Today’s ‘Weekly Fairfax’ brings us glad tidings at last. The humiliating mess of old corrugated iron that has blighted the view at Matiatia is to be done away with after five ignoble years.
The report suggests that the mess will be ‘Decommission
ed’ which I suppose is pretentious Art-Speak for ‘Put on the back of a lorry and hauled away like the rubbish it is’.
Good riddance too say I. I should point out that I am not a fan of the biannual display of fatuous nonsense perpetrated on the western extremity of the island. I have been talked into visiting it on a couple of occasions and have always come away seething with annoyance. I always find myself wondering who sits in judgment over the array of fraudulent fripperies presented for inclusion for Sculpture on the Gulf. How do they decide which of the offerings are the work of people who genuinely believe themselves to be ‘Artists’, and which are simply submitted by those who are, quite frankly, taking the piss?
Whether the so called ‘Sculptor’ Jeff Thomson was in the ‘Over-Refreshed or Under-Medicated’ category and actually thought his ludicrous roll of metal somehow qualified as art or was simply possessed of a foolish sense of humour regarding a spare roll of roofing material that the organizers failed to spot I have no idea. Whatever the real facts we the ratepayers got stuck with it. There it sat on the hillside, giving visitors the impression that the local building industry was in the habit of dumping unwanted construction waste in whatever convenient spot presented itself and that the locals couldn’t be bothered to clean it up.
The ninnies are back at it this Summer. What fresh horrors will we find displayed, or, even worse, purchased on our behalf for display on the island in perpetuity? Something involving five avocados and a headless Barbie doll glued to an old fashioned bathtub I expect.
So to celebrate, I’d like to dig up a story I wrote a few years ago after my first visit to Sculpture on the Gulf. I called it ‘The Emperor’s new Sculpture’.
Are you sitting comfortably?
“Once upon a time there was a foolish old Emperor who delighted in spending his subject’s money on strange and wonderful things. One day he said to himself, “I must stage and exhibition of sculpture! It will be my finest work! Challenging and inspirational all at once.”
He sent his town criers out into the town to announce the event and everyone waited in anticipation for the opening day.
Sadly though, no matter how hard the Emperor tried, he could not produce a single worthwhile sculpture. Not that this stopped him. Oh dear me no… His efforts were dragged up onto a hillside overlooking the harbour and his loyal subjects turned out, clutching packed lunches and reading the notes from the splendid programme. How they marveled at the Emperor’s skill! What learned comments they made!
Everyone was happy until a small boy in the crowd piped up; “The Emperor has NO TALENT!” he cried, “It’s just bits of wood and metal stuck in the ground making the place look untidy!”
The people shrieked in horror! “How can you say such things?” Said they. “See what vision and skill our emperor has! Take his sculpture ‘A Scream in the Silence, Option 5’ What a statement! How can you not be moved by it’s depth of communication?”
“Easy”, said the boy, “since the piece in question consists of four rolls of Gladwrap wound around an old valve radio with a stale bun placed on top. I’m likewise unmoved by exhibit seven, Voices Across the Distance, which, according to the programme, speaks to our deepest longing for communion with our inner selves, yet turns out on closer inspection to be nothing more than an old bus seat with a telephone directory nailed to it. Very deep I’m sure.”
The people stirred uneasily. “Well how about this untitled piece then?” they said. “It clearly shows the reality of technology in decay, a cogent and challenging indictment of our consumerist frenzy. Not e the way that the artist has deliberately left the exhibit out of the catalogue. Such irony!”
The boy smiled. “Or is it just that the piece in question is not actually part of the exhibition in the first place?” said he, “But is in fact a rusting Ford Falcon that has been sitting there in the ditch since the local blacksmith parked it there by accident late one night after a rather good party?”
By this time the people were beside themselves with fury. “How can you be so blind to genuine creative talent?” They cried, “This exhibition is one of the greatest thing we have ever seen! Take exhibit twelve for example… “Ah yes”, said the little boy, the word ‘Fraudulent’ picked out in canvas letters and secured to the ground with plastic forks. Possibly more honest than the piece next to it entitled Intimations of Motherhood (A Sonnet), that appears to be nothing more than an assortment of kitchen implements glued to a sheet of Gib Board. Fascinating. It must have taken hours to do…Yes indeed, you people seem to know a lot about art. Mind you, I know a fair bit about what drops out of the back end of male cows, and when I see that the People’s Choice Award has been given to exhibit ten, Lunch in the Wilderness which seems to my untrained eye to be a stuffed wolverine sandwiched between two paving slabs then I know I’ll be looking for a clean patch of grass to wipe my gumboots clean.”
At this point a wonderous thing happened. The people, realising that the little boy was wiser than his years, rose up as one and threw the foolish emperor into the harbour, where he sank with barely a ripple.
And they all lived happily ever after……..”