Michael Smythe's Tower of Babel
Michael Smythe's Tower of Babel


Agrifashionista has moved to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. How you move a website and a process to a gallery is up for grabs, but somehow this is what we have to do, or have come to have to do. I’ll be honest it’s a bit of conceptual mess now and we are having second thoughts. We’ve renamed it Toadball in honour of this fact.

The all action Agrifashionista version of the project that was a week of live studio production at Club Row in Shoreditch never came to bear fruit, as the hosts A Foundation imploded two weeks before went live. The net result is that we have a website of our commissioned artist films, but without the live hook to the reality of production and meaning. No critique, no pulling apart the art world myth, no debate, no new dawn and possible future use for art. For now at least. That comes after this project when the new farm is finished (see www.lawsonpark.org).

It’s recurringly apparent that the art world (more so than the rest of the world) doesn’t like mess, complication, real critique and self analysis. It likes the show, the party the big pile of stuff, but when you start saying something like you mean it they run a mile.

I arrive at the RA late on Monday and Michael, our Mighty Atom project manager, has for the last four days at least, been dismantling a medical library and reassembling it, in a big, Tower of Babel pile in our allotted room. The installation looks super dramatic, sort of Harry Potter goes John Ruskin, and supra-curator David Thorp everyone at the RA loves it. I can see why; it looks great. But from a Grizedale point of view this is disconcerting, as we just don’t do installation like that. Michael once again has put in a superhuman effort in our absence and I painfully have to come round to taking it apart and starting again.

The point is it’s not really what it looks like; it’s what it’s doing. Often this is a disappointment to many in art land, but a deeply held belief in this organisation; that art should become useful in one way or another. There’s no way we can do this in the RA without the live, full blooded discussion, TV spectacular (an audience with Joanthan Meese anyone?) and, indeed, no budget. The best we can do is point to what we are talking about, point to the website, to our farm HQ, our other projects and hope to get them to follow.

As such the exhibition becomes a trailer or an advert to the thinking and process that lies beyond. Grizedale has become so much about the coal face application of creation it’s always going to be hard ‘to do gallery’, but it’s an important part of the equation – we don’t want to give up on art, we just want to make it better.


1 Comment

Well that does look kinda cool, like the end scene from Minority Report where the turbo geeks are left with their books in the middle of retro nowhere - turning their hunched backs on techno wizardry. However as you say pick the bones out of that, as in what does it mean, Tatlin's tower, ET, always popular art references though generally best avoided. Books as outmoded, reduced to pub decorations, although as a pile the inference is that they have been read, maybe the computers suggest the material is being digitized. Generally not clear, but that sadly is ok in contemporary art, all we generally need from an exhibition is for people to walk into the room and go 'yeh nice' and move to the next room. The problem is that if the new configuration only offers engagement with the long and complicated web site and artist films alongside a glimpse of the intention of the project we are probably asking to much of a gallery audience (I know I dont have the time to sit down in a gallery and spend time trying to absorb ideas - that would be an archaic notion) - so I guess a signpost is the best we can hope for, so just stick up a sign post.