Joseph Beuys – The Pack

This weekend we went to London and dropped in at the Tate Modern. H was very interested in seeing the Rachel Whiteread instalation in the turbine hall. Well don’t bother it was very poor indeed.

I had been hoping for a quite exciting bit of work as Rachel Whiteread can and does produce some stunning pieces of work (my last studio was covered in images of her work), unfortunately this was not one of them. It failed to engage with the space in any meaningful way, and was dwarfed by the space too. The sculptural forms created did absolutely nothing for me, each other or the space they occupied.

I think that in addition to obvious references to ice that the piece was making some kind of allusion to the warehouses where art is stored and occasionaly gets burnt in. Anyway having working in a couple of art storage places many years ago, I can say that she fails to catch the feeling. Its quite silly, what with all the work being packed in cases, but there is (at least to an artist) an almost palpable feeling of excitment in one of those places. Even without caring about whats in the boxes there is still a kind Indiana Jones, Raiders of the last Ark style excitment walking down narrow aisles with cases stacked many metres above you. She misses this entirely.

Whilst we were at the Tate something wonderous happened, quite unexpectedly (because I thought the picece was in Germany somewhere) I stumbled across ‘The Pack’ a Joseph Beuys sculpture / instalation that I never seen before in the flesh (so to speak).

‘The Pack’ is the piece of art that most inspired me to become the an artist and to make the kind of work that I do. When I was a little boy I used to sit and look at all the pictures in my dad’s art books and journals. One of these was ‘The Shock of the New’ by Robert Hughes – this was also a BBC documentary in the 80’s – so its not beyond the realms of possibility that I saw some of it too.

This photograph of a van with a pile of sledges tumbling out of it was off handedly slipped in between pictures of hundreds of paintings and even as a little kid you can tell that it is wierd and wonderful and exciting and dangerous. At that moment I knew in my heart that I would be satisfied spritually if I became a painter.

I missed the big Beuys retrospective at the Tate earlier this year (unforgiveable I know) and thought I had missed my chance to see it. So it was a truly happy moment when H pulled me through a maze of rooms and I saw the van. It’s just as exciting a piece of work in the flesh – more so for all the little details and it made my weekend. (What fabulous sledges, what glorious flash-lights, what lardy bits of lard…)

One thing that disapointed me was the crapness of the instalation, the Tate seem to have very erratic curation – sometimes it is inspired but just as often a dead badger at the side of the road could do better – too much work is just crammed in corners and squashed – the instalation in this case sucked.

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