First, consider the painting's position. Paintings spend their lives either exposed to the merciless but cursory glare of the public eye or locked in dark rooms, sobbing. A bit of empathy can go a long way. How would you feel in its position? What would your curator's notes say, and would anyone bother to read through them?
Here are some approaches to try when looking at painting:
Peel off the protective outer layer of the painting to get to the real one underneath (use your fingernails and get stuck in).
Try looking at the painting from a long way away- brushstrokes that seem clumsy and rough from a few paces off are often more effective from space.
Try surprising the painting. Pretend you are just passing through and mutter something about looking for the loo, then turn sharply and catch the painting while it is at its least self aware and most relaxed.
Crawl toward the painting like a snake with your eyes down, chanting gently. Bring fresh meat as a tribute.
To really mix things up, approach the painting with a hand mirror outstretched in your left hand, and with your right point an accusing finger. Wear dramatic make-up and some of those vampire teeth.
If this fails, try intimidating the painting. Sprint toward the work as if you mean to tackle it. At the last minute, lurch into the gallery wall, which is usually pretty soft (test it first!). Repeat as necessary.
No painting can be properly appreciated without 3D glasses.
For installation pieces, remember that the key thing is that you showed up.
A large part of what makes performance great is surprise. What is surprising is interesting - makes us laugh, shocks us - can make us reassess our preconceptions. I enjoy the absurd, because the absurd does or puts together things that are by nature out of place, which is therefore surprising for us.
You see someone performing an action, and you have an expectation of how it will play out and an unconscious assumption about how far they will take it. The performer then breaks this.
This is another thing I value about performance - to explode the boundaries of what is acceptable - and in my experience it is most profound in the live event. So when you see something happen that breaks your expectations, blows your assumptions out of the water, not only is it funny etc., but it makes you reconsider your own ideas around the limits of what is possible.
So I find the absurd inspiring and motivating, and I relish the affect it has on my brain - rewiring it away from fixed ideas, and towards a constantly shifting state.
I walk home along the sea floor, where great trees of kelp move with the currents of the wind. Every ten minutes, over the horizon, loud swift submarines launch through thin water.
I think how much the land looks like Google Earth. The regularly receding ridges with their crisp edges, the uniform haze, the sun placed in the sky. Perfect and beautiful.
With my right hand, I reach to reorient my view. Maybe I will visit New York, with its textured buildings which load from foreground to background- fly between the buildings and read the restaurant reviews. Or maybe I'll spin again around Everest, crisply modeled by anonymous hands. Or look again at the place where I grew up- zoom in and try and recognise the house from the blurred shape of the roof, make out the plum tree where we had the tyre swing.
Then I remember that I am here, several thousand metres in the air, falling to my death.
When Europeans first came to [this place], they thought at first they were [somewhere else]. They called this place [a name] after [the young man] who first saw it.They made their sketches, which are lost. They called the local people Indians and traded [this] for [that]. They noticed an abundance of [the thing] here, which they thought could make them rich, if they ever managed to get them back to [where they came from]. On the return voyage, they struck [a reef] and the mission became into a struggle for survival. They made it back because here is their story.
In those days, people died more often and with less consideration and complaint, also people were tougher and worked impossibly hard to stay alive. There were hangings and floggings and quarter rations, and people survived seven weeks in longboats with only rainwater and stars and no confectionery at all. They thought they were living Now but we can see that they were stranded in their tiny boats way out in the middle of Then. They had no idea of this, which is just as well for their shipboard morale.
People's lives were around five sentences long. They were educated or not educated at Oxford or nowhere, and they came into their inheritance or got on the boat. They traveled around the world and got off on the other side somewhere for a paddle and that was satisfying. Or if it wasn't then it wasn't written down. And whole wars happened while they were away, and their child was born and named. Then they died young or later on. And they stank but you can't smell it in the accounts.
And now we look down at them sort of from planes, and we think they lived out their lives in sorry limitation and with alien resolve, like snails tracing the edge of a hand basin.
There was a terrible sun blazing.
No-one could have forseen what was about to happen.
It started just like any other day.
The birds were mysteriously silent.
It was obvious in retrospect that something was building to a head.
People seemed to flow in slow torrents.
I had my mind on small things.
It all happened so fast.
It all happened in slow motion.
There was a sort of ripple effect.
I was looking the other way and I heard a sort of sound behind me.
My heart was actually the only thing I was aware of.
People just reacted.
I didn't actually notice anything going on until after.
I didn't think to get my camera out, for whatever reason.
I want to be with my family right now.
I'm not sure I'm who you want to talk to.
Quick, the stable door, etc.
It would be funny if it weren't so goddamn something.
Is this all it takes to freak people out?
The first stop has giant teeth on it and some text, which probably includes the words 'white' and 'fresh'. The teeth make it hard to see oncoming traffic. People at this stop are, as a rule, more likely to be angry.
The second stop is old, wooden and enclosed. It has a mural on it from around 1980 which advocates peace in faded pastels. There could be someone waiting, but it's hard to see inside. Something is flickering in there.
The third stop is just a bench and next to it is a puddle of what is very likely vomit. There is also a brown paper bag. This is a windy stop favoured by commuters, who are more likely to wear dark colours.
The fourth stop is bolted into a high concrete bank. There is no shade from the sun, which is more likely to be behind clouds, if you had to put money either way.
The fifth stop is, at certain times on a majority of days, crowded with young men in grey uniforms. It is hugely unlikely that the patterns of gum on the concrete form any kind of code.
The sixth stop has small pieces of glass spread like ice over the footpath. There are large teeth here too, exposed to the air now but still white and perfect. There is a brick lying nearby, but that seems a bit obvious, wouldn't you say?
The seventh stop isn't safe. It has a cat walking on the roof. There's no way to tell from here whether it is male or female. Best to carry on.
A place for putting writing and links.
© Binge Culture Collective
All rights reserved