"The Artworld Shuffle"
The regular art viewer will be only too aware of the “artworld”TM clichés, this is not only with the work that we see around galleries but also the way we can chart the subcultures and hierarchies within “artworld”. Through manner, behaviour, fashion and occasionally in the presentation of the art work we are made aware of how a gallery sees itself, its perception of its place in “artworld”. At the opening of Yutaka Sone’s “Secret for Snow Leopard” at Parasol Unit I very quickly understand that tonight the art will be subordinate to my fellow visitors all playing the game I like to call “the artworld shuffle”. The shuffle begins as I am welcomed at the door by the two borderguard like doormen, ‘Charm’ greets me warmly as his companion ‘Suspicion’ looks me up and down for signs of evidence that perhaps entry to the gallery should be denied, then I am cleared for entry to “artworld” and waved on. I stroll in and my eyes catch the inquisitive stare of the bag check girls, I wear my clumsiness heavier than normal but without any loose fitting clothing and without my usual scummy courier bag slung on shoulder I look a safe bet for not destroying any art for the night and am allowed full entrance to the gathering. Others are entering the gallery and are confused as they are confronted by someone actually looking at Sone’s work, they are doubly confused as I appear to not be carrying the obligatory glass of white wine. Hmm, yes wine that’s it, lets stroll past the sugary looking white marble sculptures of snowy mountainscapes with ski resorts and past the smaller facsimile of Hong Kong island. Then past the lumpy, snowy, marble sugary, pine trees with ski lifts coasting between this idealised winter scene, all reality and harsh coldness whittled into a soft, rounded, warm fantasy of winter tourism. Beyond the Disneyfied, folk art tableau of carved elephants in wood and glass and the dripping, plastified, seaweed, sponge, dried flower, acrylic and metal, Hansel and Gretel transported to the tropicsoid ‘Green Jungle’. Aha, I see a slinking, leggy, purveyor of alcohol, teetering off on her heels, tray in hand, round that huge model island with painted snow capped mountain rising out of the fake blue sea, s**t where did she go, I lost sight of her behind one of those real plants imbedded in the structure of the sculpted island, past the fake waterfall and pine tree, beyond the ferns and succulents and out of view past that crown of palm leaves. But there at the back of the gallery is the team of tall, glamourous, immaculately dressed, black suited and dressy “artworld” foot soldiers, they aim suspicious stares down at me but my sights are set, dodging the armies of cool indifference and the occasional sniper engaged in a sneer mission, I sneak my way past the middle aged couple Mr and Mrs Euro Artworld and claim my glass, many thanks, danke, merci, cheers.Now upstairs to the upper gallery, I look at the crystal sculptures, the oversized fantasy interpretations of snowflakes, the icy, hard edges rounded and softened into a gloopy, watery drop of sweetened glass, like oversized sculpted boiled sweets. Another glamourous, gallery staff member watches me with her chisel jawed colleague, these are the troop leaders of the “artworld” army, they direct the action, schmoozing the visitors with descriptions of the art work and anecdotes of the artist. They continue to watch me, with a look that gives the impression of a surveillance team eyeing the activities of a guerrilla cell, I finish my drink and take a final look at Sone’s childlike, bright coloured but empty feeling paintings of animals, trees and the natural world. My mission is over I descend the stairs, exit the gallery with its clean, sanitised views of reality, I say my goodbyes to ‘Charm’ and ‘Suspicion’ leave “artworld” and back to the grubby reality of City Road.