Driving along a country lane in Hertfordshire, we came across a farm of Jersey cows with an unusual shed in the courtyard. From a Star Trek-like vending machine, you can dispense a litre of raw milk into a glass bottle, which you pay for by dropping your cash into a little cardboard box. You wonder if the cow’s on the other side of the shed, legs akimbo and squirting directly into the machine!
You wouldn’t get this in London. The box was filled with around £50 in coins that honest people had paid for their bottle of fresh, unpasteurised cow juice. Following a whoosh of blinding steam, the creamy milk oozes seductively into the newly sterilised bottle. And then you’re free to leave, having been trusted to make your payment and leave a comment on a post-it note about the convenience of the whole exercise. Before we left, a sign on the wall caught our eye and, following its instructions, we rang the designated number to order freshly prepared, delicious Jersey cow’s milk ice cream – honeycomb, banoffee and Baileys flavours.
Being in the country reveals a stark disparity to London. It’s so laid back, and about as far as you can mentally go from the hubbub of the city – although, as you may have noticed, I find peace in the many galleries I visit during my working week. On Tuesday, Kathryn-from-Ohio and I visited the two current exhibitions at Tate Britain. The first was a remarkable pairing of Victorian photographs with Pre-Raphaelite paintings – and the second: Conceptual Art in Britain (1964-‘79).
Conceptual art is very much a marmite genre. Many times, I’ve heard people saying ‘I could do that, I could have done better, this is crazy…’ Yes, but you haven’t, you didn’t and, as mad as you might think it is, it’s earned someone a great deal of money and status in the art world. They had the idea to present it to the public; it’s as simple as that.
My favourite piece was ‘Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges}’ described as ‘an example of a structure made using organic unstable materials and ordered by time rather than a fixed, spatial or volumetric composition.’ It made the boys laugh. What was originally a pyramid built of oranges is now (at the time of writing!) a wooden square filled with a low covering of fruit. The point of the artwork is that viewer participation changes its molecular form – something I thought about as I ate my free orange the next day!
Kathryn and I commented on the verbose language used to describe the art throughout the gallery and I made some passing reference to my plain English editing work. I don’t do so much of this now, although I still run training courses to show businesses how to write in plain English without waffle and jargon in order to get their message across clearly with maximum impact.
So it was very amusing – and annoying – to see that someone had, in fact, turned this into a work of art! It was actually a team of three people who had targeted art galleries in the late 90s to critique their press releases under the cover of offering free advice. They faxed their annotated versions to the galleries with scores out of ten and useful, interesting and – quite frankly – rude comments. I could have done that…
Oh well, I’ll have some poetry in the ‘100 Madonnas’ exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in September – hopefully it’s written in plain enough English to get the message across. And hopefully you’ll come along to the gallery to see the 100 pieces on display – the preview is 8th September, 6pm-9pm.
As I don’t know any song lyrics about oranges, I thought I’d choose something from the period covered by the conceptual art exhibition. I’ve written about Cat Stevens recently, but chose him again today as he’s Joey’s favourite artist (musical, not conceptual) and it is Joey’s special week. “If you want to leave, take good care, hope you make a lot of nice friends out there…” No. no one’s leaving, but it certainly is a wild world.
If you’d like to know more about getting your business message across in a dynamic, clear and understandable way, give me a call… or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.