Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Inventing Caravaggio

Caravaggio has long been though of as the 17th century's answer to Oliver Reed - the hard drinking, womaniser who's light shone briefly through the Chiaroscuro shadows of canvas. However these two colourful characters share much more in common than syphilis and amaretto - prior to Oliver Reed's untimely death on that Island of bastard sons Malta, he made a discovery that shocked the art world, and indeed threw the entire oeuvre of Caravaggio's work into question.


Closely Linked with Anti-Uberism and Proto-postmodernism, Metadadaism is a movement which is largely considered a response to the decline in influence of the young British artists nurtured by Charles Saatchi throughout the 1990's

Whereas Dadaism's anti-aesthetic approach challenged accepted notions of art through performance and audio-visual displays motivated by a sense o

f cynical detachment and disillusionment, Metadadaism refutes the Nietzschian view of the artist as the vanguard of society while, conversely, retaining the notions of status and authority that such a position affords.

In practice, the successful Metadadist, having achieved widespread recognition through a sustained period of innovation and vigorous production, typically eschews these values in favour of a conscious and deliberate period of quiescence.

Metadadaism achieved widespread recognition following 2004's controversial Nothing exhibition at the Haunch of Venison Gallery, London, where a number of well established British Artists were commissioned to give an air of authority to the gallery's vast empty spaces. Commonly agreed to have been a resounding success with artists such as Damian Hirst , Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk, and Gary Hume lending their names to the cavernous central gallery, and David Hockney presiding over the baron shelves of the gift shop.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Curator of the exhibition claimed that contributors were generally enthusiastic about contributing to Nothing, with only autobiographical artist Tracey Emin providing any significant difficulties during the early stages of Nothing's conception. Serota speaking in 2003 before the gallery's opening comments:

"At present, it's not going well: the gallery floor is strewn with rubbish and there's shit all over the walls. However, negotiations are still at an early stage, and I remain optimistic. If we can get her on board, we can easily have the place cleaned and repaint the walls"

Haunch of Venison's Nothing has been applauded as the first exhibition to break from these creative restraints, Andrew Graham-Dixon, chief art critic of The Daily Telegraph enthused that Nothing:

"...thinks along fresh and original lines...the most important and influential art exhibition seen in Britain since theVorticist's Doré Gallery show of 1915"

It was the phenomenal success of Nothing that prompted the auction of the majority of features from Hirst's Pharmacy Restaurant, which was overseen by Sotherby's in 2004. Hirst, who himself had become devoted to exploring the sense of presence which can be achieved in the absence of a tangible 'product' recalls:

"I was torn because the galleries wanted to get their hands on the butterfly paintings and the medicine cabinets, but they were not very interested in anything else"(3)

Now operating without the stylistic constraints of decor, or food, Pharmacy, in order to display minute discriminations of perception resembles a faux supermarket; perhaps the ultimate recontextualization of the Warholian aesthetic coveted by the enfant terrible of the British art scene. Warhol once quoted:

"An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them"

Though Metadadaism as a cultural movement is still in it's infancy, it's absolute rejection of the text in any form contains the potential to challenge concepts of art and it's role in society in a way in which Dada itself never achieved. Metadadaism adopts a stance of proto-postmodernist opposition to Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author, in which the 'reader's role in the production of meaning foregrounds the author, with the text itself approaching a redundancy complete, immutable, and absolute.