Monday, March 07, 2005

A load of old rubbish

Yesterday I cooked a lunch of scrambled eggs made with smoked salmon, chopped chives and grated lemon zest on toast, as inspired by the NYT article on what chefs eat when not on duty. Then we went to the Tomoko Takahashi exhibition at the Serpentine.

Most people collect objects at some point during their lives, from stamps and CDs to jewellery and vintage cars. We've all rummaged through car boot sales, antique shops, record fairs and eBay at one time or another, the heart racing as we locate our treasured booty. I used to collect Indian stamps, bootleg Bowie cassettes and Enid Blyton books, but as we moved from house to house (nine moves during my childhood), I lost them and most of my toys. For most of us, collecting is a private affair, but there are others who are driven to share their collections.

Britain's oldest museum, The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, began life in 1683 as the displayed collection of an antiquarian, astrologer and alchemist. Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum also began with the eclectic collection of a single collector, and still today resembles a dark and cluttered "cabinet of curiosities". More recently, Robert Opie's collection of packaging and advertising materials -- items we all throw away -- formed the basis of Opie's Museum of Memories in 1963.

The Japanese-born and London-trained artist Tomoko Takahashi's fascination with objects as historically and personally significant has led to several installations, the most recent of which include toys, games, puzzles, old furniture, desk lamps, typewriters and computers found in car boot sales, skips and museum basements.

On the surface, these objects appear to have been flung into every corner and across every surface -- even the walls -- of the gallery, but Takahashi is as interested in order and classification as in randomness and chaos. Looking at her work at the Serpentine, it is obvious that she places great importance on a specific set of complex principles, perhaps known only to her, to create distinct environments.

So different toys are grouped together in islands of colour and function: from the rusted gardening utensils, astro turf and farmyard animals that inhabit one room; through to the playing cards that linearly unite -- in ascending order -- picture frames on the wall of another; and to the broken scalextric tracks, model cars, wires and computer peripherals of a darkened third.

According to notes -- to herself and to her assistants -- scribbled on floors and walls, the artist's process is just as important as the final art piece. Photos reveal that she ate and slept in the Serpentine while constructing her installation, and photocopied posters show which car boots sales she visited to source her treasures. I read somewhere that her sense of ritual is inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony -- skills taught to her by her grandmother.

The Guardian hated the exhibition, describing it as "a very pretentious shop window installation". This is the first Takahashi work I've experienced (thanks for the tip, Hypatia), and I really enjoyed myself. I understand that her work can be seen as a critique of consumerism and obsolescence, but I also saw it as a paean to hoarding.

I wish I had kept all my old toys in the attic now.

When I got home, I ate a family-size pack of Galaxy Minstrels chocolates for dinner, to -- ahem -- honour my inner child of course.

Other link today:

+ Fear and golfing. Just prior to his death Hunter S Thompson invented a new sport, Shotgun Golf, with Bill Murray. His description:

"The game consists of one golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The purpose of the game is to shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant 'green'. Points are scored by blasting your opponent's shiny new Titleist out of the air and causing his shot to fail miserably. After that, you trade places and equipment, and move on to round two."

Via the ever brilliant Popbitch.

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