It started with a gallery for a night and a request for people to consider things that they think are Better Than Art. The things in this show have surged forth over this initial starting point.
Of course things always start earlier. Last year I came across a cave and I didn’t have a flashlight. But I had my camera, I felt my way along the cool walls and every few metres I would take a photo so that the flash would light my way. With each burst of light I would try to assess the puddles on the floor, the direction the cave was moving in and anything I could bash my head on. I wasn’t using the viewfinder or LCD screen, didn’t give a shit that the camera was taking photos, it was my means to push forward. I sensed fluttering, flash, the camera light caused several bats to swirl in the air squawking and howling. As I moved forward I sensed perhaps hundreds of bats shifting uncomfortably. I looked at the photos later, they were mostly pools of blackness with rippled walls running in from the edges, made of stone that looked kneaded by ghosts. Robert Filliou said, “art is what makes life more interesting than art.” In this instance my camera gave me an actual second of light that I needed more than any photographic aftermath.
There has always been slippage and spillage of art into and out of everything else.
Amy Marjoram, 2011.
In 1961, Piero Manzoni made Socle du Monde
(The Base of the World) a large metal upside down plinth,
turning the whole world in to a work of art.
Cildo Miereles visited Socle du Monde in 2007,
climbed on top of it, tipped himself upside-down
and balanced there on his head.
“One million years ago, on January 17th, someone dropped
a dry sponge into a bucket of water and lo, ART was born!”
Robert Filliou said this in 1963, making art 1,000,048 years
old by now which leaves plenty of time for things that
are better than art to incubate.
“… Yes I will think of something although my initial
thoughts suggest it is either everything or nothing.”
— Kiron Robinson
Some days I feel nothing.
In so far as nothing goes, what can be said?
Except that clearly there is not a thing.
That in saying this, I wonder.
Is this a question of my resolve (to stand by a practice?)
An activity that is inseparable from a way of living. A life that is based on a conviction to the work, to see it, and in doing so, to exercise a thought in its making. For what reason? Given that the means may be only modest. Still there should be no underestimation, because within arts conception, therein the very conditions of its configuration, one may encounter the antecedents to a nexus between a freedom and a form of resistance. It is here that art is without exception.
But better yet, suppose the answer is everything – no not nothing.
Is this a matter of renouncing art? That it has now come to this.
That in acknowledging this fact of how everything is, is without doubt, precisely the extent to which to conduct and to keep alive the necessity of a practice. A requisite to ensure that upon its reception, the work does not call upon any privilege, but is assured by the cause of the work’s own dignity. And that at its greatest point of incursion into our everyday presence, that art forgoes its name.
Thus I am brought back to the urgency of nothing.
Keith Wong, 2011.
Mark McGowan – The Artist Taxi Driver (UK)
was invited to discuss Better Than Art, his resulting video commentary “Torturing David Cameron and the Queen is better than art” was presented in the exhibition and is available for viewing on this blog under the Mark McGowan tab.
“Alright everyone, someone from Australia sent me an email saying can I think of something that’s better than art, and I thought what about torturing David Cameron? Drag him out in his boxers and his shirt, have his wife and kids on their knees watching, put a sack over his head— you know how they like doing that, don’t they the British out there, put a sack over his head and superglue twiglets, superglue lots of twiglets to him. And get thousands and thousands and thousand and thousands of fucking chickens, no sparrows, get thousands and thousands of sparrows and set them on him. Set them on him. In the mean time get olives and flick em, flick em at his nose — oh, no he has a sack on his head. Alright then, take the sack of his head and start flicking things in his face and do you like it, do you like it. Get Nick Clegg out, Nick Clegg and the bloody Queen, get them all out and start coming up with torture techniques. Torture techniques, nip em, nip em like that. Pour…Pour ..Pour.. Pour hot boiling peanut butter over them so it smells and they become intoxicated by the fumes, until they can’t breathe anymore. And so all they can breathe is peanut butter, and then get leave and stick lots of leaves on them. So they’ve got lots of leave and they’re all lots of leaves. And then you take them and you hang them upside down off a tree and wood peckers come along and think they’re part of the tree and go ‘tk tk tk tk tk’ and they start burrowing for worms ‘tk tk tk tk’ inside the Queen. ‘Tk tk tk’ and she’s got really soft flaky skin and it starts flaking off because its all old and wrinkly ‘tk tk tk tk tk’ so burrowing holes inside the Queens, so there’s giant gouges in there. Instead of pulling worms out the woodpeckers are pulling her varicose veins out and they start popping and they’re all bleeding and she starts, she falls to the ground and just becomes a sack cloth like a witch. She’s a witch and she’s just melting in to a sack cloth will all the leaves and the peanut butter still on her and David Cameron is still on his points, and vests with his family and they come out and you get and you get like seventeen thousand multicoloured clothes pegs and you start nipping him with them until his covered in clothes pegs.”
Better Than Art was put together with a curatorial budget of less than $250 so I have been very reliant on the generosity of people participating in the show. They have given their time to support the project, loaned equipment for the night and contributed priceless intelligence and energy. Thank you Remie Cibis for the excellent curation of YouTube and your engagement and advice across the whole show. Thank you Ka-Yin Kwok for all the technical help. Thanks so much Keith Wong for helping me in all stages of the project, with hundreds of little and not so little tasks – your insight, encouragement and patient assistance has been invaluable. Thank you Heather Lighton for photographic documentation of the night.
Thanks Kings ARI committee for hosting the event.
Better Than Art Exhibition was held:
Monday 2nd May 2011, 6 – 8.30PM
KINGS ARI – Lev 1 / 171 King St, Melbourne 3000