Curating the past, hating the present, and berating the future
Ian Martin will not be curating next year’s Tamworth Biennale
MONDAY. Issue a statement denying rumours that I am to curate next year’s Tamworth Biennale.
Of course, I understand how these rumours started. I started them. What I DON’T understand is why nobody takes them seriously. In order to spare myself further humiliation, I have withdrawn my name from the shortlist.
TUESDAY. Already regretting counting myself out as biennale curator. I had some dazzling, innovative ideas. The theme was to be ‘Epic Space As Contemporary Drama’.
Instead of ‘pavilions’ or ‘rooms’, I proposed an interlinked network of stages, upon which various architectural performances could occur. I thought I’d keep it loose to allow creativity to flourish. Even when I was only ‘rumoured’ to be curating, there was huge interest in this idea.
One nation, which has to remain nameless, wanted to use the event as a sort of trade showcase. A team of actors in black polo-neck jumpers would build a stylish urban apartment from scratch and then live in it, listening to jazz and watching thrillers with subtitles.
Mostly, though, the exhibits were drearily predictable. A luminous field of tents in the shadow of a hologram cathedral. Shakespearean actors on a revolving stage, declaiming extracts from European planning law. A stage left meaningfully empty, that we may infer our own sense of what architecture means. A weird conga of ‘disenfranchised youth’ weaving around dangerous obstacles in a parable about space syntax. Tensile environments. A polished concrete and glass ‘allegory’. A lighting rig powered by the cast’s breath. A high-density boutique, its curtilage extended by 500m using ironic disco music and aromatherapy.
Never mind, there’s always next year. Plenty of time to plant rumours about my curating something really shocking at the Victoria and Albert Museum say, then complain about being monstered in the tabloids, then withdraw sulkily. I think, in the end, it’s the sulk I’m really after.
WEDNESDAY. Sketch out my masterplan for a new airport in the middle of the Thames estuary.
There would be bobbing executive lounges and no smoking anywhere in London.
The coasts of Essex and Kent would effectively be converted into duty-free malls. Fingers crossed.
THURSDAY. Meeting of the Olympic Rebadging Task Force. Games minister Suzi Towel in the chair. As usual, after prayers and apologies for absence, she leads us in a Mexican Wave. In keeping with these solemn and unostentatious times, the table-wave angle is kept under 40 degrees.
It’s not the only concession to recession. Now whenever anyone says the word ‘Olympics’ we merely murmur ‘yay’ in grim approbation.
First item on the agenda is the matter of how to create a ‘fulcrumic’ public space between the shops and the new security barrier - apparently the FBI is now allowed to erect some horrible ugly ‘people filter’ on the site without the benefit of our design competition expertise. No matter. This fulcrumic problem is really tricky because the space has to be both a hub AND ‘evolve over time to become an enticing destination’. After some discussion we decide to rebadge the space as ‘pivotal’, allowing it to move with the times.
The next item on the agenda is the Thing. The massive steel monument built by – and to the glory of – a billionaire political donor. We need a nickname, and sharpish. It’s important that the nation embraces the Thing, but it defies affection. So far (luckily) none of the nicknames – the Sex Trumpet, the Skein of Shit, the Whirlyfuck – has stuck.
Now though, its ‘shape’ is apparent. It looks like a giant pound sign lashed to a post, waiting for some legendary dragon to come and devour it. As a narrative on global capitalism it’s great, but we’re not sure this is a route we want to go down. We decide in the end to contract the nicknaming out to a Daily Telegraph columnist and grudgingly accept the consequences.
Marvellous lunch, though everyone’s careful not to enjoy it too much given the state of the economy. But there’s still much muted excitement about the legacy we’re building here, over pudding, for the 2012 Olympics. Yay.
FRIDAY. Design a Museum of Tolerance just to wind up the haters, man.
SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Picturesque 2, Photoshop 4.
SUNDAY. Nod off in the recliner. Horrible dream about 95 per cent mortgages being used to ‘create wealth’. Ugh. The lying shit Blair was in it, too.