ANON: TWO TEXTS ACCOMPANYING EXHIBITION AT 33 ARTS CENTRE
Despite its obvious function as a guide to the Anon installation, the present text has not been composed with the intention of attaching a fixed meaning to the exhibition.
Anon has been installed with a view to disrupting those productive and administrative procedures that tend to reduce the role of the audience (at least in terms of appearance) to that of passive spectators.
The title of the show is an indication of the participants' wish to question the status granted to the so called 'creator' in the production of culture. However, despite the title, it would have been counter-productive for those participating in the exhibition to remain 'completely anonymous', since this would result in undue attention being focused upon their possible identities (cf. The Residents). Thus while our names have not been given 'headline' status (for example by placing them on the invitation card for the 'private view'), we haven't made any great secret of 'who we are'.
A number of tactics have been employed in an attempt to prevent those individuals stunted by laziness and vested interest from adopting a purely contemplative attitude towards the installation. Upon entering the gallery, visitors find themselves under a spotlight and in front of a reception desk. To proceed, one must turn right. The intention here is to reinforce (by analogy) a conscious awareness of how town planners, architects and others, seek to predetermine our movement within the urban environment; simultaneously, it is intended to provoke a critical response to the 'art space' as a site of Power.
While Power always flows in two directions, there is a great deal to be done before such flows are brought into a state of equilibrium. Within the realm of 'the arts', a general recognition of the productive role played by the audience in the creation of culture would go a long way towards curbing the snobbery and elitism that is endemic throughout the contemporary cultural scene.
A short rant concerning our 'Cultural Condition'
With the reduction of public spending on culture, it is possible - particularly in more 'experimental' fields - for 'autonomous' elements to destroy the hegemony of the bland initiatives favoured by grant dispensing bodies. In particular areas - which will never be 'financially viable' or 'attractive' to business sponsors - grant cutting, which monetarists imagine delivers culture to the 'free market' (as though culture were no more than a superstructural effect of the economy!), actually offers control of entire sectors of the arts to those whose hatred of capitalism is the most fanatical (and who are quite prepared to 'work' without any financial 'reward').
A major component of such 'fanaticism' is the refusal to make universalist claims for any form of cultural production (and to mock these and similar assertions that artists have traditionally used to 'justify' their work). A genuinely 'radical' cultural practice must reject essentialism and simultaneously recognise the reality of the Power relationships that characterise our society. (Post-modernists reject essentialism in theory while simultaneously exploiting the humanist ideology of 'romantic' and 'modernist' art whose legacy enables them to receive grants and enjoy state financed teaching careers. On the subject of what characterises this society, these nouveaux Nietzscheans - or at least the Baudrillardian wing of this 'movement' - make the completely ridiculous claim that Power has 'disappeared').
However, the aforesaid should not be mistaken for some form of neo-Marxism - although capitalist society is characterised by gross inequalities of Power, there is (at present) no unified class in the process of carrying through a collective programme to transform social relations (nor is there any historic 'inevitability' that such a class formation will appear in the foreseeable future). For these reasons, I have adopted a strategy of struggle - here and now - in an area which is of immediate concern to me (rather than attempting to 'organise the class' or act as 'a torch of enlightenment' to others). In any case, organisation along the lines of 'new social movements' seems eminently more sensible than attempting to impose traditional Marxian class models on a society that has undergone enormous changes since these were first outlined (and even 150 years ago such models were worse than useless since any 'genuine' understanding of class requires more than mere economic reductionism).
The Marxist-Leninist assertion that human society consists of an economic base and a cultural and political superstructure is utter nonsense; there is a dynamic interaction between economics, culture and politics (any of these categories may assume dominance at a specific time according to the interplay of historical factors). An analogous pattern of interaction exists between production and consumption (since the onset of industrialisation neither of these two categories has enjoyed a state of permanent dominance over the other). Hence my concern to emphasise the productive role played by the audience in the cultural sphere. Concomitant with this concern is a rejection of the idea that there is a 'radical and politicised body of semi-passive consumers' eagerly awaiting the opportunity to attend events such as the Anon installation (and it is for this reason that I have seized upon the opportunity to site work in locations where it will be seen by individuals who have not planned to view it - i.e. the display units located in Luton shopping centre).
Anon - 33 Arts Centre, Luton February/March 1989
2010 Gallery Work by Stewart Home
Becoming (M)other at T1/2 Artspace
Vermeer II (a solo exhibition by Stewart Home)
Ruins of Glamour at Chisenhale Gallery
Graphic used for Anon exhibition as featured on cover of catalogue and invitations to opening etc.
Stewart Home - Arndale Shopping Centre, Luton, 1989 installation. This was an outside addition to the collaborative installation Anon at the 33 Arts Centre, Luton, February/March 1989. It's in an advertising display unit at the Arndale Shopping Centre. Two bottles - one with a high alcohol content (barley wine), the other Vanish Bleach - on plinths, plus some text. The slogan in front of the plinth with the bleach read "BACK TO NATURE" (in caps) - and it is believed the text in front of the other plinth read 'THE JOYS OF CULTURE' (in caps). And don't forget to check the lovely painted backdrop on the rear wall - only visible in one of the three photos here. Sound from speaker by John Wynne (collaged tape loops of found material).
Oops, I've lost my slides of this show, if anyone out there has any images of the installation inside the gallery please contact me. The pictures of my work in the shopping display unit are all I have.