junk shops, but without any of the satisfation of being able to pick something up and take it home. The works in the ICA show are indeed impressively broad and eclectic, but they're also piled high, the sound from film pieces interrupts the mood of others, instillation rooms have framed pictures stuffed into the corners, and you can't be overly sure where one thing starts and another finishes. You more or less have to battle against the assault on your senses to get a feel for anything, and had I been there off my own back, and not part of a group, I don't think I would have been bothered to.
At a time like this any shows the ICA put on are inevitably going to be seen as reflections of the institution as a whole. I can only hope they have enough time left to put on something which shows itself in a much better light than this did, if indeed, there is a better light than this.