Response to Waterlog: Fables of the Saturation (Saturn’s Rings)


The Collection Lincoln.

Running from September 15 to December 16 2007, rx this group show featured new commissions by seven leading artists, all on the theme of the water drenched landscapes of the east of England.

In particular, the film, photography, sound and text works are inspired by the writings of WG Sebald in The Rings of Saturn. In the novel, the German-born writer describes a (fictional) walking tour in the East of England, where he lived for more than 20 years.

What follows is part review, part polemic written after viewing the show on Monday 24th September 2007.

Surrendering the Physical Space

Third area triumphalism: sponsored by Ace East Anglian Regeneration and Film and Video Umbrella + etc and so throw back to 1970’s and 80’s. – who makes ‘videos’ any more? Work that looks good on the internet or in theory but lacks depth in practice. Worst culprit Finlay and Guy Moreton = bad photos + bad concrete poetry = good we are told….

More panning shots = film and ‘authenticity’ – landscape photos that make up in scale and printed ‘quality’ what they lack in composition – cf. Raymond Moore….no contest this is ‘illustration’ that all.

Spurious commentary, faux text art, limp ideas conceived as mediocrity piggybacking on other artists e.g. let’s throw a few references to Benjamin Brittan in. Indeed only the bell-ringing piece reveals any kind of purely aesthetic plausibility. Tacita Dean’s ‘art-umentary’ was unavailable but looks like more post Taylor-Woodisms…probably post Arena solipism. Leave it to the professionals. Two artists implicitly quote Michael Hamburger as subject – again hoping he will provide intellectual ‘ballast’ for shaky boats they are floating?

Is this the ‘High Water Mark’ we are seeing of a certain kind of modern irony (post -anti -recycled- ironicism at that). Concrete poetry, deadpan documentary – the assimilation of ‘museum collection’ pieces (Pope) which trade faux morbidity and memorial incompetance for genuine creativity. Pseudo-memory tricks and use of ‘real’ people on trips around Lincoln may set up nicely the next funding opportunity angle but says nothing about the actual area..historical skimming…internet knowledge substituted for depth and reality.

A landscape without a landscape…..

A quick check reveals that all the artists ‘involved’ in project have no real connection to the landscape..less in fact than Sebald himself…truly OUTSIDER ART…..playing to gallery and patronising to locality and locals.

The waterlogged Raft of The Medusa a la Gericault.

Compare with a ‘real’ memorials like the USAF bomber crew signatures on ceiling of the Eagle, Cambridge or Swan at Lavenham.

Sebald’s oblique desire to get at the ‘truth’ is acknowledged as being ‘unobtainable’.

These artworks are imitative, illustrational and sometimes simply non-sensical….but they act the part proffering a oblique sense of their own worth as ‘art objects’ no matter that their formation based on pilfering and quotation not inward depth.

When the physical nature of an art/i/fact is surrendered totally to intellectual ‘re-fabrication’ the fabric itself becomes immaterial (literally) – disolved and drowned in dissonance and (dis)illusion.

A fish viewed through water offers us a mangled image. These are waterlogged ideas…weighed down by their own conceits and leaving no room for trancendence or fulfillment.

We emerge exausted as if having clogged our way across a muddy field. Saturnation.

For a very pretty website which applauds itself throughout go to…