February 14th, 2005


Beuys and ping pong

James Goggin, designer of the wildly popular Otto Spooky sleeve, has finally relaunched the website for his graphic design practise, Practise. If you click through the work section you'll see that a lot of his commissions come from art institutions; he's the man who does the posters, catalogues and brochures for Tate Modern, for instance.

The new show at Tate Modern is Britain's first major exhibition of the work of Josef Beuys. This is an incredible fact, because in the 1980s the art world considered Beuys and Warhol to be the two most important living artists (they died within a year of each other, in 1986 and 1987), and London hosted so many Warhol shows that his work started to look like wallpaper. (Well, it was wallpaper. And floaty silver helium cushions. And painted money.) I suppose we have to put this down to the fact that British people can look West all day and all night and suffer no ill health, but as soon as they look East they get a nasty crick in the neck.

I Like America and America Likes Me was the title of a 1974 Beuys action in which he spent a week locked in a New York gallery with a wild coyote, some felt and a shepherd's crook. Tate Modern has generously hosted a 24 minute RealPlayer video stream of another action on their site, the 1972 Information Action held in London.

Caroline Tisdall's book on Josef Beuys, published by Thames and Hudson in 1979, was the first contemporary art book I bought. I can honestly say it changed my life. I fell under Beuys' shamanic spell and, when Richard Demarco announced in 1980 that Beuys would deliver a lecture in Edinburgh as part of the Free International University (Beuys' informal university), I made sure I was there. About twenty-five of us sat in a little room in a courtyard off Edinburgh's Cowgate as Beuys, rather enfeebled by his hunger strike in solidarity with Jimmy Boyle, sipped from a glass of water and made one of his tortuously intricate spidery blackboards explaining the connections between the striking British Aerospace workers at Coventry and ancient Celtic snakelore. There is a connection, you know. Let's find that blackboard and I'll prove it.

I'm happy to announce that there's a connection between me and Thames and Hudson, the publishers of that fascinating book on Beuys. I'll be writing a book for them (well, really a series of texts) on the subject of photoblogging, to be published later this year. James Goggin also has a new job -- in spring he'll take over as art director of music magazine The Wire. Congratulations, James!

And now the sports news. Ping pong is a particularly musical game, and today's Art Harbour stream is the sound of a ping pong game recorded by a student at the Future University and chopped around by me until it becomes a Tati-esque 'Ping Pong Symphony'. I also used a lot of ping pong sounds in a remix I made of Digiki and Darsh's new track Cash. Mainly because they were right there in the remix materials Antonin Gaultier (who is Digiki) posted on his blog. He's inviting anyone and everyone to make a remix, so have a go. Here's mine:

Cash (Hokkaido remix by Momus) (stereo mp3, 3mins 30secs, 3.5MB)