Category: 07 UNIVERSITY
Basketballs in fish tanks; replica cardboard boxes; turds in tins; oversized electrical plugs; & air conditioning units as exhibits. The Still Life / Object / Real Life gallery, at the Tate Modern is eclectic to the point of disorientation.
Piero Manzoni | Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit)
One minute you are looking at Pierre Bonnard’s atmospheric oil painting: “Coffee”. The next you are in front of Tony Cragg’s: “View from the North,” A horizontal Great Britain made out of pieces of plastic rubbish from the local area, glued on to the gallery wall. It is said to represent an alternative view of the country.
Pierre Bonnard | Coffee
Tony Cragg | View from the North
“We want everyone who walks in to the gallery not to be rejected but to recognise something,” said a Tate Modern tour-guide. And recognize things I do.
A porcelain urinal located in the middle of the gallery [Marcel Duchamp: Fountain]; dozens of seashells displayed in a glass cabinet, said by to represent: “Killing things to look after them.” [Damien Hirst: Forms Without Life]; or a video of a bowl of fruit, presented in the style of a 17th century Dutch still life. The footage is sped up to show the fruit turning into putrefied pulp in a matter of minutes. [Sam Taylor Wood: Still Life]
Marcel Duchamp | Fountain
Damien Hirst | Forms Without Life
Some imagery is taken to another level as demonstrated by Michael Landy’s: “Scrapheap Services,” a fictitious cleaning company that is said to explore: “themes of unemployment and the waste of human capital.” I was slightly unnerved to see a room full of human shaped paper cut outs with mannequins dressed as refuse workers stabbing into them with a long pointed sticks – like they were discarded cigarette butts.
Michael Landy | Scrapheap Services
This all seemed to contrast sharply with the comparatively mundane cubist paintings on display by artists such as: Cezanne, Picasso and Braque.
Modern art, it seems, is primarily about ideas. It could be considered a hybrid of philosophy and imagery.
Traditional art tends to be judged, for the most part, on the actual physical product, or parts of it, such as: the brush stokes in a painting or the muscle definition in a sculpture. It rarely makes a statement.
Modern art, through the messages projected by the artist, can help people better understand the world around them and serve as a reminder that beauty and essence is everywhere and in everything.
Even on a soup can label.
It is a wonderful liberty to use visual cues to challenge conventional thinking and the establishment in a way more powerful than words.
Modern artists have the opportunity to say meaningful things to a wide audience.
They must take care to do so.
Men are crafty. Consider the kitchen sink. I am an average height for a guy, about 5’10”, yet if I stand in front of the bench with a straight back, I can’t touch the bottom of the sink. As a result, doing the dishes gives me a backache.
A woman of average height, of course, will not have this problem.
This proves two things.
- Men have been designed not to do dishes.
- Dishes have been designed to be done by women.
Ergonomics is the science behind design. According to the British Design Council, it is about: “ensuring a good fit between people, the things they do, the objects they use and the environments in which they work, travel and play.”
Designers should consider: “body size and shape, strength, mobility, sensory acuity, cognition, experience, training, culture, emotions.”
With such clear guidelines, you would think women, being more than half the population, would be well served by design – but you would be wrong.
An example is removing a cork from a wine bottle. It is difficult enough for men, so imagine how tough this can be for women.
Technology has provided beautiful stainless steel contraptions to make the job easy – but these things are so potentially lethal there should be a warning requiring the user not to be under the influence of alcohol. Sort of self-defeating really.
The recent innovation of the screw cap could be as liberating for women as the pill. In some ways the relationship is closer than you might think.
The top shelf in the kitchen is another interesting example of how design means women have to rely on men.
Margaret Thatcher was once quoted as saying: “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”
How she applied this theory to running Britain is interesting as I’m sure, from time to time, she would have asked Dennis to get her a pot noodle down from the top shelf.
Just when you thought it was only men that had it in for women, nature steps up to the plate.
While it is true that women are blessed with an aesthetically pleasing design, there are functionality issues.
Take the snake. It has been designed with a jaw that can dislocate and effortlessly snap back in to place. This is demonstrated at least once a year when an Amazonian anaconda is discovered with a horse/goat/unfortunate villager in its belly.
How is it then when a human baby is born it involves all sorts of blood, screaming, mayhem and carnage?
Nature has the answer but it’s intentionally holding it back.
This could be seen as proof that the creator of the universe is a man – or a really pissed off woman.
Necessity is the mother of all invention, so it is no wonder that women have been forced to take things into their own hands.
They are responsible for: the bra (well, no man was going to invent it was he?), ironing board, dishwasher, rolling pin and chocolate chip cookies.
Curiously, a woman also invented the circular saw. I can only imagine pre-sliced bread didn’t exist in the nineteenth century.
This design fascism is all around us.
Maps are linear representations conceived to appeal to the right brained man leaving the left brained woman with the prospect of doing the mental equivalent of a Sudoku puzzle just to get her Hello Magazine from Tesco’s.
What about doorknobs? I’ve seen women of average height open doors at shoulder level using their weight as leverage. Is this the reason men open doors for women?
Jeans have zips at the front. We know why they are there for men – wouldn’t it make more sense for a woman to have one at the back?
Some times design works out to a woman’s advantage.
It is widely accepted women have issues with spatial awareness.
My wife demonstrated this with an attempt to put a badminton racket headfirst in to a two-inch gap in my bag.
It is no surprise then that disabled toilets are usually designated suitable for use by women.
So brothers, next time you see a sister struggling to open a bottle of Liebfraumilch, have a wry smile and offer assistance.
Women are cleverer than us, that is for sure, but it is something as simple as design that will prevent them taking over the world.