The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058


A Conceptual Piece

By Dave Early

This one’s by that Stuart Treadle chappy. Y’know, the bloke off that reality-cum-interactive TV thingy. He won it the other year, I think. A substantial victory to be sure. I don’t watch that stuff, myself. But I hear it’s very popular. People try to justify their interest in it. And so they should. But there are lots of them about – of these types of shows that is, not self-validating people; although… I prefer my films. Fiction over reality every time. Admittedly the lines are blurring somewhat these days. I was going to see ‘North London’, that new epic about the child gangs during the turn of the century. A cinematic extravaganza, apparently. A new style of cinematography and examples of the new CGTS. Perhaps not. I don’t get paid till the end of the month and such an extravagance needs to be managed in a practical and economic fashion; after all, I went to the football last month. Still, with minimum wage at eight pounds eighteen pence per hour…

Anyway, this Treadle piece. The main body of the sculpture, this big white cube at the centre, suspended by these wires here, made cunningly invisible by the black wall – depending on where the visitor stands, of course – is representative of the absurdity of universal perception in regards to individual reality and the concept of individualism as a bi-product of universal realities. Oh yes, and these fluorescent tubes jutting from it, here and over here and, well, you can see how many there are, all higgledy-piggledy; these are the channels or pathways interpreted through varying perceptions, each leading nowhere – perhaps he ran out of materials. Maybe he could have turned them back in on themselves, leading back towards the cube, but to be fair, there’s not a lot of room left there. Legend has it Treadle’s original plan was to have jars of human organs positioned at the end of the tubes. Controversial stuff, eh? I don’t know why he changed his mind.

And then there’re the screens – can’t forget the screens; wouldn’t be art if there wasn’t something roving to catch the eye. And what’s he chosen here? A rhetorical question obviously, seeing as that I’ve swept around this exhibit more times than I can remember. Throw in a dab of hyperbole as well. It’s been seven times – first week of the installation, y’see. Normally I’d just give it the once around but with the floors being white and that bloody black background and the gleaming white of the cube and the twinkling tubes… The curator picks up on the fluff people bring in on the sleeves of their coats, let alone the grit crushed into the treads of their shoes. Fastidious sod.

So. What d’you think of it? Work o’Genius, eh? Not only in the way he’s captured the reflection of his mind, and the imaginative method that he’s chosen, but brilliant in the fact that he has contemplated such an intensely philosophical and indeed intellectual conception. As far as postulation and physical ingenuity go, it certainly is right up there… I mean, us mere mortals, well, when would we ever jerk our meagre brains into wondering about the whys, hows and where art thous? Never occur to us. These theories of being and understanding and futility and what not. For me, I certainly like a piece of art to make me think. Or at least to make me think, hey, I’ve wondered that too, and to make me feel that we are the only two people in the world who have ruminated at length over the metaphysical… And I like my art to be admirable, y’know, something that I couldn’t do. Some say it’s not that others can’t do it but that they haven’t done it. Well, it’s a fair point. I mean, I haven’t fellated a Chihuahua… But most of all, I like my art to have an aesthetic value. And let’s face it, this thing… well, it wouldn’t look out of place with the rest of the clutter in my attic – if I had one.

Right. That’s clean enough. Let’s go get a coffee.

None of that machine dispensed slush here. Quality blend, look at that packaging. This cafeteria used to give me the creeps when I first started – so much darker in here than in the other rooms. But I wanted the late shift. And I’m used to it now. It’s good to keep my space from the others in the house. Perhaps just as much for their sakes as for mine. There was talk, hang on, coffee’s ready. Just run my tag across the screen – they check absolutely everything here. Tight wads. ‘No freebies. No perks’ that’s the curator. And the assistant curator. Even the gift shop workers. They’re all so bloody serious here. One black coffee… eight quid on account. Well, I’ve earned it. Anyway, there was talk of the plaza down the road – not from here, I mean the one near where I live – being torn down for flats. But there’s always talk. And besides, even if I could afford to move, who’s to say the next lot I share with will be any better?

Yeah. It was nice, to begin with, spending the hours around the art. But being here everyday, near it and never part of it… It’s like being a steward on matchday. They still owe me for that.

The janitor’s expression, resigned yet resolute, stares out from the multiplex of screens. The surrounding universe dulls, darkening at a slow albeit insistent pace until eventually both the man with the broom and the entire cafeteria vanish. The monitors as blank as the vague shrunken faces reflected in them. The nominal crowd edge away, a neutral murmur sitting like a low creeping mist, gradually dissipating as most of the visitors shuffle on toward another exhibit. The next ripple moves in amongst a smattering of lingerers who missed the opening sequence, waiting for the empty screens to flicker into life once more. Shoulder to shoulder, silent but for an embarrassed cough here and there. Stern, respectable, mature countenances sharing separately in the majesty of age.

It’s important to get your stuff out there. And these days, well, everybody’s at it. And the more titillating or marginally contentious it is, the more eyes it’s going to attract. Basic maths. And then, the more eyes upon it, the greater the assumption by the money-spinners that it’s going to make them a packet. And bob’s your note. I mean, take a look around this place. This one’s by that Stuart Treadle chappy…