Cleaner Mistook My Art For Rubbish – A Flying Start To My Space Show In Hackey!

Every couple of years you read in a press report that a cleaner mistook a work of art for garbage and threw it away. My personal favourite example of this cyclical news story is the Tate cleaner who in 2004 chucked away a bag of rubbish that was part of a Gustav Metzger piece on show in the Art & The 60s exhibition. The damaged rubbish bag was retrieved by the gallery.
Something similar happened to me this morning. I arrived at Space Studios in Hackney to continue installing my solo show there and found most things as I’d left them – including a hat I’d forgotten to take home the night before. Among the art selected for  my Space mini-retrospective is the version of Shredded Book I’d previously shown at the nearby FormContent gallery in 2010. To get Shredded Book to Space, I’d taken the shreddings out of the shredder and put them in a plastic bag. This enabled me to carry the top part of the shredder separately from the bucket that has contained the shreddings, and made it possible to cycle to the gallery by balancing these items (which I’d placed in various bags) on the handlebars on my bike.
This morning the two parts of the shredder where were I’d left them yesterday, but the shreddings that I hadn’t got around to putting back in the machine had disappeared! Looking about I found the shreddings in a corridor with various other bags of rubbish. I was elated by some unknown cleaner’s critique of Shredded Book – whoever dumped my art in the corridor literally considered it to be rubbish! Having found the shreddings, I placed them back inside the shredder, and I guess they’ll be safe there now that the work has been fully reassembled and restored.
Having your art work not just described as rubbish, but mistaken for garbage, is an aesthetic rite of passage. It proves you’ve really made it as a contemporary artist and that you are capable of alchemising what most people would consider to be rubbish into aesthetic gold! The fact that this has finally happened to me means way more than having had the show I’m currently installing in Hackney positively reviewed by the New York Times (when it was on at White Columns in the USA last year)! Is my work rubbish or do I transmute garbage into the living embodiment of everything that is most noble about the human spirit? Clearly I’m going to claim the latter is the case. And whether you do or don’t believe me you’ll still have to come to Space to discover the truth about this for yourself!****__
Again, A Time Machine – a Stewart Home mini-retrospective – is at SPACE, 129-131 Mare Street, London E8 3RH from  6 April until 20 May 2012. Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri 10am –5pm – Sat/Sun Noon- 6pm. And it’s free to get in!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Fred The Cleaner on 2012-04-04 09:20:36 +0000

The definition of the term “art” is a subject of constant contention and many books and journal articles have been published arguing over the answer to the question, What is Art? Definitions can be categorized into conventional and non-conventional definitions. Non-conventional definitions take a concept like the aesthetic as an intrinsic characteristic in order to account for the phenomena of art. Conventional definitions reject this connection to aesthetic, formal, or expressive properties as essential to defining art but rather, in either an institutional or historical sense, say that “art” is basically a sociological category.

Comment by Kami Mcinnes on 2012-04-04 09:57:17 +0000

yve reached the pinnacle!

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-04 10:23:01 +0000

that happened the other way around to andy warhol with some bags of his shopping but with warhol the real shopping was soon included inthe exhibit…

Comment by Adam Crighton on 2012-04-04 19:49:51 +0000

in my exhibition the art was mistaken for a cleaner and the rubbish came for the free wine.

Comment by Douglas Park on 2012-04-04 21:29:32 +0000

off to time-honoured / in good-company flying-start already! anybody met Gustav Metzger recently, how is he, any news, hopefully all well / even better? ages now since i last spoke with / saw / heard anything of or from him.

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-04 22:53:55 +0000

Hee hee, I just posted about this… how my ‘cleaning signs’ are over on the right hand side of the gallery where the cleaners came and stacked them away… even though they were on display as part of my work in the middle of the gallery floor. I guess they couldnt help themselves! Anyway, the show is on at The Mile End Pavilion til April 7th so come down if you have the chance….

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-04 23:04:38 +0000

Roddy McDevitt i really enjoyed the hockney expo at the RA cause the brilliant paintings couldnt possibly be mistaken for rubbish or shopping or cleaning signs… his paintings look fabulously valuable and artistic and fresh and new and amazing. the warhol mix-up was amusing 50 years ago but were tired of all that art that you cant tell if it’s art and it gets thrown out or theown in stuff… great art is manifestly art and anything you are not sure about is the dross, the leftovers… that joke isnt funny anymore…

Comment by Alex Dipple on 2012-04-05 01:16:50 +0000

HAHAHA… the stuff I make art with is rubbish when I get it!!!

Comment by Jon Walter on 2012-04-05 09:30:39 +0000

Your rubbish sounds great but have you checked out the rubbish on at The Barbican rght now in The Curve? Song Dong’s: Waste Not! Chinese artist Song Dong presents this extraordinary installation – a moving portrait of family life – with over 10,000 household possessions collected by his mother over five decades.

Comment by Garbage Man on 2012-04-05 13:57:23 +0000

Garbage is the future – capitalism has fucked the planet and now we’re gonna have to live off the garbage it’s spewed up!

Comment by Douglas Park on 2012-04-05 14:34:10 +0000

Tom Estes etc: the opposite of scatterpiece / floor sculpture works, arman’s ‘poubelle’s, michæl landy’s ‘scrapheap services’ etc.

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-05 15:00:23 +0000

Err yeah thanks Douglas. In this context I meant ‘cleaning up’ is the opposite of ‘making a mess’. But point taken.

Comment by Douglas Park on 2012-04-05 23:38:41 +0000

maybe its a sign of the times. malcontent is (just about all thats) available to most / all people / times / places etc.

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-06 00:38:12 +0000

ART is VISIONS preferrably hand-made. all the rest is junk and bullshit

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-06 00:59:43 +0000

oh dear… Roddy are you by any chance affiliated with the Stuckists?

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-06 10:41:49 +0000

no but i know what art is and isn’t. concept art has been disappointing punters (and getting tedious ‘headlines’ in the tabloids) for 40 lazy years… gerhard richter would be one of my favorite living artists. his recent retrospective was wonderful. for me most of the best visual art of the past 20 years has been in TV cartoons like the simpsons and south park and there is now a generation of chinese drawings artists and painters whose stuff is way better than the awful troughs of ‘brit’ art…
i like banksey and paul noble and i like rebecca horn and louise bourgeois but London is full of olh-hat junk art that is forgotten as soon as it litters another shabby ‘warehouse’ in the east-end… there is an ancient magic in drawing and painting that assemblages and found art and junk on the floor art and tricksey concept art just cant get anywhere near…

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-06 12:12:36 +0000

Dunno about Banksey… I mean isn’t his stuff just a bit of a one- liner that is easily forgotten? And there is a lot of people out there drawing and painting… but not all of it, in fact very little of it has any ‘magic’

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-06 14:06:19 +0000

there is that element to him yes but he creates extremely memorable IMAGES that go into the collective conscious. and that is what art is about. REAL art. IMAGES and VISIONS that once seen are never forgotten…

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-06 15:52:09 +0000

Yeah… or maybe its just that he has a really good PR agent… There are lots of images in advertising that are burned into the collective consciousness. Are they art too?

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-06 20:02:52 +0000

i would say that advertising IS art in a very similiar way to christian art. michaelangelo was advertising The Roman Catholic Church and Diago is advertising Guinness… both create spectacular images to do so…

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-06 20:46:11 +0000

So what you are trying to say Roddy McDevitt is that you have pretty much mainstream/trendy tastes. Middle England-ish. Same kinda stuff they hang on the walls in Whitehall these days…

Comment by Roddy McDevitt on 2012-04-06 21:35:07 +0000

Roddy McDevitt all art is an advert for itself. i loathe the whole of whitehall more than you could probably imagine but the vast majority of contemporary art is INFERIOR to classic art from piero to richter… the challenge of 21st century is to aim to be as brilliant as the best of classic art. the simpsons achieves this. so does richter. bacon got it in some of his paintings… you want to be looking at the very best paintings by picasso, klee, turner, redon, blake, caravaggio, piero, velasquez hockney and so on and trying equal and surpass their breath-taking IMAGE-MAKING… farting about with concepts is the most boring dead-end in art…

Comment by Tom Estes on 2012-04-06 22:27:37 +0000

This all sounds a bit conventional… and a little backward. Like someone who has a ‘membership’ at the Tate trying to tell artists how to do it.

Comment by bullshitdetector on 2012-04-08 14:33:44 +0000

This just proves you are a REAL artist, now, will you come around and decorate my flat? Tea, biscuits, and some lovely high grade L.S.D all provided. xx.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-04-08 21:00:49 +0000

Great – I’ll do the decoration after dropping the tabs, it will be wild!

Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-04-16 04:26:00 +0000

I guess custodians are the best art critics!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-04-16 08:21:33 +0000

They sure know how to move it around!

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