As I ruminatively chewed through my fifth beef and barley bun at the Marksman Pub on Hackney Road, it struck me that the problem with the future is that things tend to pan out in rather unexpected ways. Take Gallery Girl for example, the youthful columnist who in addition to her delightful monthly observations in the back of ArtReview would offer up a ‘wishlist’ every couple of weeks for readers on the worldwide web. Now Gallery Girl has joined the choir invisible of great art writers and I have stepped up in her place. She probably thought she’d go on as long as Matthew Collings has, with his splendid John Knox-style beard. As Carl Jung observed, ‘The wine of youth does not always clear with advancing years; sometimes it grows turbid.’
Despite being her ‘successor’ I cannot bring myself to provide some sort of ‘wish-list’ of the contemporary art trinkets of the week. Instead I wish to do something perhaps a little more ambitious, for as Foucault wrote, ‘I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls’. And so instead, I shall offer up one or two objects of remarkable beauty that chime with my particular thoughts of the moment for your consideration.
This week I was mesmerised by Steve Claydon’s yellow PVC strip curtains in his show, The Gilded Bough at Sadie Coles HQ. I slipped in and out between the individual plastic sheets, focusing on emptying my mind in order to occupy the liminal inbetween space as I passed hither and thither from one side of Sadie’s cavernous interior to the other. And in that moment of passing, I became Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, my face turned towards the past but the storm propelling me into the future to which my back was turned. Despite his gruff exterior, Claydon strikes me as a man who is familiar with Derrida’s wistful observation, ‘I cried when it was time to go back to school long after I was old enough to be ashamed of such behaviour.’
Derrida later explained to me over a Baba au Rhum that he was crying because he knew that what his schoolmasters promised was mere folly. For what is more inevitable than the fading of imagined futures, he asked as his spoon pierced the small yeast cake letting the rum and cream ooze out. I thought of dear Jacques when I gazed at Masahisa Fukase’s melancholic work From Window (1974), which features in Tate Modern’s show Performing for the Camera. For years Fukase would take photos of his second wife, Yoko, and here we see her looking up from the street at the artist who is stationed at the window of the apartment they shared. After 13 years of being the sole subject of his photographic work, Yoko left Masahisa, describing their shared life as moments of ‘suffocating dullness interspersed by violent and near suicidal flashes of excitement.’ The future didn’t quite pan out for Masahisa in the way he imagined. Heartbroken, he devoted himself to photographing ravens.
Outside on the Hackney Road, a number 26 bus ploughs down towards the City. I fear for all our futures but am comforted by the thoughts of buttermilk ice cream perhaps accompanied with a glass of La Vieille Prune. In these turbulent times, perhaps the only solace we deserve is pudding and contemporary art.
Online exclusive published on 31 March 2016.