March 14th, 2010

breaking bad

Art Sheffield 2010

My sister's boyfriend is a fine arts lecturer and yesterday he took us on a tour of the art installations set up for Art Sheffield 2010, the theme of which was Life: A User's manual. The installations had mostly been set up in disused and derelict industrial low-rise buildings near Bramall Lane (the Sheffield United ground). Each installation was quite small. Being with an artist made me slow down and spend a long time looking at each installation, which I think was good. They are not very accessible or friendly to the casual viewer. For example, an installation by a Korean artist was household equipment, such as drying racks, organised into large teetering shapes hung with lit bulbs, and the room full of fog from a machine, so the big shapes loomed out of the fog. There was supporting material explaining that it was inspired by the Korean myth Dangun, and a Japanese film called Woman in the Dunes, which are both about domestic endurance and entropy. In this case I thought the installation worked on its own, and was then enhanced by the materials.

In other cases I felt the installations did not work without the supporting commentary. For example one installation was a woman reading the classical texts about women that Virgina Woolf cites in A Room of One's Own, filmed so that her head obscured the text. Without the blurb explaining it, this just looked like a film of a woman sitting in a library, filmed from the back of her head. I mean, to me the meaning is important, but you couldn't get it from the work without reading the blurb.

I think even more than poetry the presentation of this type of work is inaccessible and even frightening to the casual visitor, entering a big empty space with some earnest chap in glasses watching you watch the exhibit. But I was glad, very glad, to have spent the afternoon looking at these installations. I was definitely affected by them, individually and collectively, even if I didn't understand or enjoy each one.
breaking bad

An Enemy of the People

Then in the evening we went to see Ibsen's An Enemy of the People at the Sheffield Crucible, starring Anthony Sher. I didn't know the play, but it turns out to be the same story as The Crazies that I saw last week! Also Jaws. I'm not even joking.

Man of integrity discovers that the water supply to the town is infected, and expects the community to react rationally to this news, instead the mayor says it will damage tourism and industry and silences the awkward fellow. Now, the play ends with the vilification of the whistle-blower by the community, whereas in Jaws and the Crazies of course we then go on to see the destructive effects of the thing in the water.

The story was therefore very familiar and you knew exactly what was going to happen in each scene. So the first half was too slow, too laborious. The second half they crammed a lot of actors on stage, to create a noisy town meeting, and everyone was talking at once and brawling and so on, and it was much more exciting.

Incidentally I cornered a front of house manager and asked him if the John Simm Hamlet was going ahead. He said they were definitely going to do Hamlet, but they hadn't managed to persuade JS to sign a contract yet. I hope he will, it would be so awesome. But I will go and see the production whoever is in it.