Saturday, 27 June 2009

Dancing flowers and the RA

Dancing flowers have been in the news recently (that is, the news one enjoys reading instead of news about fraud (financial and electoral), greed and destruction), so it seemed necessary to note one of the silliest and most delightful installations I've seen in a long time, at the Royal Academy degree show. The RA is a teaching college, and once a year the doors at the back of the exhibition rooms are opened, and it's possible to walk through to the studios at the back of the building, passing by cabinets of animal and human skeletons and plaster casts drawn by students since before Turner taught there, and see what the students have produced for their MA finals.

The studio that caught my attention had eight or so bicycles on racks. It became apparent that generators were connected to the back wheels, and the generators powered a display of fans. Following the sequence, the fans provided the wind to turn a small wind turbine that powered a loudspeaker. & on shelves under the loudspeaker were... rows and rows of dancing flowers. It obviously needed eight or so people to set the whole daft contraption in process, so I had to assume it worked. Heath Robinson, rather than Marcel Duchamp, in action.

The rest of the student show involved a fair amount of serious and interesting painting, and a rather magically quiet room of simple shapes in stone and card, reflected in simple drawings. It is strange that the simpler and more pared down the work is, the more complex and mysterious it becomes, the more questions it asks. Show ends June 28.

The summer exhibition upstairs was as stimulating and interesting as ever. The variety of it, in style and quality, always prompts interesting questions: why do I like this and not that? Why does this painting seem full of life and that one insipid? What's right here, what's wrong there? It was a great time to visit, soon after opening time on a Saturday morning, excellent light and not too many people. I didn't spent long there because I'd got back from a milonga hardly eight hours earlier, but I look forward to another visit soon. It's on until August 16.

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