Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

July 29 2011

Is the Tate too good for Danny Boyle?

Patrick Keiller's video at Tate Britain is hardly a surprise – he's an arty director. But where are all the mainstream film-makers?

Patrick Keiller, poetical and meandering independent director of such films as London and Robinson in Space, is to create an installation at Tate Britain. He joins an elite of cinematic auteurs, including Peter Greenaway and Atom Egoyan, who have crossed the line from showing in cinemas to showing in museums – in Egoyan's case in London's abandoned Museum of Mankind several years before it became the Haunch of Venison gallery.

Keiller makes complete sense for such a commission. But does he, in fact, make too much sense in this context? Like Greenaway, who has found it natural to translate his deconstructive interest in images into installations that interpret great paintings such as The Last Supper, Keiller is – well, he's arty. His meditations are not far from video art and have surely influenced it. So he will fit snugly into the Tate's atmosphere.

I think it would be more interesting to bring film directors into art galleries who do not come from essentially the same culture. What might happen if mainstream directors were invited to the Tate?

The team behind The King's Speech might curate a moving display of royal portraiture at Tate Britain, while Chris Morris could be let loose on Tate Modern. But perhaps Morris does not count as a mainstream film-maker. OK, then let Danny Boyle follow up his National Theatre production of Frankenstein with a gothic art extravaganza that fills both Tates with light, noise, dry ice, groaning naked monsters and the works of William Blake.

Actually, this is not a purely facetious argument. Why is it so unlikely that Boyle would stage an exhibition at the Tate? He did the National Theatre. Many Hollywood stars appear on the London stage. But when it comes to film-makers in art galleries, it is only the ones who are already close to the art world who are invited. To put it another way, why would the same middle-class audience who flocked to see Boyle's Frankenstein smirk at a noisy Tate exhibition curated by the same man?

It's because art galleries are smothered in snobbery. We check in our real cultural passions at the door, put on a clever face, and prepare for a couple of hours' posing. Ah, a fine video work by Keiller, so restrained and boring – I mean profound. Art has to fulfil a set of criteria: to be reserved, abstract, conceptual – not because there is a modernist revolution going on (there isn't) but because the ritual of visiting a gallery is a ritual of social definition and differentiation: a way of showing off. It is the opposite of a dark cinema where you become part of an egalitarian crowd.

Obviously I don't think this is the whole truth about art and art galleries – but read Distinction by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who really did think it was the whole story. Looking at art should be and can be as passionate and genuine as enjoying a good film. But the culture of art-going gets in the way of that innocent eye. Art shorn of snobbery would look very different, and be a lot more fun. There might even be popcorn. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...