Saturday, April 19, 2008

'What Hit Them' by Kelvin Corcoran

Oystercatcher Press, 4 coastguard Cottages, Lighthouse Close, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6EL, UK. Unpriced. ISBN: 978-1-905885-03-9.

Kelvin sent me this, his latest pamphlet a few weeks ago. He's in a productive phase at the moment, as this follows hard on the heels of his latest Shearsman book "Backward Turning Sea". This pamphlet is partly a response to the London South Bank's touring exhibition "Geometry of Fear", which features the group of young sculptors whose work came to prominence after the Second World War, including Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler and Kenneth Armitage. This short collection is vintage Corcoran, with that slightly aslant view of the world and the skilful mixing of politics and lyric. It includes a nice dig at a couple of the darlings of Brit-Art:

This is not corporate art,
no diamond-studded skull
polished by the poor underground,
nor that bunk-up bed unmade
burnt in Saatchi's treasury.


John B-R said...

Only problem: Hirst and Emin are actually good artists. Saatchi didn't get it all wrong. And the Chapman Bros kick ass. No need to knock one to build up another.

Alan Baker said...

Fair point John, and I wouldn't like to dismiss an entire group of artist's (the YBA/Britart) en masse. I like the work of Rachel Whiteread; I think she's a significant artist. I also like some of Hirst's work - his photo-paintings of his child's birth for example. And I'd hate to align myself with people like the Stuckist's, who stance seems reactionary and simplistic. But... my overall impression of the YBA (including the Chapmans) movement is that their mission to 'shock the bourgeoisie' seem about eighty years too late. Lee Harwood's essay on Dada (available on Litter) argues that Dada was essentially an anti-war movement and a revulsion against the horrors of WW1. Shorn of any such context, Brit-Art seems merely distasteful and entirely safe in that, far from subverting late-capitalist culture, it's merely working within it. They seem to want sensational press coverage in order to increase the monetary value of their artworks. It's hard to imagine Hirst or Emin coming up with something that questioned or lampooned the powerful in the way that Warhol's Nixon (or Prince Charles for that matter) did.

John B-R said...

Alan, to the degree that the Hirsts, Emins, Lucases, Chapmans, etc think of themselves as subversive, well, to that degree they can be laughed out of the building along with the rest of us who hate living under capital's cancerous project but can't do a thing about it. But to the degree that they create art, well, Hirst does some nice work, as do Emin and Lucas and particularly the Chapmans. I will speak especially of Hirst, since I've seen a lot of his stuff in person and it's beautiful and it raises ugly questions, which is I think his intent, and the Chapmans, since I have a book of theirs called Bad Art for Bad People, and they certainly don't pretend to be what they're not. Their work too is strong and raises questions. It's best not to confuse the press (what you call the mission)w/the work itself I think. They're not the same. It's kinda like flarf and the publicity surrounding it. The poems are actually pretty damn good. And as for Dada, well, that was a century after Blake and Shelley, so - so much for belatedness. We're all belated and if cleanliness is next to godliness then shouting about modernity is next to uselessness. The only way to stop the juggernaut of modernity was ... well, I dunno, but it would have had to happen during the 15th century ...