Arty Farty

The lamp-post – traditionally a holder of signs, an illuminator, adjunct to the signifier rather than the signifier itself – being used instead as a breadcrumb trail, however chromically hued, instills a confusion in the eye of the seeker who, emerging from the subterranean world where signage is all, occupying the liminal space twixt the stygian deep and the quotidian street to be navigated primarily by cartography, finds a disjunct between expectation and reality. Thus they are forced, these travellers, these seekers after art and, (controversially!) beauty, to enter into unmediated discourse with unfamiliar denizens, who – wearied by repetition, no longer receptive to the playful contradictions of the idea – employ their own ironical, satirical, mode of communication. Thus, the seeking of art, of the place of art, brings a tension and conflict, eschewing easy harmony, enacting what we may (again controversially!) call ‘art’ into the diurnal sphere.

Or, translated into English, tourists coming out of Southwark tube station and looking for Tate Modern generally expect some sort of a sign to point them in the right direction. You know, something with a little arrow, maybe a walking person, and the words ‘Tate Modern’. Instead, they stand blindly under the orange lamp-posts that are supposed to lead them there, and ask directions, usually of me. I do try to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, I really do. It’s not their fault someone decided to be just that little bit too clever …


6 responses to “Arty Farty

  1. We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us. (Marcel Proust)

  2. Indeed. Although what wisdom is to be found in the back streets of Southwark, I’m not sure …

  3. Losop, says my spam catcher. Quite.

  4. perhaps it’s an art happening in itself. i’m sure you feel culturally enriched every single time

  5. these sign people live in a different world from the rest of us.

  6. I’ll have to get back to you on the cultural enrichment. So far it just feels like irritation, but what do I know?

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