Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Way We Live Now, and Have Been Living For a While

Simon Starling has been awarded the Turner Prize, one of Britain’s most prestigious artistic honors. Here’s a description of one of the pieces for which he was noticed:
Starling, who is fascinated by the process of transforming one object or substance into another, decided to dismantle the shed and turn it into a boat, which he then loaded with the remains of the shed. The boat was paddled down the river Rhine to a museum in Basel. There, Starling dismantled the boat and turned the materials back into a shed. The final version is called Shedboatshed.
Catchy title, eh? I like to think of him as Auguste Rodin meets Bob Vila.

Starling had this to say about his work:
"I deliberately make things myself by hand and tend to take the long way around," he says. "So much of our contact with the way objects are manufactured is now so distant from us because things are manufactured in sort of multiple countries by kind of large corporations and you sort of lose a sense of connection with the things you are dealing with every day."
That sounds like the worldview of a lot of 20-year-olds who have read DeLillo, doesn’t it? And two "sort of"'s and a "kind of" within 13 words of each other – that’s an impressively qualified statement of artistic vision. ("You know how, like, when your parents kind of won’t let you do what you want, that sort of sucks? You know?")

I’m not denying there are many levels of alienation attached to modern living, but really, isn’t the type of manufacturing that Starling finds troublesome also due to the fact that we’re now busy doing other stuff? I mean, it’s all well and good to try your hand at building sheds and boats when you’re done hunting and gathering for the day, but is that the lifestyle to which we want to return in full? No one who wants to build a shed is being kept from that, are they? (If so, I agree that it's troubling. And awfully strange.)

I don’t mean to sound so flippant. (Just kind of flippant. Sort of flippant.) The shed looks pretty good, actually, and I’m not familiar enough with Starling’s work to judge it one way or another. It just seems like the shed is a nifty piece of architecture, and it's a bit disheartening to me that it has to be propped up with such a familiar (soon the word will be "tired") critique of the way we live now. I’m not saying he’s wrong. But if he’s right, and we’ve known it for a few decades, is that much better?

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Blogger Dezmond said...

So McGyver was our Michelangelo?

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Ben Popken said...

I enjoyed your post and your writing style. I use this post to launch my own diatribe, viewable here:

1:05 PM  

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