Wearing Thin

20 March 2017

Dear Gillian Wearing,

Please do not send us a take-down notice for breach of (c)opyright. In return we are happy to tell our many ones of readers that your current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is on until 29 May 2017, and urge her, I mean them, to go and see it.

Yours sincerely,

John Johnson (Mr.)



The Only Way is Up

7 September 2012

Another great one by William Blake. Jacob’s Ladder (c. 1800)

Björk — Bachelorette

12 January 2011

A video by Michel Gondry that charmingly nests narratives and narratives of narratives within narratives.

Spiral Staircase

14 October 2010

This image of recursion is not done in software – it’s an amazing achievement in bricks and mortar (and a beautiful photograph):

image of spiral staircase, taken from above

Thanks to quapan. It’s presumably his or her foot that can be seen at the bottom of the photo. Nice to see the maker’s mark in the artefact itself.


3 April 2010

If TLA is a recursive acronym, it must also be allowed that T-shirt is a self-describing word. And just look at this T-shirt:

T-shirt with droste-effect picture of the wearer in a T-shirt...

photo credit: paulandstorm

Art will eat itself

14 March 2010

At the South London GaArt-binllery, it is the last day for Art Bin a show by Michael Landy. The space is taken up by a huge transparent skip into which the public are invited to throw works of unwanted art (having first signed a lengthy disclaimer). The collection of unwanted paintings, collages, photographs and sculptures contains work by Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin, included perhaps to give some credibility to the idea that Landy is not only artist but curator. Apparently by doing this he draws attention (whose?) to “the complexities surrounding the acquisition and de-accessioning of art works.”

Not surprisingly, I was attracted by the idea of a work of art made up of works of art but the realisation is a disappointment. Even watching a woman throwing canvases frisbee style across the abyss into the detritus below felt like watching some sad and futile ritual, as hollow and half-hearted as an unhappy couple clinking glasses of flat champagne on their anniversary. Far from, as the blurb claims, provoking fresh questions around disposal, destruction, value and ownership, Landy fails to say anything remotely subversive or challenging. It may be big, but it’s not clever.

The idea of art-using-rubbish transformed into art-about-art may have been  by Marcel Duchamp in 1917. Duchamp brilliantly entered a urinal for an exhibition, turned ninety degrees from it’s standard postion, signed it ‘R. Mutt’ and gave it the title ‘Fountain’.

Tracey Emin displayed ‘My Bed’ as part of her display for the Turner Prize in 1999 which included “Empty booze bottles, fag butts, stained sheets… the bloody aftermath of a nervous breakdown.”

Why I like “My Bed” so much is that everyone knows that Emin’s work is completely self-obsessed — what could be more self-referential and self-consciously, self-denigratingly humorous, than  a self-confessed narcisist exhibiting her bed,  along with a time-slice of the debris of a lifetime. Well, maybe the bed plus Tracey Emin still inside it.

Landy came to fame with his 2001 installation Break Down when he catalogued all his possessions and then systematically destroyed them including his car, and most daringly, his birth certificate.  If he had wanted to do something really provocative, Landy could have auctioned his possessions or maybe art stolen from a corporate collection on E-bay and given the funds to, say, those exposing Trafigura’s toxic dumping crimes.  Wouldn’t that have done a better job of raising issues around disposal, destruction, value and ownership.

But of course Landy’s ‘practice’ is not about change. It’s just a metaphor for recycling  the old, the tired, the clichéd and the superfluous. A metaphor for itself in other words.

It’s not that all examples of  the avant garde cannot possess the sense of depth that Trewism recently described so eloquently. Work that breaks down established ideas about art show that destruction can be creative. But Landy by appropriating the form without the content, reducing subversion to fashion statement, functions as a double-agent, re-presenting the art establishment, leaving things as they are.

Art-Bin closed at six o’clock today. You didn’t miss much.

Post Script

I thought of framing a photo of the whole work and then applying to throw it in. But although that would be in the true spirit of recursion, it would also be playing along. So instead, we at Recursively Recursive are planning a mass trespass event  tonight, entering the South London Gallery to liberate the art-works held captive in Landy’s bin. We shall then be redistributing them to White Cube, Haunch of Venison and other gallery spaces around the capital. Come join us! STOP PRESS — Following advice from our legal department, RR has decided to cancel this proposed action. We wish it to be known that this proposal was made in a spirit of light-hearted humour and was never intended to be taken seriously. If anyone has a better idea though…


18 February 2010

The Ouroboros is a mythical serpent in the form of a circle, swallowing its own tail and thereby symbolising infinity or eternity.  Feeding on itself with no need of any other food, it is re-creating itself in a never-ending circularity.

line drawing of ouroboros - a snake eating its own tail
Plato described a self-eating circular being as the first living thing in the universe – an immortal, perfectly constructed animal:

“Of design he was created thus, his own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything… nor had he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits revolving in a circle.”  (Plato, Timaeus, 33, translated by Benjamin Jowett)

mediaeval illuminated manuscipt picture of an ouroboros - a serpent eating its own tail

The notion of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. In the Pyramid of Unas dated between 2375 BC and 2345 BC, hieroglyphs on the west wall gable of the Sarcophagus chamber can be read: “A serpent is entwined by a serpent” and “the male serpent is bitten by the female serpent, the female serpent is bitten by the male serpent, Heaven is enchanted, earth is enchanted, the male behind mankind is enchanted”.  (Pyramid Texts Online, no. 233)

Thanks to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroboros

Link to Karl Lautman’s mechanical oroborous