This post will be a little more evasive than normal, for reasons that will reveal themselves.
Inspired by a friend’s tales of walking around yesterday securing photos for his work, and mindful that I’ll never come to navigate around London properly if I rely on Tube-based teleportation, I decided to travel to Bethnal Green and then walk to the Whitechapel Gallery from there, to catch the Gerard Byrne show. Our friend the Journey Planner suggested Liverpool Street. However, I find the idea of retracing my steps to be anathematical, so that was out straight away. Turns out it’s only about a fifteen minute walk in time and rather more than that in social terms.
While I hadn’t read much about this show, it was in my tasks list, so it had to be seen. The first room consisted of several large screens, arranged at clashing angles, such that one had to move around to be able to see all the video output. The first screening was a recreation of a discussion between various surrealists on sexuality – “A man and a woman make love”. All the different camera perspectives were available, at different times, on the different screens, with pauses in-between (the audio track continued throughout). I liked the ritualistic nature of the discussion. For instance, one of them would pose a question such as:
What do you think of making love in a church?
and some would respond immediately –
I have no opinion on the matter
while others would need to be prompted – “Prevert?”, “Tanguy?” and further opinions would be revealed:
I have had no such experience. I consider it highly desirable
There was a remarkable range of claimed experience amongst the various agitators.
The second piece was another recreation, this time of an interview with Jean-Paul Sartre about his relations with women. No trickery here, really, and it played out on a single screen, so some people took portable chairs and planted themselves down. I didn’t have time to explore the other two rooms upstairs properly and am hoping to do so on Thursday, when the gallery is open late. One thing I did enjoy was a preposterous “interview” between the Chairman of the Board and the Chairman of the Board, to promote one of those incredibly sluggish-looking American cars. There’s a video about that, I think, to which I’m looking forward.
The details of what I wanted to see at my next destination were a little unclear, though I knew I had to hurry. In the lift there was an agitated, breathless woman, brandishing a ticket.
I bet she’s going where I’m supposed to be going
I thought, so I followed her, not really knowing exactly where to go. I was holding the printout of what was on offer today and the usher just said “find a seat where you can”, before I could ask her anything, so I did.
This wasn’t the discussion I was expecting. Rather, it was a large concert hall, full of people and an orchestra. Given the solicitude shown for my comfort, it would have felt recklessly ungrateful to leave immediately. So I stayed, enjoying the frisson of a fraudulent presence, not knowing what I was watching. Would the people around me have cast me out, had they known? Had anyone else entered in the same way, perhaps deliberately? Did I concentrate more because I expected to be ejected at any time?
At the interval, having exaggeratedly made room for people leaving before me, I headed outside, considered my options in the Thames-side sun and tried to buy tickets for further events that afternoon, only to find there were none available. Ah well.
On the way back home I failed not to buy any more books, though at least they were only paperbacks this time. Oddly, after several months of exclusively reading on my Kindle, I’ve only read real paper books of late. What does that change portend, I wonder?