Sunday, 6 June 2010

Trinity Buoy Wharf and life ever-lasting



What is it with artists creating digital works that have a long life-span? Recently I saw John Gerrard's 'Oil Stick Work' at Canary Wharf that will go on for 30 years and now on my visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf (above) I see that Jem Finer's 'Longplayer' is a sound installation that will reach completion in 2999. Is this a ploy by artists to get lots of exhibitions? Is it a case of digital art gone mad - just because we have the computer technology to create digital works that play continuously without repetition should we use it? These are the questions we should be asking.

In Finer's case, as in the case of John Gerrard, there is reason behind this madness. 'Longplayer', which is the melodic sound of Tibetan singing bowls played in the lighthouse here, is a thousand-year composition that reflects the number of times the earth has spun around the sun – a mind-blowing idea. It's intended as a travelling exhibition, which does provide an interesting aspect to the concept of a gradually evolving work because not everyone will hear the same thing – and that's what art is about, subjectivity. 

On the other side of the coin, destruction in art has always been a popular pastime - take Cai Guo Qiang's gunpowder works that explode and disappear in a cloud of smoke – but now the fashion is longevity, in digital art anyway. It seems artists as philosophers will always be obsessed by time and death.  

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