Thursday, 19 November 2009

Ghost Forest

Pop down to Trafalgar Square and you'll notice a number of rainforest tree stumps resting about the place.

These represent Angela Palmer's Ghost Forest, an art project designed to raise awareness of climate change.

Ghost Forest is the kind of modern art I really like - conscious, topical and minus any pretentiousness. It also required a mahoosive amount of effort and passion.

I generally have trouble understanding the art world, or at least people aged under 35 who claim to have (conceptual) talent and a flair for conveying and disseminating issues, thoughts and interpretations through bricks, sputum and jelly.

Perhaps the state of modern art was summed up in 2007 when an Anish Kapoor sculpture was mistakenly thrown in a rubbish bin during some building work.

There are other examples - staff at the Tate Britain chucked out a Gustav Metzger piece after thinking it was a bag of waste paper, which is in fact exactly what it was. It was designed to demonstrate "the finite existence of art", ironically enough.

I can't imagine a Canaletto being accidently thrown out of Dulwich Picture Gallery. But maybe I'm missing the point.

Anyhoo, get yourself down to the Ghost Forest before November 22nd.


  1. To thouroughly generalise an entire scope of art history is both naive and accusatory. You have reduced contemporary art to a matter of subjective taste, which, since the 60s, with the advent of postmodernism, art has strived to question. Postmodernity describes a period after modernism which was the period between 1880 until the 1940s in which the futurists, minimalists (those bricks your talking about are from the 1920s) and cubists for example created style of art which it could be argued just played to the tastes of individuals. But Postmodernism has emerged in which differences in art are celebrated and it is possible to be accepted as an artist working in any medium whether it is a traditional art material or a basket ball. This allows much more freedom of choice for artists and also for viewers, allowing taste to be no longer an issue and just what brings the viewer joy or intellectual interest or the reawakening of some kind of memory. The point is that art has accepted that it is subjective and so it has provided variation so that it does not dictate a particular style to the viewer. Therefore it is not appropriate to bad mouth certain pieces as rubbish because you dont get them as there is ultimately something to be taken from every piece of work. The bricks piece you refer to is infact a study of the materials that were prevalent in the cityscapes of the time. It describes an aspect of the contemporary period of the time so it works as a historical document. On viewing this piece in reality it is also possible to feel a beautiful meditative stillness in the simplicity of the composition. Most importantly it was part of a key moment in the progression of art history, which after all is what the development of culture is. You would not condemn a scientist who was working on an experiment that you did not fully understand because you would respect them as a professional, which is what artists are also. How ever you would be allowed to question their intentions incase they were developing a new kind of weapon for example.

    in this vein i would say that i agree the ghost forest is a good piece and many people will have gained insight from it so it is successful, but not entirely as it infact just presents an idea and does nothing to actually directly help anybody.this is the dilemma much of contemporary art faces and needs to address

  2. Sorry, correction, Andre made the brick piece in the 60s, still a long way off being contemporary though.there are too many dates in my head.

    just a quick note, the jelly i use is a prop that is literally a visual to stand in for hollywood depictions of blood in violent scenes.its just a pun.its red a gloopy and just makes a joke of violence, as hollywood often does.i dont profess to put any particular conceptual weighting on jelly to try and be controversial.its just easy to use as for your questioning of my and others in my chosen field of study's '(conceptual) talent' we have spent over 3 years of further and higher education studying art. i am not a professional yet but i do claim to have a level of expertise due to the level of my other words yes i do have talent but the work i make is still in research and experimentation stage which i am able to do within the safety of n art school to expand my learning and knowlege,it may look like it but i am not just messing around.

  3. First and foremost, the above is not an attack aimed at any individual - it is merely a piece of satire poking fun at something I am at a loss to understand and therefore have a reluctance to appreciate. Naive - probably. Accusatory - where exactly? "I generally have trouble understanding" and "Perhaps" begin two of the presumably offensive paragraphs, with opinions juxtaposed with events that actually happened.

    The bricks I was talking about are indeed Carl Andre's. There is actually some very impressive jelly art, so this opinion I retract - and as for sputum, I have no idea whether this has been used as a material or not. I was getting carried away in my frustrations - although how's this for a bit of irony?

    But let's concentrate on our respective views of Andre's work. A study of the materials prevalent in cityscapes of the time you say - yep, I managed to work that one out. Although there is no cement, so should it not be material?

    I'm able to "feel a beautiful meditative stillness" when looking at the brick wall in my garden. I think of the real bricklayers who built it, and quietly appreciate a skill that requires months of training and practise, 7:30am starts in the depths of winter and intense pressure on the spinal cord.

    Lying bricks in a neat pile on a floor does not require any of these skills - instead, it involves capitalising on the talents of others (what did bricklayers and builders think of Andre's piece?) and assuming the self importance to elevate oneself to a status of disseminating the artistic qualities of the world's most familiar building material.

    I for one am more impressed by the practical skills of bricklayers, the formal training of whom has been a tradition in Europe for hundreds of years, than I am by a minimalist artist.

    In viewing a bricklayer's work, even a bricklayer at work, I'm able to evoke an artistic response - if that's how I wish to define it. I do not need a so-called, self-titled artist to point out something that I'm perfectly aware of appreciating myself, thank you very much.

    As taken from The Tate's website: "Press and public joined in a lively, and for the most part critical, debate about The Bricks , as the work became popularly known.

    "The Tate was ridiculed by many for, as they saw it, being conned into buying a 'pile of bricks'. Others defended the Gallery, recognising Andre as an important artist and arguing that the Tate has to be adventurous in order to remain a major player in the international contemporary art world."

    But I'm getting ahead of myself. In your opening, you say: "you have reduced contemporary art to a matter of subjective taste". A few lines later, having explained its development, you say: "the point is that art has accepted that it is subjective". Am I allowed to be subjective or not? Or has art has become so conceited that it is now immune from criticism, much like religion was before Dawkins and Hitchens came along?

    I'm glad you're a fan of the ghost forest. I'm sorry you don't think it's done anything to help anyone. It's due to be installed in Copenhagen ahead of this month's UN climate change talks - maybe Mr Obama will notice it? How many people did The Bricks help, incidentally? Other than opening people's minds to their beautiful simplicity?