Now seen at the Tate of the North – Liverpool. I first saw this ****, many years ago and it stuck in my mind so vividly as a glorious piece of **** that when I spotted it from across the gallery, I called out to Dan, “Look! Oak Tree!!” And, of course, he had no idea what I was talking about. Nor would he. Does it look like an Oak Tree to you?
This is what irritated me so many years before. Conceptual art that was up its own arse. And I was about to fly off into a deluge of abuse when we were accosted by an incredibly polite and chatty gallery attendant who said…” Oh yes. You’ve seen this one before? It’s all about faith…” I get a bit twitchy when people start discussing anything remotely religious – especially when we’ve not been formally introduced. But he continued on, “Yes, well I think so. It’s about how people take things on faith and will look up to anything that’s set above them…”
Oak Tree is a glass of water on a glass shelf about seven feet high. So you do have to look up to it. Both of us had our interest piqued, so we took time to (not look at – as there really is nothing to see) read the ‘printed text’. I hadn’t given this glance before. And now, with this guy’s insights and more open attitude we read and understood a little more. We both appreciated the tongue in cheek Q & A description from the artist. This time I came away with a smirk and a realisation that I hadn’t done what I often preach, which is to, stand back and question what the artist is really asking us to think about. There was a fairly obvious clue in the positioning of the piece. And it does follow the Duchamp declaration that any existing object can be declared a work of art. We really shouldn’t take anything too seriously.
It still begs the question, why should we have art explained to us? If it doesn’t communicate something immediately, then surely it has failed – especially if I have to read about it to get its message?
I still wouldn’t put it up on my wall in my home.