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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, January 31, 2004
    Standing still long enough
    Stand still long enough in The Tate and people start looking at you like you are an exhibit. That was my experience this afternoon, anyway. You know, all I was doing was trying to spend time with a piece of Michel Majerus pop art, stare at it, soak it in, let it speak to me. And resting a bit by leaning against a cast-iron pillar in that vast ex-tobacco warehouse. Other people were passing by, taking one glance (left) at Majerus: splash bombs 2001 and one glance (right) at John Davies: avoiding the derby 2004. Made me feel a bit fragile. Don't know how it made them feel when they realised I was, er, real.

    They probably had it right. Majerus creates from the frippery of pop culture, uses images from computer games, corporate logos, tv titles etc. People are used to passing such things by with just a glance, usually. Why would they behave any differently in an art gallery?

    My quality time staring at splash bombs failed to satisfy me; so I decamped to the shop where there was no danger of anyone looking at me; there was a sale on. I was delighted to emerge with this - Secession: Marc Wallinger. At a fiver, a fine investment for the infinite game. Wallinger's Ecce Homo caused quite a stir when it appeared on a plinth in Trafalgar Square in 1999. This book goes into some of that, details some of Wallinger's other fascinating playful explorations of infinite-game themes, and especially answers this question: what happened to The Man (Jesus) after he'd been taken down from the plinth?

    Answer: they put him, in his bare feet, on the floor of a Viennese art gallery. Standing still long enough for people to start looking at him like he was an exhibit.

    This was deliberate, of course, and very instructive: behold the man - no longer elevated, fifty feet above contradiction in pigeon space; now on the floor with the rest of us, at eye level. Touchable. Kissable. Spittable-at. Eyes closed, hands bound.

    Secession president Matthias Herrmann compared the gallery space to Trafalgar Square: "Here the observer may come as close to the sculpture as desired, approaching it as an equal or counterpart ... Here the human, male presence - there the elevated (divine?) ideal, which is a counterpart to the other monuments, but contrasts their heroic gestures with its melancholy. This melancholy also fills the main room of the Secession; those who are able to enter into it, will be confronted with their own fragile reality."

    (It ended up nil-nil, by the way. Not bad.)