The World as a Stage
Arriving late on Tuesday night to accompany a friend to the opening of the Tate’s new show The World as a Stage I didn’t expect to be so rushed around the exhibition. From what my companion had told me it was open until 10pm and thus we had time to quaff free red wine, talk at length about our respective partner’s reception of art in comparison to our own (we realised our non-art specifically educated others gave themselves much more generously to the pleasures of viewing art than we did) and still have ample time to digest the show. However, the otherwise delightful door staff informed us as we left the bar area and entered the show proper that we had but fifteen minutes to see this work. With not a moment to lose we headed off into the exhibition, intent on getting as much as we could from the time allotted.
Forced into a not altogether unpleasant speed viewing (as anyone who has been to an exhibition with me will realise the haste at which I tend to negotiate these things) my companion and I got the briefest of overviews of the work. Whilst I would certainly return as paying member of the public to re-visit the exhibition, in particular the Jeremy Deller piece (background work for his Orgreave re-enactment and the subsequent film), I am forced into the question as to whether the process of ‘reading’ an exhibition such as this requires an extended process of contemplation. This is not to say that the work doesn’t necessarily demand a certain lengthy interrogation, but perhaps, that what art does is not so much operate as an immediate experience, in that one is able to, if one stares for long enough at a painting ‘get’ what is ‘meant’ by it (there is no immanent meaning within the work), but as the catalyst for a further discourse. What is to be made, then, of this deferred discourse? Is this deferral a moment that operates to allow for criticality to enter? And if so, what occurs in this moment? This moment of meaning to come. In this empty moment where the meaning of the work arrives, as it were, subjectivity operates to create for itself the meaning of the world. That is it is only through a movement of the subject that meaning can be created. Perhaps my swift appraisal of both the show and this subject can never quite grasp this always ungraspable meaning, which, I hasten to add is never transcendental as such, meaning does not arrive from somewhere else. But that the logic of this chase after meaning is always incomplete. There will always be another meaning.