They must put something in the food in the Slade canteen that allows artists to think sideways, upside down and inside out, because the school seems to continually spit them out. Artists whose work is so highly idiosyncratic and perimeterless in its possibilities that it gives you a feeling of urgency and panic, like the desperation to come up for air after being held under.
The first time I met Aaron was by chance in the Golden Heart in Spitalfields. He told me there was a job coming up at the Slade: he was trying to persuade me to apply for it. I voiced the opinion that a good art school could just be a warm room, and that the best tutors are almost certainly always the people sitting directly next to you; usually your friends. Aaron had started me thinking, and on the realisation that he was sitting next to me and that I had quite a large warm room of my own, namely a studio, maybe something should be done. Night School, a monthly free salon, opened its doors last December, inaugurated with a lecture by Aaron entitled Delphic Content: Image Dumps and the Aesthetics of Web Anonymity, in which he discussed the phenomenon of image blogs and their use by what could be seen as a sort of modernised notion of a Sunday painter.
If jealousy is a good measure of achievement, Morning Alarm (2010) – an alarm for an iPhone based on the music which plays when Number Six wakes up in the Village at the beginning of most episodes of The Prisoner (1967–8) – is quite simply a work that I kick myself for not making. That, and Black Photocopier (2010), literally a large photocopier free for people to use in the gallery, and Brother Francis Spills His Pint (2010), a chalk pastel drawing of a children’s Catholic cartoon character.
Among Aaron’s early output, I’ve witnessed painting, installation, performance, writing, photography, as well as Web-specific works, but above all what really strikes me about him is his ability to make stuff happen: having an integral part in the Slade occupancy (a protest against university grant cuts), as well as organising shows and salons of his own, Web archives and writings, etc. He’s an executer, a doer, and his collaborations and relations with other creative practitioners from all fields are so many and of such complexity that it sometimes seems hard to unravel them, leaving you wondering exactly who made what. The point is, they don’t care who made it, they just want to see something good happen. There is something in the work that gives me a sense of a young Broodthaers (if Broodthaers had indeed ever been a young artist as opposed to a young poet). Many of Aaron’s works appropriate the device of colliding unexpected components that make you sit up with a jolt, but chosen with such ingenuity that when they collide they make a clang loud enough to leave your ears ringing.
This article was first published in the March 2011 issue.