July 11, 2003
As found Art in London

Okay what's this? A three-dimensional piece of Abstract Impressionism? (That's the one where you just chuck it about at random.) The latest Brit Art imperialising of an entire room in some government-funded art palace?


It's a photo I took on my wanderings around London earlier this week. And I know it hasn't come out very well, but you get the idea. You get the picture. Is it some kind of vegetation? The roots of a huge tree that's fallen over, perhaps?

Well, you probably know already, but for those of you who don't, I'll tell you that it's the reinforced concrete bottom end of a tower block in the middle of being destroyed to make way for some boring flats. The "vegetation" is bent out of shape steel reinforcing rods after a grubbing machine has been at them.

The ex-towers were the Department of the Environment towers which used to wreck the view of the Houses of Parliament from the Wheel by looming up behind them. That piece of visual bad manners aside, I used to rather like those towers. I liked the view of them from the big square near me. But now that they're gone I can see the Wheel and Big Ben from the same square. How about that?

If you suspect that this photo is all part of my campaign to piss on Modern Art so often and so completely that it is reduced to a sodden slurry of gunge in the sewer of history, you'd be right. But actually, in its more lucid moments, I'm doing what Modern Art says I should, which is just keep my eyes open for interesting things that crop up in the real world, which look as if they could be Modern Art too.

As so often with Modern Art, this is a message that makes more sense as a piece of verbal advice. There's no need to go to the bother of making Art out of it, other than by taking a photo or two. After all, if Art is all around us, who needs it in museums?

Photography is the way to capture these sorts of things. It's one of the nicest things about photography that it can do this. Thanks to photography, we can see and record these strangenesses and spare the world the bother of lugging whatever it is into a museum.

In the olden days, I suppose someone could have done a painting, but I think that would have been a waste of scarce skilled picture making time. When there are people in the world who haven't been pictured, you shoudn't be painting demolitional serendipity, however amusing. Cameras have changed all that, glory be to them. Now all who want pictures of themselves can have them, and there is abundant camera power left over for us to note the amusingness of disintegrating tower foundations.

But it was capitalism (in the form of the cameras) that did all this. The Artists are merely tagging along behind, trying to stay relevant and to find things to do that still make some sense. Not succeeding mind, just trying.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:49 AM
Category: Modern artPhotography