…I was at the Norwich University College of the Arts Student Degree Show, an annual treat that I indulge myself with whenever I can.
It only lasts a week, so if after reading what follows you feel tempted to pay a visit yourself, erm…
Diary it for next year, perhaps.
I have a love/hate relationship with modern art. I love the invention, the sense that there are no boundaries and no rule books, the surprise element that so often takes my breath away. And I hate that so often all we get is every bit as repetitive and derivative of what has gone before (when Duchamp put a pissoir in a gallery it was profound and iconoclastic, but the point was made and the endless parade of found objects since has done little to reinforce it) and that so often more imagination goes into explaining and justifying the art than appears to be invested in creating it.
Regardless, I always find some things to marvel at when visiting the Degree Show, and the chance to go poking around in odd corners of this large, old building and stumbling on artwork is not to be sniffed at. Recent years haven’t been quite as spectacular as those in the past, and that was just as true this year (oh, how I long for the days of the ‘exploding body’ and the ‘toilet horror video’), but here are a few of my favourite things from the 2012 jamboree:-
A sagging, half filled/empty balloon, suspended from a rope over a bristling cactus in a pot, bringing to mind the myth of Damocles. Actually I’m not sure if this was an exhibit or just something that happend to be there, a student’s visual pun.
A video of what appeared to be a large ice cream mountain studded with maltesers, though I’m sure that the actual material used was something else entirely. As you watched the mountain appeared to melt and the maltesers (ball bearings perhaps) rolled away, the effect strangely unsettling.
Two life size photographs of a woman in her underwear standing in front of a bed. In the first she looked rather plain, with carpet slippers and sensible M&S bra and knickers, wearing glasses and with her hair up in a bun. For the second, skimpy black undies with a lift and separate element, no glasses and hair down, wearing high heels and with moody lighting. Of course it was the same woman in both shots, presumably with the subtext that sex appeal is something we can accessorise for.
A large funnel like device, tapering to a spout at the top and the colour of rusty iron, but there were two windows through which you could see the most marvellous, vibrant blue water and with tropical fish swimming in it.
A promotional video for the Christopher Nolan film Memento, the camera panning down long, sewer like corridors and passageways, while snippets of explanatory text flashed on and off the screen, a jump cut effect replicating the mental state of the film’s protagonist, and hints of something terrible buried in the background.
A pencil drawing that filled one whole wall of a room, and in a clever trompe l’oeil manner replicated the appearance of the other three walls of the room. The element that really intrigued me though, was a tiny ledge running along the foot of the wall and covered with pencil shavings.
Intriguingly the room devoted to textiles had a sign at the entrance that said “Caution – Visitors May Find Some of the Exhibitions Disturbing”. Inside I wandered round a room filled with garishly coloured drapes and patterned throws, before arriving at my WTF moment in a far corner. A video was playing and on the screen was the torso of a naked woman, shot through a coloured lens to give a washed out effect. As I watched a pair of hands worked on the body with scissors and needles, cutting and stitching. It was only when I looked closely that I realised a sheet of diaphanous gauze was stretched over the woman’s body, and this was what was being cut and stitched with red wool, not her actual flesh. It was a bizarre end note for my three or so hours of exploring.