There seems to be an increasing latency between when I hear about something on Front Row, or Night Waves, and when I see it. At least I have trained myself to make a note of when exhibitions finish, for that last weekend or (more usually) last day feeling. In this case, it was six months, from May until November. In my experience the National Gallery is bearable during the Friday late night opening, so it was the last Friday when I want to see Michael Landy‘s Saints Alive. I’d seen where it was a few months ago, during a peripatetic School of Life event, which ended with a look at a mosaic and some Turner/Constable paintings.
I saw that the invigilator was handing out fairly large circular orange tokens. Naturally, I assumed they were to be exchanged for an Experience, or perhaps thrown at something. (Later, someone turned around and asked “does everyone have one of these?”, not really waiting for an answer). One of the perils of the near-the-end experience is the occasional lack of supporting documentation. Here, there were no explanatory leaflets at all, just ranks of empty plastic holders. I’d remembered Mark Lawson (probably) talking about the degradation of the pieces over the course of the show, and indeed there were large scratch marks on the torso smacked by Thomas, which was very loud. As I heard someone point out, the chest is hit by the wrist, rather than the rock that the hand’s holding, which seems a bit of a swizz. I saw someone picking up a mushy-coloured t-shirt from the lucky dip, and wondered whether he’d fed it into the contraption, for retrieval, after several attempts. The gallery staff were mainly suggesting that people be patient, before stepping on the various triggering systems, owing to the in-built delays (presumably intended to avoid mechanical failures caused by over-active children or moronic students). I then went through the middle room, passing an out-of-order lady, to watch the film. As usual, you had to keep a careful note of the point at which you started as it went around again, to ensure you saw everything. Someone there, taking notes in a small pad, seemed to be staying through several repetitions.
When I went back into the main space, leaflet reinforcements had arrived, so I didn’t feel so deprived. There was a list of some of the paintings from which Landy had drawn inspiration, listing where they were. Having worked out that the promises of the chance to win a t-shirt related to the lucky dip, I persevered, starting the hook on its journey many times. Eventually, it emerged with the t-shirt, and the gallery person encouragingly told me that it was mine, and that I could keep it. People aren’t used to such rewards, I suppose, and wonder whether they need to hand them in. A new invigilator had appeared and she went around switching on the power, adjusting mechanisms, then triggering the machines, with some pride.
Back home, I watched Andrew Bujalski‘s Computer Chess, via Curzon On Demand. I think I’d only seen one of his ‘mumblecore’ films before, but the trailer snippets I’d seen of this one were intriguing. Instead of watching on a laptop, as usual, I tried using a small desktop connected to the vulgar telly. While this worked, the machine was trying a little too hard, so the viewing experience was less than perfect. This didn’t really matter, though, because Bujalski shot the film with early 1980s vintage equipment anyway, so degraded fidelity felt appropriate. The opening was very clever and I liked the way it became more mystical and playfully arrogant about its own curious world.