Sunday, 28 July 2013

Some Recent Art News

The Unveiling of Hahn/Cock

Hahn/Cock unveiled in Trafalgar Square this week.
Src -

Hahn/Cock is a sculpture of a big, blue rooster recently installed in London's Trafalgar Square. By German born artist Katharina Fritsch, it was revealed as the latest piece to grace the fourth plinth. 
Upon first impression, I found it hard to understand or to find significance in it. It has been described as a symbol for regeneration which I suppose rings true as the bird stands as a sort of farm-yard phoenix, rising recurrently with the sun each new day and bringing with it, hope. Speaking of days dawning, the famous cockerel on the Kelloggs Cornflakes box springs to mind also (sad that advertising works that well). 
Some have pointed out the French connection leading London's Mayor Boris Johnson to give this (in my view, idiotic) quote:

"I hope French people will not take it as excessive British chauvinism – but for me it stands for the recent British triumph in the Tour de France, which we have won twice in a row … it is a symbol of French sporting pride, brought like a chicken to London. We have mounted this French cock at the heart of our imperial square." - src The Guardian
Are Anglo/Gallic relations really still that bad? 
Another question raised for me was why the blue colour?  Trace back to the artist's other works and a range of sculptures of solid, multi-colours can be found in Fritsch's repertoire, however, choice of colour is very rarely an accident in art. What could the symbolism be here? In a politically minded context and on first viewing, a picture of London's Mayor standing with the artist made me wonder if there were Tory connotations. Perhaps Royal blue was chosen for the birth of the new heir to the throne. The sexual implications ( as it is a very obvious British innuendo, the giant cock) brings the phrase 'blue balls' to mind. Does feminism mean to give the still fertile Patriarchy a vasectomy with a snarky comment on how man sees himself? Fritsch has said about the piece:

"It is a feminist sculpture, since it is I who am doing something active here – I, a woman, am depicting something male. Historically it has always been the other way around. Now we are changing the roles. And a lot of men are enjoying that." - src The Guardian
Add to this idea it's setting, Trafalgar Square. The main attraction there is the 52m high Nelson's Column. Piercing the sky in an inescapably phallic way, it was erected in 1843 in memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson and Hahn/Cock featuring on the fourth plinth is a bold contrast to the serious, grey, male-centric surrounding. It could quite possibly stand to be a comment on how absurd it is in this world striving for equality, for there to be a sculpture of man on a pedestal, as 'master of the hen-house', watching over his domain.

Banksy Removed from Wall for Sale

The Banksy piece before being forcibly removed.
Src - BBC News
I have a soft spot for Banksy. Admittedly before he started sharing his politically thoughtful pieces of stencil graffiti, I was of the impression that spray painted images on walls were an eye-sore and the ruination of other people's property. But since having my eyes opened through visits to different areas featuring this form of expressive media, I now willingly accept it as art and have become a fan of his contemporaries, such as Kid Acne who hails from Sheffield, an area within my locale.
What draws me to Banksy in particular, however, are the ideologies he portrays through his images which fit in well with my own. He has depicted various witty social commentaries on subjects such as the problems that capitalism and authoritarianism brings. Not to mention that they add something exciting to what is usually a grim concrete space.
The piece in question named 'No Ball Games', had been sat happily, admired and also defaced (as is probably to be expected with outside art) in Tottenham since 2012 and to hear that they have removed it for sale irks me. Graffiti is usually in a public space, and therefore can be enjoyed by all. Artworks that are sold are often placed in to private hands where it's viewing audience becomes very limited. In fact I don't really understand how the company behind the sale, the Sincura Group could have said that 'it hadn't been appreciated in situ', how could they possibly know the musing of each passer by of the artwork since it had been in place? Who knows who walked by each day and took humour from the piece. Surely if Banksy, it's creator, had meant it for sale, it would have been presented to the public through different means, perhaps not attached to a stationary wall? 
It could be that I speak out of turn here, as Bansky could admittedly come forward and stop the sale if he felt that it were wrongful and the resulting proceeds are going to charity but personally, I still think graffiti is something which should be admired where it is first placed, in view of all, and open to the elements and the critique of other graffiti artists alike. 

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder: Sculpture Trail Parody

Spoof leaflet advertising the trail.
Src - The Examiner

The above leaflet addressing the 'Colne Valley Sculpture Trail' has been found placed in tourist information venues near Huddersfield. It's supposedly a pamphlet which draws attention to some of the more unattractive features of the area but dressed up as a contemporary art guide. Said features include:

'Wash Behind the Ears' - an abandoned bath
'Impermanent Border' - a line of old fencing
and 'Filled Arch' - basically part of a dry stone wall which wouldn't look out of place at a Andy Goldsworthy exhibition. 

The leaflet makes for a great read even without taking the walk, which could (and apparently has) easily be mistaken for a real environmental art experience.
Whoever put this guide together has created a piece of reading material which is both droll and provokes thought about what modern art has come to mean. I have seen from my own experience of walking around the Tate Modern, artworks which appear to be obscure for the sake of being obscure, with seemingly pretentious names and descriptions. But who is to really say that these pieces aren't art? Now they have been given publicity and a 'meaning', does it mean that these particular features have become what the guide was originally poking fun at? 
If nothing else, the leaflet has in a humorous way, brought to light areas which could possibly use a bit more care and attention around the Colne Valley region.

A printable version of the leaflet can be found on

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