Monday, 23 July 2007

Avadhuts & Me

There is a class of being in India called an Avadhut, a kind of hyper-enlightened person that roams free living off alms. These singularities appear to be, on the mild end of the spectrum, slightly eccentric, and on the other end, just plain nuts.

About four years ago, before I had ever heard of Avadhuts, I was in Waterloo Station at the Costa Coffee waiting for a friend. As I was nursing my latte and enjoying the pageant of humanity that is Public Transportation I noticed this man in a shabby, shinny suit who was sort of bussing the tables and heckling the patrons. The staff seemed to be perfectly happy with this apparently ad hoc arrangement and I though maybe he was just some crazy old drunk that they were helping out. But his mumblings and hecklings were a bit unnerving and invasive. Not so much the what he was saying but the how: it was not the drone that most tin foil-lined hat-wearing nutters usually exude. His emissions sounded more like FOX NEWS, where the moderation of cadence and volume is so highly erratic and unpredictable you can't tune it out, even if they are talking about the weather in Des Moines on a fair day. I silently wished this man away from me, and the more and the harder I wished the faster and the closer he came. I was nervous, afraid and more than a little bit irritated that this dude was going to interrupt my few remaining moments of glorious self absorption.

But then my friend turned up and we headed off to the Hayward to see whatever was showing 4 years ago and I thought no more of it.

Now I've been in and out of Waterloo scores of times in the last four years. I'm sure I have even stopped in at least a couple of dozen times, especially when I was addicted to that of Pain au Chocolat sort of thing they do, and had to have one every morning to feel like I was going to have a good day, even if my boyfriend had bought me flowers, taken me to dinner and committed fully to the serious multi-tasking required to get me off the night before. No Pain [au chocolat] no gain.

So, last February I was again meeting a friend and suggested the Costa Coffee [I am now off of ANY FORM OF SUGAR] as a meeting place. I arrived early, got my latte, and was ready to indulge in some simultaneous people watching and self-absorption. And that man, that very same man showed up. Same suit, same greyed dress shirt, same mad mumblings and frantic table clearing. And inside of me I felt the same surge of irritation, fear and impatience to be done with the impending intrusion, especially as he was heading right for my table and no amount of mental force was deterring him. But now I knew, sort of, about Avadhuts. And a thought popped into my head, maybe as a way to mitigate my escalating irritation, etc. I though: "He is an Avadhut." At that moment he was standing right above me, and he very quietly and rhythmically started chanting my name: "Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa" slowly getting louder and faster with each repetition. And before he reached a crescendo I looked up at him, and smiled. As I caught his eye his chanting reversed its course and he went back into his customary FOX NEWS babble and moved quickly away from my table.

Monday, 2 July 2007

The Spirit of Jarvis

So this morning I was thinking about Damien Hirst. And Michael Jackson. And what these two characters have in common: namely, at some point they both crossed The Line where people stopped telling them the truth.

Exhibit A: Michael Jackson's Face.

Exhibit B: Damian Hirst's Diamond Encrusted Scull.

Did DH stop running things by his Eminence Gris, Michael Craig-Martin, or has he simply passed The Invisible Line to the extent where even The August Presence that is MCM could tell him the truth?

Plain as the absence of nose on MJ's face it is clear that he crossed The Line years ago where highly skilled [and paid] professionals were able to say things like:

"Mr. Jackson there is not enough tissue left on your nose with which to work."
"I strongly advise against further procedures."
"For the love of God, please, please stop!"

In the case of DH, I have no problem with artists capitalizing on their considerable talents, in fact I'm all for it. And I am in no way asking the sophomorically naive and buttassedly stuuuuuuu-PID question: "But is it art?" And if you are asking that question I would like to invite you to direct your web browser Brian Sewell's site. You will enjoy one another.

What I really really really [that's 3 reallys] think we should be asking, or at least those of us who care about art, is, IS THIS GOOD ART?

The work in question definitely fits within DH's conceptual trajectory, namely an obsession with death on the grossest level (hahahaha). My first clue is that I feel a similar outrage towards The Skull, as I did towards his naiscent abattoir offerings (and I think these early dissections are some the finest work around). Now, with the Skull I can see that at the very least he is exposing the commercial underbelly of the art world, which is quite interesting to me. And in the writing of this I am feeling that perhaps this is the best piece he has made in a long, long time.

But then again, I really liked Earth Song.

I somehow think that The Spirit of Jarvis lies at the center of this matter. Maybe it's good art, maybe it's crap, maybe it's brilliant. But what is missing is that someone who is not afraid of crossing The Line, is in fact immune to The Line, and who preferably has some sort of meaningful credibility, needs to flash some asscrack at Hirst's skull to put things back into proper perspective.