Fruits of the Lûm @ Crown Building Studios, Liverpool
Gabrielle de la Puente
I wanted to see The Killers play Hyde Park in 2011 so my mum took me and my friend down to London. During the day, before the gig, before pizza express, we went to Tate Modern/ my 1st time there, I was kinda bubbling and ! :( my mum complained loudly about everything. She thought it was boring, that the work was stupid! I was embarrassed, she didn’t get it - and goddddd my reaction was not okay. Tiny class war??like I was already drawing lines between the cultured and the layman. I hadn’t even started my A-Levels yettttt I didn’t get it either, I was pretending to. I had the cheek to tell my own mum off in Tate Modern that day and I barely looked at her during dinner.
The White Pube is my reparation because I’m really sorry.
And belieeeeve me, I am in the last weeks of my BA and I truly resent ‘I don’t get it’ art. (And I wont give examples because realistically you have your own, you have many). It has had me sweating in galleries and crits, feeling inadequate for not understanding its theoretical gravitas/not knowing why I should respect it. Then I just realised: oh wait, I don’t have to get it. I don’t have to want to get it either.
Tutors have failed to convince me that coy art, soggy with theory, is okay (and I think theory is fine, I just want thought to glitter, to be accessible, appreciable). I have wondered if my tutors were offended by this politic - they were my art-literacy guides and I wanted to bin the dictionary. Also, they seemed to have settled that non-issue themselves/ completely, comfortably, quickly/ they were on the other side - inside - and had gone on making art. I stuck myself on the wall, stubborn, moaning about clarity and literality. An actual issue for me, something I cared about through every encounter, there in all my efforts towards production. I hate that art-literacy is something like mind-reading. I am always with art and I don’t have a clue what is going on (more than) half the time.
The fact I think there is something to get (like some end-goal present) in an artwork reveals my basis in narrative, and my want for relation and content. It is a preference and an assumption, I know. I can’t always stomach quiet art / to be with something that speaks for itself is in comparison a relief. Give me the behind the scenes, the answers, receipts. If you don’t, it is going to be an effort, and that art will become art art. And if I enjoy it, I am enjoying it ‘anyway’; liking it in spite of narrative, which remains a stubborn reference point.
And this is not to say narrative in the arts is a condition demanded by the non-art-inducted, the non-art-educated, nor that abstraction is an acquired and exclusive mode - neither hold (see Ann Veronica Janssens’ mist room in the Wellcome Collection, for one). But somehow I’m in that clumsy dichotomy, and it’s an entanglement through which I write and frame and make art/ and I’m typing this while I sit in my degree show installation, something I’ve stretched across levels of immediacy and a slower consideration. It literally talks about itself in a script I’ve written to cater to culture vultures, academia, and my family - because knowing this art is for so specific a display setting, I’ve lost myself(-indulgence) trying to make sure people can follow and maybe then, incidentally, enjoy. Lol, I’m panicked and generous, not wanting to be back in pizza express with a cob on/ still wondering how I can share these things I make and constellate without art and discourse that is open and levelled and still valid ? ? Mostly I feel like a hypocrite who loves jargon and poetry and Pipilotti Rist.
Most exhibition reviews require the reader to have done a tonne of legwork already, a BA worth of thinking - and that’s an exclusivity you writers might want to fight for, something you think you have earned. (Are you protective? Are you patient when someone asks you to explain?) But a way for me to reject that term has been to write physical-reaction-as-review. Jesse Darling tweeted after I reviewed their Arcadia Missa show: ‘not facetious or ironic, this might b the harshest most true review bc @thewhitepube channels somatic currents not jus fuxxin w dyscourse.’ Like I have been articulating something sticky and liminal about the spatial qualities of exhibitions, like I’ve become reactive to object and image, admitting my mood and moon, my context, myself through writing here. And it seems a fuller way to critique art. So, where other reviews write through information, The White Pube writes through encounter. And I feel okay, because it means I am putting narrative back into abstraction - and it is a better frequency, like how my mum (learning assistant) or my sister (chef) might feel, you know, alien art explorers in a gallery.
This stressy preamble is small print for my entire white pube writing but I had to reiterate myself for this because MY MUM CAME TO AN EXHIBITION WITH ME, and it was weird! Something happened, like her being there pulled the rug out from under everything. Her company had me actually looking at art as just form and shape and colour around a room. It was like my tactic of writing physical-reaction-as-review was just my default in her company, some natural reality check. And of course. Neither of us were at all concerned with content or intent - like, my mum doesn’t know shows come with press releases and I want the excuse of the press release to be obvious in the work already. And so here we were at Tžužjj’s Fruits of the Lûm exhibition at Crown Building Studios, Liverpool, two aliens together.
And I thought: too many big fishes, the art needs a bigger pond. There was a tension between work that came off shaky and defensive, like trying to maintain eye contact with someone much taller, and the sky moves over them because you are slowly tipping backwards/ this exhibition needed a foot to jump back behind and steady itself - - - yeah I’m blaming the CBS fish tank but it was also partly Holly Hendry’s shapes which in this configuration became gestured interventions (I just don’t think they quite landed)/ part the dried salt dough hooked through t-shirts under Mike Aitken’s clothes: what a miserable aesthetic lol, some people must have loved that (and still, this work seemed like a casual proposal rather than the statement/the foot underneath for balance)/part Adam Ferriss’ quiet violence - just too precarious/and part Jake Laffolley’s landline on the wall - I called the number and it was awkward. Chloe Manasseh’s painting-installation, though, was respite against all this - as were the light boxes (installed across the city) - and I say ‘against,’ like together the rest of the art things were stressing me out, but here I could come up for air.
And maybe Tžužjj will be sad I have not written about this exhibition as it measures up against the press release but ^ The White Pube means I don’t have to do that. And so I’m ending this with my mum. I messaged her last night and it was funny and awkward to talk about art together. She has never forgotten the Tate Modern incident, when I threw distance between us, when I caused her offence. Lol I tried to ridicule her when all along, and it’s something she saw before I did, art has been the ridiculous one.