Treasures from the wreck of the unbelievable

This is a review of the Damien Hirst exhibition called “Treasures from the wreck of the unbelivable” at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice that I posted on Trip Advisor on 19th June 2017

‘Treasures from the wreck of the unbelievable’ is an amazing, irreverent and gauche exhibition. It is by turns both beautiful and ugly, meaningful and vaccuous. The perfect place for it is Venice. By placing this work there, Hirst is sticking two fingers up to the art establishment that revere Venice as the home of great art.

The premise of the exhibition is that an ancient ship has sunk with treasures from across the world. These treasures have now been excavated from the seabed by divers and are displayed with the customary descriptions from experts. On the way in you watch a ‘documentary’ about the raising of the artefacts in which a voice-over says things along the lines of “I’m not saying it is the truth, but there could be some truth in it”. The exhibits seem at first to be plausible but later you see encrusted statues of Mickey Mouse and Hirst himself. I enjoyed wondering what would come next and confess to occasionally laughing out loud.

However, despite enjoying the irony, the size of the imagination and the craft, I also felt frustrated by the nihilism. The exhibition seemed to me to say “Don’t believe anything” / “there is no truth” / “there are no experts”. These are mantras that we have heard in Trump’s USA or UK’s Brexit and personally they make me despair. If we don’t find meaning in things, if we cant see the difference between the price of something and its value, if we cant come to appreciation of our past, then how can we feel passionate about anything. If you see a Titian painting in a Venice church you can see passion and belief. It jumps out at you. For this reason it has been captivating people for hundreds of years. Art can be amusing, irreverent, challenging, but it can also be passionate.

So if you get a chance to go, do. It is certainly an exhibition that makes you think and laugh, but… maybe… also leaves you feeling a little empty.

Leaving before the end

Posted onto Facebook on 28th March 2018

#football

I’ve had a bit of a football obsession this season. I’ve seen lots of games over the years (at least one game every season for the last forty years), but have been to more this season than in any before. I also now go to more games as a neutral supporter and, as such, spend time observing the rituals and behaviours of the spectators (I am, of course, a Performance lecturer!). Added to that I have found myself documenting each of the games and trying to work out which matches I have seen in the past (asking my poor family – can you remember if we saw West Ham v Derby in Oct 1981?)

Something that happens at football matches that wouldn’t happen in, say, the theatre is that, with five minutes to go, you see a steady trickle of people making their way to the exits. I understand this to be, to avoid the traffic after the game. I make a point of not doing this. I feel I have paid for the whole game, which is expensive enough as it is, and often the drama is at the end.

To back this up, this season, I have so far seen seventeen professional football matches (all leagues and all domestic cup competitions) and, in those games, there have been 43 goals. However, 12 of those goals were scored in the last 5 mins or in injury time. That’s well over a quarter of the goals in those matches that, had I left early, I would have missed.

If you think about it, it makes sense, too. At the end of the game the players are more fatigued, probably concentrating less and might need to push forward to salvage a draw or victory. There are bound to be more goals.

I confess, there’s one further reason I don’t leave early. Once, on 10th January 1999 (Yes, I know the date – I have the programme!), I was watching West Ham being trounced by Man Utd at Old Trafford. People around me had had enough and started leaving. I decided to follow them and as I reached the exit there was a cheer behind me. Frank Lampard had scored a consolation goal for us. If you know your football, you would know that he went on to set records for the number of goals he scored from midfield (something like 175 in the domestic game). I saw him score other goals for West Ham and so, in some ways this was no big deal, but I have always regretted missing that one. And… I didn’t miss the crowds and almost certainly arrived home no earlier.

So, if you dont like crowds and want to avoid the traffic, then, don’t go to a football match! And if you do, stay to the very end. You never know what might happen… what little bit of Performance might take place.

Update… In the end I saw 19 games (not including the U17s UEFA championships, which were 80 minute games) with 48 goals. 13 were after 85 mins (24%)

P.S.

P.S. or post script is something that you put at the end of something, not the start. It is an after thought. It is something that wasn’t important enough to be included in the main body of what you are writing, but you think at the end that you still ought to mention it, just in case. It is even relegated to a place beyond your signature; as if you are unsure about even putting your name to it.

This is how I start this blog, by considering it as a post script. I have often written my views about ‘things’ on facebook that are perhaps too long for social media and friends have said to me ‘set up a blog’ instead. I feel for them. I think they probably read what I say out of loyalty rather than interest, but some of these postings have also developed into interesting interactions which I have found useful and stimulating.

Social Media likes to be ‘of the now’; to be the script and not the post-script. It encourages me to map ‘where I am now’, both geographically or in terms of mood. However, I tend to be more reflective and write about yesterday or ‘earlier’ and I’m not sure that’s the way to use it. You see, I am a bit of a ponderer. I like to ruminate, cogitate, and contemplate. Things don’t necessarily make sense to me immediately, but, after a bit of thinking about it, they do. Or, at least, they do ‘a bit more’. I want to record something after it has happened rather than when I’m there.

A couple of years ago I did a teaching course (the HE version of a PG teaching qualification) and I was introduced to the Kolb learning cycle. Kolb suggests that knowledge is created through “the transformation of experience”. His learning cycle suggests that people have an experience, reflect on it, come up with new thoughts or ideas, which they then try out. The trying out of a new idea is in itself a new experience and so the cycle starts again. This made sense to me, as did his thoughts about learning styles. Although I feel that people can exhibit a range of learning styles, rather than being defined by one, I was interested to assess myself as an observer (/ feeler). I think I am.

Therefore, I find myself watching things, thinking about them and trying to make sense of them. A blog is a way of putting a voice to all this… a way of shaping and testing my musings and a way of seeing if anyone thinks the same way.

Therefore this blog will be my musings on things I have experienced or perhaps observed, but I should also confess to the nature of the lens through which I view the world. I see the world through my eyes, of course, and make sense of them inside my head and I am different from anyone else. We all are! However I am happy for people to understand something of where my world view has come from, so they can forgive for what they might perceive of as ignorance.

Therefore, I openly acknowledge that I am a white male, born in the late 1960s to parents who both went on to study for Psychology degrees at the Open University. My family are liberally-minded and spent many years supporting people they considered as “less fortunate” than themselves. I also went on to study Theatre at University, ran a theatre company for almost twenty years and became an academic teaching and researching in the fields of Applied Theatre and Performance. I was also brought up in Essex and spent countless hours and far too much money following West Ham United. I am interested in many things, but in particular the arts, politics, sport and especially football, but if I write about any of these things I will do so as a Performance academic. I see ‘performance’ all around us. It is how I see the world.

Finally, my hopes… I hope I feel the muse (at least once a month), I hope I make some sense and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Ashley (Sheffield, feeling apprehensive)

P.S. there’s some stuff I have written in the past, which I am going to post on here too.

P.P.S. I’ve also written quite a few ‘scripts’ and so can think of the period post-script to be the time just before the production. It’s the moment before the next of Kolb’s “concrete experiences”