Buffet d’art at Hestercombe gallery is a smorgasbord of buffet-sized sculpture, live art, film, sound, light and painting from 45 different artists, all of whom have been invited to bring work that can be ‘perused on a plinth’.
“The show is a meleè of mismatched yet aspiring works, some with delusions of grandeur, others grubby with spillage and monotonous repetition, set to a medley of smooth and relaxing music, designed to whet the senses and heighten your experience of these buffet-inspired memories.”
An unusual exhibition warrants an unusual response so I am writing mine in the form of a buffet table conversation between three people with very opposing views as they attempt to digest what lies before them.
Person X: What ill conceived manner of cacophonous, inane, conceited tat is all this?! Something that can only best resemble a turd, a giant band aid, a woman urinating, a load of old cigarettes... A blue stick! A cupcake, that as far as I can see is unedible!
Person Y: It is safe to assume that you liked it then?
Person X: Liked it! If I wanted to see a load of something of nothing, I’d have gone to [disclaimer we could not include the name of the gallery here, but you know the one]!
Person Y: I think any reaction is a good one, besides its playful, an example of bringing together these disparate, strange and creative elements. Their variety and unexpected nature of viewing works on and under a giant table is visually a lot to look at in a small curated space.
Person Z: I don’t get it.
Person X: It’s taking the p**s is what it is. A cheap way for artists to boost their CVs and for galleries to they’ve exhibited work by a wide array of artists.
Person Y: Cynically, perhaps yes. But where else do you get the opportunity to see work like this, by artists whose big works you may be familiar with, it offers a glimpse into the playful and other creative outputs within their practice.
Person X: I wouldn’t want to see any more of some of it!
Person Y: It is all here, lights, coloured liquids, music, strange undefinable forms, waves, a diorama of a swimming pool, a revolving pot, recycled entities, felt, paper, foam. A village of tiny people, projection, a yellow baseball cap!
Person Y: Maybe you are taking it too seriously. Think of Dada, Surrealism, artist’s studios and the ‘real, lived process’ of what it means to be an artist and make art. Is it not at times inquisitive, spontaneous, rebellious in its non-conformity? See this as a buffet, a taste of lots of variables out of many. So many that we may not have time to savour and understand each one individually for long before moving onto the next thrill, the next surprise, the next thing that may upset, delight or confuse us. Some are intentionally small things, but with grand ambitions that the status of the plinth provides. You could see it as ironic or tongue-in-cheek.
Person Y: What would you expect or want to see in Somerset?
Person X: .....I suppose, ...variety. Something contemporary.
Person Y: Exactly!
Person X: But I am not sure I get the ‘joke’ here, if that was what was intended. I am not sure if pointlessness for the sake of pointlessness either does anything to help raise the bar or what is it challenging or prove?
Person Z: ...I really do not get it.
Person X: The only people this will appeal to are those hipster, do-gooder, lefty, decaffeinated-skim-latte drinking mediocrities blinded to the facts that what this truly is, a waste of space!
Person Z: “Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art.” Susan Sontag
Person X: Even if this is art, which isn’t quite the same as what we are arguing here, what this is, is still not good art. This is a bunch of stuff masquerading as being important because it is made by an entitled, insider bunch of artists.
Person Y: Isn’t that what all art is. Who decides what is good or bad, it’s all subjective. What is the inside? These are old issues. It is all too easy to grow cynical of these things; I think that the connection it creates between artists, curators and gallery spaces is a good one. I read recently that, “Reviewers like to feel they are above a work of art. If it puzzles them or if they are intimidated they are more than likely to trash it.” Could not the same be said of art audiences?
Person X: ....
Person Y: Though I do often wonder if it is an apathy towards our failings to engage and discuss this sort of art with other people or ourselves and honestly, that causes these strong opinions. How often is it that we merely tolerate a lot of art that we feel is bad because criticism is difficult to express as it can be to ingest. This isn’t good for either party. Audiences are always being forced to be open-minded and try new things but do they have the same power of influence on the curators who's shows they visit and consume?
Person X: Well, certainly no apathy here!
Person Y: Maybe it is all a conversation. The pieces brought together from individual artists, arranged in a way so that they ‘talk’ to one another. See it as a series of rhythms and forms, colours and textures that change. Or maybe the point is that it generates us to have the kinds of conversations we are having now.
Person X: Not big enough or isolated enough to be satisfying.
Person Y: I found a couple of things that really stood out for me. I like R J Hinrichson’s pamphlet on creating your own ‘Semi Formal Discussion Networks’. Though as a whole it looked a bit goofy and forced together and I couldn’t appreciate how the different objects related to one another in terms of their space on the ‘table’.
Person Z: I liked Ben Joiner’s piece. It sort-of looked like it was crawling onto the table like a giant fried egg.
Person X: Hmmm, ... I still do not see quite why someone would be willing to waste their time looking at this as they would want to read about it.
Person Y: On that we can agree.
You too can gorge yourself silly or go on an art detox at Hestercombe Gallery's Buffet d'art, open Sun, 21st May at 11:00 am to Sun, 18th Jun at 5:00 pm http://www.hestercombe.com/event/buffet-dart/