Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Close encounter of a personal kind, one

Around the time I was doing my exams, a friend invited me to her final show for her art degree. Like me, she was a mature student and presumably making up for something she’d missed out on first time round. Or, rather, felt she had.

It was at Goldsmiths — which is where I took my first degree all those years ago. I’d driven past the building many times. It was on the way to my parents’ house. I’d even walked past it once, with a friend who was set on showing me the bright lights of New Cross. (We didn’t find them. Even the pub in which they filmed Shaun of the Dead was closed, shuttered, boarded, beerless.) But I hadn’t entered Goldsmiths since the day of my last exam.

I knew the art school had a spanking new building, designed by Will Alsop. I’d even got a look at it when I was taken in search of hip New Cross. So I assumed that the show would be in there.

It wasn’t. It was at the back of the back field — which meant I had to go through the front entrance. The way I’d first entered the building when I went there for an interview. The way I’d entered it every time I turned up for a lecture or seminar — which wasn’t that often. The way I’d entered it the day of my final final exam.

How was it? Odd. What was odd about it? That it wasn’t odd. It didn’t feel strange. It didn’t bring back memories. There was a new lighting system but that aside, it looked pretty much the way it did the last time I saw it. We turned right at the front door, then left and down the corridor which led to the side entrance to the main hall in which I had sat down and written my exam. The corridor I’d walked across as I left the exam for the student union bar.

What did I feel? Surprisingly little. I didn’t feel like a stranger or a prodigal son. It wasn’t unpleasant. It wasn’t exciting or comforting or even evocative. It was just . . . the way it was. It was somewhere that I once was and now wasn’t. As a part of my past, it seemed to have no connection with my present. That was then, this was now. Done, dusted. Resolved perhaps.

And the final show itself? That was not that different from way back when either. Lots of conceptual work. Goldsmiths was not big on painting then and it’s even less big on it now. The only major change was the amount of video work. Virtually every ‘piece’ had a video showing itself back to its viewers (and itself). Reflections of the way it used to be — even if only a microsecond earlier

Next up A close encounter at a north London barbecue

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