Thursday, 1 February 2007


I've spoken before about the local free paper and it's penchant for non-news, but this week it carried a more solid item (lifted mainly from the Council's website) on the newest of Gateshead's public artworks.

There's a railway viaduct near the Tyne Bridge and in five of its archways there are now five words, each made of aluminium and LED lights, attached to plywood.

The words are NO, NO, NO, NO and yes, you've got it, NO.

Miles Thurlow and Cath Campbell are the artists responsible. Obviously, something as profound and complex does take two artists to create it. Thurlow said:

We were interested in the idea of installing a text piece that raises questions about its surroundings and what that could mean.

It's deliberately ambiguous. By giving an answer, it forces you to find a question. The meaning comes from the person who's looking at it, and not directly from the piece itself.

It works like a mirror, making you reflect and question your surroundings, political situations and perhaps even your personal life. It's very subtle and you almost don't notice it as you walk past.

It's designed to catch the corner of your eye and to start you thinking. We liked the idea of people just chancing upon it and wondering why it is there and what it might mean.

I think these people live in another world from my own, which only intersects with mine to the very slightest degree.

My dictionary gives some of the meanings of subtle as: mysterious or evasive, hard to grasp; perceptive or acute; ingenious, elaborate, clever.

None of these applies from my perspective and I wonder what the good folk of Gateshead will think . I don't think it "forces you to find a question," other than why someone should bother to have made this thing.

Rather than subtle, I think I'd go for vapid - insipid, lacking interest; flat, dull - but more likely pretentious - making an excessive claim to great merit or importance.

I'll say this about text-based art: it makes you value the meaning of words.


Philip said...

Yes but no but ...

Mr Zip said...

How right you are and yet how very wrong ...