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I Got an Art Student to Explain London's Freize Art Fair to Me

As it was my first time to Frieze, and I know as much about art as your grandma knows about the gender binary, I got a friend who is a hoity-toity art student at the Royal Academy to look at it with me.

by Joe Bish
Oct 6 2016, 4:10pm

The author, using some expensive German wifi.

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

For those who don't know, Frieze Art Fair is basically a giant yard sale for fragrant French millionaires who dress like David Bowie and Audrey Hepburn to buy $20,000-worth of fluorescent light bulbs arranged in the shape of a swastika. Every year in Regent's Park, in swanky central London, a giant tent is erected to hold many galleries' worth of paintings, sculptures, films, and all the rest of it. Luminaries like Anish Kapoor and Jon Rafman had stuff going on, and even Channel 4 was present with its Random Acts art film series, one of which included a man sort of walking up a hill in sepia (the rest were OK, though).

As it was my first time to Frieze, and I know as much about art as your grandma knows about the gender binary, I got a friend who is a hoity-toity art student at the Royal Academy to look at some #art with me and tell me what he thinks of it. Leave us a comment below, and tell us what you think of the art. (I'm guessing most of you will just say, "Art is dumb. I like vaping and power metal.")

Yuri Pattison

Pleb Says:

I quite like the plants. I'm assuming these are meant to be some sort of pillows. It looks like it's meant to be in space, like we've colonized Mars and now we need to grow plants and you know... colonize Mars. And this video is saying, like, "The world's gone upside down!" Because why are we colonizing Mars before we've sorted out Earth? That kind of thing.

Art Student Says:

This is a section of Yuri Pattison's installation at the Chisenhale Gallery that just recently closed, and this part of it has got a lot of pot plants. I know that Yuri was quite closely linked with Second Home (an office in Shoreditch that looks like a futuristic 60s ad agency) and other innovative workspaces across London. Second Home uses pot plants in their offices because they look a lot at social Darwinism—well, not social Darwinism, though there is social Darwinist tendencies in it, but they look at it in evolutionary psychology within the workplace. Pot plants and looking at plants makes you more efficient within the workplace. That video is, not of Second Home, but another futuristic work space in London, and he's filmed it upside down, which seems a little bit arbitrary in my opinion, but I do find his work very interesting.

Joseph Kosuth

Pleb Says:

As you can see, it says, "In logic what is unnecessary is also useless." It's a sunflower-yellow-neon sign. I don't really get neon art, and I don't really get why it exists or why people think it's good. I feel like it would have a similar effect if it was just written on the wall.

Art Student Says:

With neon art, it's got a very long history that started off basically trying to take consumer culture and the culture of advertising pre-LED technology, but because it's become such a mainstay of artistic language, it doesn't retain that same element of implicit critique of consumer culture, so now it's become a very pretty method of saying something that is arbitrarily philosophical and then making it into an object that is quite easily sellable.

(The art student discovers that the piece wasn't made by some chancing cunt last week and is actually a Joseph Kosuth work from the 90s)

This is a Joseph Kosuth piece from 1993. This SHOULD be in Frieze Masters and not in Frieze London because Frieze London should have contemporary art, and this isn't contemporary. It's from when neon art was in its genesis, and he is one of the most innovative forerunners in neon art, which is quite interesting.

Bjarne Melgaard

Pleb Says:

This seems to be some sort of comment on scally blokes with shaved heads, but who are gay, which is a big thing, like those guys in those chav porn films. Obviously it resembles an advert, and it has a fake Supreme logo at the bottom with the "e" in brackets, not sure what that means. Maybe it's something about street wear being... A gay thing? I don't know.

Art Student Says:

The commas around the "e" in Supreme is a nod to Semiotext(e), which is the publishing house that Chris Kraus started with some other people, and I Love Dick was Chris Kraus's 1997 book that has become quite a cult classic within art theory and has been reprinted again, and Chris Kraus has become a massive figure within the art world. I Love Dick is all about her semi-confessional—well, it blurs the boundaries between confession and fiction based upon her falling in love with an academic called Dick who comes to dinner with her husband, and she begins a series of letters to Dick that she never posts, and the whole book is written in this narrative form of "Dear Dick," and a diary entry every day, and looking at her life in a starkly confessional way. It's become a piece of classic feminist literature. The light box is obviously a nod to modern forms of advertising. Supreme and Semiotext(e) are at the bottom, it's probably a collaboration. Chris Kraus is also part of the Bernadette Corporation, which blurs the boundaries between fashion and art.

Richard Billingham

Pleb Says:

In front of me is a corpulent old woman with Asian masks on her wall giving boiled eggs with salt and pepper, I'd imagine, to her elderly husband. I would guess he's got a dog next to him. An image of domesticity in the old working-class England, which is fabulous stuff. It doesn't feel intrusive, as some of these types of things do.

Art Student Says:

Richard Billingham took these photographs of his own family initially as subject matter for paintings, but because the photos themselves were so powerful and interesting he ended up just publishing them as pictures. They've become his most famous work, and they show his alcoholic father, his quite physically overbearing mother, and another series shows his weightlifting brother. They're extremely beautiful and powerful, but within Frieze, the obvious working-class taste and degraded settings have a certain fetishistic appeal in this scenario, which kind of ruins it for me because he was my favorite photographer when I was a teenager. I don't like them being here. I don't want these cunts seeing it.

Latifa Echakhch

Pleb Says:

I like this big old bell, because it looks old, and I quite like old art. If I had to pick a kind of art that I like it's probably old shit like paintings and old sculptures, you know, classical art, from the classical era. As much as it pains me to see a lovely big bell all broken and stuff, my simplistic brain is telling me that all this old bollocks can go fuck itself, and we can smash it up because it's not going to last forever. Or maybe it's about religion. Or maybe it's about the Liberty Bell.

Art Student Says:

I don't have much to say about this to be honest. Obviously bells are a very sculptural and sonorous object, and when they're broken, they cease to be sonorous, and so there's a rupture here in the function and the physical, materiality of the object. Bells are objects of celebration or European Christian architecture. It's titled Forever, so the fact that it's broken is potentially a comment on the ultimate downfall of Euro-centric Western Judeo-Christianity.

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski

Pleb Says:

This piece here looks exactly like something I see every time I go to an art show, which is very rare, whether it's an A-level art show or something of this caliber. There always seems to be some kind of shiny, ceramic with twisted metal thing, which is painted in loads of sickly greens and blues that are quite unappealing. I don't know why this style is just constantly here at art things, and I don't know what it is about it that people seem to enjoy, because to me it just looks like standard shit.

Art Student Says:

This piece has some kind of aquatic theme going on. There are turtles—it's sort of an underwater fantasy world. It's a piece of stand-alone sculpture that has reinforced bars as the base. I don't know whether maybe this has been cast like this. To be honest, I have very little to say about this.

Darja Bagajić

Pleb Says:

This seems to be a woman who is bleeding out of her mouth in a fountain-esque situation. The blood is coming out of her mouth, and then it's kind of collecting at the bottom and being pumped up back to the top, and the blood just keeps coming, which I quite like. I'm not sure whether I like it because it's got blood or because it has a naked woman on it or because it has a kind of black metal aesthetic, but I'm pretty much 100 percent down with it. I think this is good art.

Art Student Says:

I don't have some kind of interesting take on it. I just think it's really good. It seems like a continuous fountain that is pushing out liquid and sucking it back up, in a similar way that a fountain in the grounds of a grand palace would. These images seem to be taken from something like amateur pornography, slightly sado-masochistic pornography, and the objects are bleeding, so there's something to do with physical materiality, representation of a kind of... not an objectified female form but perhaps emancipated through its objectification. The piece itself physically is exquisitely finished and is a fantastic object.

Sylvia Fluery

Pleb Says:

The thing about video art—and I'm no connoisseur on video art—I find is that a lot of it seems to try very hard to look like 90s fitness videos and stuff like that, and they're always filmed in this really weird way, like poorly produced Australian kids TV shows. Remember Round the Twist? All art films to me just look like Round the Twist, and I don't know why. I find video art weird because I feel like my relationship with art is that I look at something and I study it for a bit and I work out how it makes me feel, whereas with this it just keeps throwing things at me, and I don't really know what to make of it. This is fine as far as I can tell. But if it was made in 1993, it would have been new shit, no?

Art Student Says:

Well, you've taken the words right out of my mouth, to be honest, because this could be a Goldsmiths degree show piece. But then again, the fact that this looks so modern to us now shows you that there are so few new ideas with contemporary artists, and you could go round a graduate's show in 2016, and it would look brand new in 1993, whenever this piece was. At the time, this probably would have been very innovative and a comment on an industry that is so subsumed into the mainstream now that we don't even consider it as something separate, whereas at the time these fitness videos were a relatively new thing. These videos have become a cliché now. This piece has lost the power it would have had in the 90s.


So there you have it. Some views on art from a fucking idiot (me) and a pretentious jerk (him). I hope you enjoyed it and learned something about aesthetics in the process. I'm away to watch Bob Ross paint a cabin in a snowy wood. That's real art.

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