I have two teenage boys and I’ve started a course at the beginning of the summer holidays. That means that all my visits for the next six weeks will be with them in tow. In some ways it’s useful for me as it’s good to see things from the perspective of two people so entirely untroubled about sounding impressive and knowledgable, who just say what they think about what is in front of them in an entirely honest way. My eldest son Nathan was not keen on this visit as he has decided that modern art doesn’t count as art at all. My youngest son Bee has decided that being the polar opposite of his brother is great, and having been to the Tate Modern once before and realising how much Nathan would hate it, specifically requested a return visit.
I approached this visit in a different way as now I’m studying an art subject I want to understand what I’m seeing and how it makes me feel, reflect on it and be able to recall it. But I was very aware that I wouldn’t be able to spend any real time reflecting on what I was seeing while I was there, so I took lots of photographs (mainly on my iPhone) of things that stood out to me and photos of work that spoke to me along with the text accompanying it. Not all of the art was visual. First we went to The Tanks and listened to Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff. I’d ‘seen’ this before and really liked it and Nathan appreciates music so I thought it would be a good place to start. It raises a lot of questions for me about what art is, because Nathan says it’s not art, but I think it is but mainly because I think it’s beautiful and clever and fun. Individual voices come out of each speaker. To me, they’re placed a bit too high for my 5’3″ height and I felt a tiny bit frustrated by that at is gave me a sense of not being able to get the same experience of someone who can listen more closely. But it’s no big deal. We also saw Wetin You Go Do? by Otobong Nkanga. I didn’t really get this one, but I took photos because I thought that I might be able to create a good image out of it myself.
I saw a lot more photographs this time; I’m not sure if there were more or if I was paying more attention to them. For some, I didn’t get why they were there. I suppose I’m thinking in particular about these images by William Eggleston; I just don’t understand their significance. I suppose in the context it makes him someone I will have to do some research into so that I do understand.
I really loved the work by Daido Moriyama but both of my children had had enough by the time we got to his work so I’ll explore more of it on my next visit.
I was wondering about some of the work by The Guerrilla Girls: my main questions were around the statistics they have about who buys art, how much they spend on it and what they buy. I wondered if women buy more art by female artists? I suppose I think of buying art as the preserve of the super rich, and I think of super rich people as men. And I think of super rich men buying art made primarily by male artists as an investment. When I was looking at some work by Carolee Schneemann I noticed that I was surrounded by other women, but not by men. My children had walked straight through; that could be because as teenagers they found the subject matter uncomfortable, but I wondered if it would be true for all work by female artists and I kept thinking about it as I went round, wondering who was looking at what? And I think, on a very small sample, that it was mainly women looking at work made by women, but men and women looking at work made by men. I won’t jump to conclusions about it at the moment because I don’t know or understand the world of art and I could be wrong. It’s just something I noticed that day.