David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

02 December 2008

Work of the Golden Guillotine


The two images featured recently in the ARToLOGOS/HA HA post are details from a pair of banners displayed earlier this year at the National Gallery of Victoria. In a strange and complex metaphor they echo the heraldic supporters depicted in the Coat of Arms of Victoria crested above the archway portal.

In the 40 years since the NGV was re-established in the new St.Kilda Rd building many incidents 0f art, protest and prank have happened around its forecourt.

Still the most famous of these, in 1975 artist Ivan Durrant deposited a freshly slain cow there.

The same year, Melbourne artists held a protest meeting and presented their grievances with the gallery inside the water wall foyer.

Drumming up a Crowd : In 1981 ARTCIRCUS beat drums, wore placards [SCREAMING TEENS MOB PAINTINGS] and played cassettes of crowd sounds as a Chinese political delegation made a formal visit to the oddly titled "A Century of Modern Masters: The Art Experience of the Decade"

In 1984 the centre panel of the glass 'water wall', at that time hosting a mural by Keith Haring, was smashed and a giant image of a block-headed bird hovering over flames was sprayed on the paving in front of it.

In 2004 a day of protests by the free pencil movement, which culminated in a mass sketch-in at the blockbuster Edvard Munch exhibition, produced an urgent meeting of the Trustees and a review of visitor restrictions.

(More about this event...)

Site of constant contest. On and on. Inside and out. Here's Patrick Jones' 2006 intervention "Homage to Duchamp" [I DO IT TO AMUSE MYSELF] to the backdrop of the NGV's own double Dutch Masters facade.

bLOGOS/HA HA now believes that the two 2008 'someone looks at something' banners were yet another such NGV counter- activity. A straight-faced farce committed from within, these banners are part of the counter-tradition that certainly includes the 1917 submission by R.Mutt of a urinal titled “Fountain” to a panel of Art Judges, and which continues through to present times with The Chaser's war on Everything 2007 APEC motorcade and, last month, the publication and distribution by the YES MEN of 1.2 million copies of an alternate New York Times, as they would like to see it. (More...)

bLOGOS/HA HA believes the banners are the work of The Golden Guillotine, an underground collective of radical artists and culture jammers who, over a period of years, have infiltrated the staff of the NGV. Thus embedded, this cell has then persuaded an unsuspecting hierarchy to fully implement its promotional parody.

Reading the banner imagery, bLOGOS/HA HA imagines a Golden Guillotine brainstorming session, much in the manner of a Gruen Transfer challenge...

“...OK. Seventeenth Eighteenth Nineteenth century. So... SEX and we call it ART! Yes? (laughter) For the blokes, how about this? (Passes around newspaper article with picture of stage-lit pouting 'Grasshoper' being 'unveiled' at NGV surrounded by shadowy men.)

Chloe’s sister and all that crap. Incredible! (laughter) What else? Blue for boys, pink for girls? OK. We’ll give him a blue jumper and blue jeans.

Blokes like to look, right - male gaze and all that - and males are supposed to be the logical ones, so let’s put The Thinker on one side and underline the idea with a Wall Label on the other. Should make it look all very serious. (laughter)

For the females, let’s go with ‘caring and compassionate’. How about a mature woman, in a mature-pink jumper, looking at a mature, hopeless, impotent, naked man. Coy Girl has removed her curtain so maybe for the other we should gird the loins. What have we got like that? (looking through images) Here’s one. Naked but not, noble and hard done by. Lit from above by God. See, one hand pleads in vain to heaven and with the other... if we put the woman there (gestures)... he reaches out to her. Perfect! No Label, no Thinker. All heart and fire, right? (laughter)”

Perhaps it was nothing like that. What is certainly clear is that each of the tableaux features a massive golden frame : signature and code for Work of the Golden Guillotine.

It seems unlikely the NGV will acknowledge the subterfuge.