A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend and fellow writer for writings sake. We were discussing why we both had or hadn’t been producing as much as we had once wanted to, and whether there was anything we should be doing about that. I came back from the pub that evening with a bit of a burning desire to get back to this blog, and start putting together words about the cultural experiences which had been inspiring me once more, and hopefully pass them on to you, the reader, as something which you may want to follow up for yourself.
Which on reflection is exactly why I haven’t written here this side of new year, which is almost entirely down to how I have been deciding which exhibitions to go and see in 2014. Having realised that a number of shows I wanted to see where coming to a close within the first few weeks of January I put together a list of things I wanted to see based on closing dates, and as such pretty much every piece of art I have seen this year, save for the ones that I have worked on, have been in galleries where the packing cases for moving the artwork were already in their loading bays. I have seen some amazing displays this year, but right at the end of their lifespan, and as such have found myself with a head full of ideas every time, but seemingly unwilling to commit them to page as it wouldn’t necessarily fit in with why I write, why I have always written. Which goes a long way to answering the question that sparked this all off.
On looking back at all my public writing over the past 10 years, the underlying principle which ties it all together is promotion. I started writing a fanzine many moons ago to shout about bands that I cared about, and wanted more people to listen to. This same principle was taken a step further with my next zine venture, which moved into elements of art, architecture and wider culture – but the emphasis was always on writing about an experience which I wanted to share with readers, and for them to be able to go out an enjoy for themselves. In the period that I was a professional writer I produced work on art, culture and food/drink which was very much meant to be a stimulus for inspiring experiences for the reader. Where this blog talks about walking, architecture and public art, it is doing it so that people who are interested can maybe add these places onto their things to do list. In fact, this lack of promotion/shared experience/assistive element is probably part of the reason that I can count on one hand the number of people who have seen my short story writing, a form of production in which the only thing on the page to take away is me.
Which in a roundabout reasoning is why I haven’t really written much this year. I was absolutely blown away by Elmgreen & Dragset’s Tomorrow at the V&A which posed questions about the aesthetic of display, the lives of object and how an experience can change over time. I even tweeted after seeing it that I felt like the exhibition would give you more and more every time you saw it. I saw it on the day it closed, so couldn’t put this to the test. Nor could I suggest that anyone reading my thoughts on it could do so either. So I didn’t write about it. A similar thought process saw me keeping thoughts on Elizabeth Ogilvie’s meditation on ice as object, community and art, Out of Ice, at the always inspiring Ambika P3 in my notebook, given that it closed two days after I saw it.
I restricted my thoughts on how the Jake & Dinos Chapman display at the new Serpentine Gallery was nothing in comparison the the Goya a few years back at Manchester Art Gallery to twitter too, rather than fully formulating why I felt that way – because there wouldn’t be enough time for other people to go and experience the show and form their view on it. The Orchids festival at Kew Gardens was the perfect opportunity to start getting the most out of membership there, but had finished by the time I could sit down as write about it. About a quarter of the Paul Klee retrospective at Tate Modern was utterly captivating, but I saw it with 5 days left so didn’t feel I had time to formulate my ideas on why the rest of the show didn’t catch my imagination and publish in time to help promote those elements of the exhibition which inspired me.
So is this a problem with my mindset as a writer, or is it more to do with the nature of how I am selecting my exhibitions at the moment? I’m hoping that once I have written my Provocation for the upcoming Future of Museums conference at UCL that I will feel inspired to come back here and carry on producing, though part of that process will surely have to be either a shift in what I want to write, when I want to write, and what the intended impact is. Maybe I just need to see things earlier, or realise that the person I’m really writing for is me. Which is one of the main things that came out of the afore mentioned night in the pub.
The new regime starts today, maybe. I’m off to the William Morris Gallery to see Jeremy Deller’s English Magic. It closes this afternoon.
Correction – Turns out that I had the closing date of English Magic wrong on my list. It is actually on until the end of March, and I fully recommend you go see it. In fact, I might even write about it properly…