It’s all about ART and HATE. Steven Lowe interviewed on a subject we are not meant to talk about. WARNING: ART HATE imagery may not be suitable for everyone, although.
(Ed.: Must apologize for not posting as frequently as running-a-blog expects so; still, a recent travel abroad will soon see the light with some interesting Brussels’ peregrinations. As for now, let’s have a Paul Auster moment and leap back in time.)
So here I was Sept, 5th skimming through the Stool Pigeon when I find a full-page ad with a swastika hanging from a gallows with the word “Art” splattered across in tall rigid capital letters. I paste it on the wall over the grey smudge of a foreign hand. The page – a reproduction of what seems to be a much bigger hand painted poster – shouts the words “ART HATE FREIKORPS FEAR ALL ART LONDON ART BLOCKADE”. Or could it be “ART FEAR ALL ART HATE FREIKORPS” (?).
Tried contacting people but seems that the Art world remains unaware of what is about to happen. I’d got tipped off that the Occupy group was planning on Unfrieze Art Fair. It is an exact month before an event that doesn’t exist.
Still nothing on the rag’s ad. What’s an “Art Blockade”? The more I look at it, the more a message seems to appear. Something worth the wait I presume.
October 8th – Morning
A link finally appears. Had stopped thinking this was intended to happen. Name is as follows:
An address: 31 Eyre Street Hill, London. A flight of stairs to a basement: Open Sesame and the weird level switch to “high”.
Two pillars maintain the ceiling of this rather large workshop. Half of it, long white walls, posters shout the slogan “ART HATE BY THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE FOR THE MIND OF THE PEOPLE” and another “HISTORY WILL START AGAIN – SECURED ZONE”. The gallery parts in another room bright enough to enhance intimate close-ups; a mannequin boy in a glass cage wears a suit. Swastika and Gallows on armband.
Art Hate describes itself as an “organization of opposition” funded by Dr. Albirt Umber and Mr. Harold Rosenbloom both pseudonyms for Billy Childish, Steven Lowe and Adam Wood – respectively word master and curators. Sister to the show “STORM OF DEFENCE 2” held at the gallery Paolo Curti in Milan, the exhibition takes place in the L-13 cosy basement/studio where I meet Art’s dissident Steven Lowe.
Firstly, there is no need for a PhD in iconography to understand that their entitlement to the art world is more than just splash boom controversy. The posters’ craft, from the tarnished paper to the Nazi-style long emaciated font to the serial number ink stamp, is bluffing.
Secondly, the pictures are of extremely good texture and grain, so much that it almost feels real; the Freikorps’ tank procession in the front of the National Gallery is unsettling. Just add their made up “International Art Internment Camp” on the grounds of Regent’s Park and the illusion is complete. Mixing the real to the unreal, all concord to push the viewer in some kind of circumspect state: contradiction mediated via hegemonic imagery, the Art Hate collective calls – imposes – a rethink of the current state of Art which they judge “not bent on reflection” de facto a “mere spectacle”.
Another hugely unpublicized pro-opposition event to London’s Art snobbery takes place: here it’s all about the birth of a “veritable political party of art”, a redefinition of modern art through what they describe as “lofty humour, savage ideas and confused debates.” As I find Steven Lowe, skulking enthusiastically around the gallery he puts things straight: “The first rule of Art Hate is not to talk about Art Hate. So I will not talk about it directly.”
V: Okay then. Can you tell me why the violence and why slogans like “Reduce the Risk” or “Protect the People”? I mean “Art Hate – History Will Start Again” it’s kind of a very nihilistic way of saying everything’s been done and it’s…errr, bullshit.
Steven Lowe: Yes, if you take it face value. You might have a government saying: ‘We’re looking after you. We are reducing risk’.”
SL: Yes, in a way. Now, the symbols are deliberately misleading. The gallows and the swastika date from Warsaw; it was a polish graffiti meaning “Death to Fascism”. We started playing around it but the idea got a little bit more literal and satirical as in: “We are opposing the dominating culture.”
V: It is a big satire? Am I right?
SL: It is, but we try to diminish that which is why we twist time and why we now have got a mixture of 2012 images and the Freikorps, post World War II (pointing at one of the sepia frame) and the Jewish boycott (pointing at the other) and these were all things that were done as sanctions…This is a German tank (pointing back at the first picture) in the streets of some German city after fighting the war against Communism.
V: Okay…and it says “National Gallery exclusion Zone, London Art blockade 2012…
SL: The starting idea for this was ‘wouldn’t it be good if we had a big M25 exclusion zone to stop all Art entering the city?’…
V: Was the Regent’s Park Art Internment Camp real?
SL: Well, you know, maybe. Maybe in another universe…It’s like you start by bringing in stories and you start getting the work out and you get rid of the silly around it.
V: It feels as if the event is kind of atemporal, but again without ground. The only thing that’s sure is the printed evidence…
V: Yes. But what’s coming after that?
SL: We don’t know.
V: Why use this type of communication?
SL: That message and that use of words is so emotive and quite a clear statement and could also possible be true. We’re just twisting worlds.
V: Well, after what I have read on the exhibition, it feels more like a major attack on culture. I mean “History Will Start Again”. What is your statement!?! You’re manipulating armies from the past and making up Art blockades!!
SV: Part of what we do is telling stories making some kind of politic juxtapositions. Not precisely Dada but there’s a lot of humour into it; when you slam these things together you end up with a new poetry. Part of everything else was to try to stop people, making it little bit more sinister, it just gives it a little more power and hopefully you get people turning up. We don’t do any press because our first idea is literally “what is it about?” The meaning is in the work and within the making of the work. We sort of entertain ourselves telling stories and say:”What if?” and it’s usually some darks elements. My great grand parents were Polish Jews I grew up reading everything I could about the Holocaust.
V: I still wonder if there is any ground to it?
SL: A lot of what we do is darkly funny. I consider it quite life affirming. Once you know what the dark things are it is quite a positive and a hopeful thing to do.
V: So it’s a pinch at the cultural sphere.
SL: It’s a pinch at cultural blandness and moronic codes.
V: Okay but considering that you have Billy Childish on board and throwing events in Hoxton…and you talk about elitism?
SL: We’ve always loved contradiction. HAHA. You have to remember that this isn’t angry this is us trying to be sophisticated. This is a sustained, fruitful work in progress. It’s not short-term anger. You say that this is really bad. Nothing is that black and white. I am not a big fan of the Tate for example. Aside from the cafe.
SL: I don’t want to be told that this is “the great art” and, constantly, that there is no critical debate about it; that this is your diet of culture. I live in a little town in Hastings and there is this drive they call regeneration through culture. Regeneration on nothing from nothing and it’s certainly not coming from us crafty. ‘Oh yeah it’s great I can sit and drink my cappuccino having spent £7 entrance fees.’
V: Okay. How about the display?
SL: This is a very old cabinet that I had in my first gallery; I like the idea of old museum exhibit and this box is where this young lad suit came from. (walk towards the mannequin boy glass cage)
V: What’s the status of that object?
SL: It’s all trickery, it’s all lies. For me it’s very entertaining. We did a presentation at the London Art Fair; we got such a wide range of responses from people looking absolutely terrified or people laughing. Anybody can see that it’s all fake. Horrified people thought that it was an original collection from Nazi Germany. Then, others came and asked questions. Then, they became part of the story able to enjoy it and read it. It’s good to have a little bit of friction. The Art Hate mannequin comes from shops in Hastings and since we had sent all mannequins to Milan we needed something and realised that we hadn’t started the ART HATE Youth Corp.
SL: Very Creepy. But you know Hitler relied heavily on that Hitler Youth to be able to manage the country and to do the things that he did. For example: School. It has changed a lot from what it was when I was young. My daughter hates school; I took part in one of the school meetings; all they discussed is how to read the charts that showed how they [pupils] were marked. This isn’t education. This is a form of control as in “you have to reach the mark”. No power wants a smart nation: they want people to be as smart as they want them to be. It compares, back in time, how peasants were forced a restricted diet: You don’t want them educated to keep them as subject.”
All day,Art Hate’s response to the current artistic endeavour is a subtle one: hegemony against hegemony. Was it recently that I heard of London artists settling abroad since unable to afford leaving in the capital?