Centuries of tradition and institution have made the art world an impregnable fortress for many with only the elite few being bestowed the privilege of creating, curating and criticising art. It means that nearly every gallery is filled with people questioning whether the art that they're looking at is even that good? But the intimidating building and culture that surrounds them encourages them to stay silent. But what if the art world took itself less seriously, what if we were allowed to get involved and forge our own opinions?
Enter BAD ART! BAD ART is a collective that aims to break down traditional standards of exhibiting work and to generally challenge the seriousness of contemporary art today. Their series of eerie exhibitions have included banquets of inedible fake fake food and rooms full of tactile temptations. Their ambitious aim is to integrate the art and public, dissolving feelings of intimidation and hierarchy. We caught up with artist, curator and founder of BAD ART Anna Choutova ahead of the latest exhibition in the series Touch me Baby.
A Soho restaurant inspired your first show Let Them Eat Fake, what is the inspiration behind your upcoming exhibition Touch Me Baby!?
‘The concept for this show came from me feeling very frustrated at an art fair a few years ago. I was totally hypnotized by a painting by Zhu Jinshi, it was so thick with bold slabs of oil paint, more of a sculpture than a painting. I was standing so close to it, every now and again lifting my hands to it and fantasizing what the surface would feel like against my fingertips. But I was been closely watched, I could feel the stares of the invigilators frying my brain, there might as well have been a glass panel between us. I just realized how much this sounds like some forbidden love story, but it's kind of how it felt goddamnit! And so Touch me Baby was born from that fateful afternoon in Hammersmith. I wanted to push this idea and create a show where you can freely interact with the artwork, even change it, or bring it to life. Suddenly the most important person in the exhibition becomes the public, without them the exhibition doesn’t work’.
Why do you think that this exhibition is important for society today?
I think that physical interaction with art is so important right now when most of our interaction with the world is through a touch screen. Images are thrown at us all day everyday, we can see the rarest pieces of art in a second, but how does that change our experience? I think it totally sterilizes it, it makes me want to freakin reach out and sink my fingers in. Touch Me Baby is here to fill that void, we’re not even accepting any video work because I want everything in the show to have weight and mass. It’s going to end up looking like some mad fun fair.
What has the response been like to your work?
‘During my last exhibition this summer, this vicious old man came up to me and totally bitched me out, telling me I was arrogant, that I had to get grip, and who the fuck was I to decide what is Bad Art. I’ve spent a long time fantasizing about answering his question rather than standing there looking morose and confused, SO I’m taking this opportunity to do just that’.
‘Bad Art is not me pointing at something, going ‘that’s shit.’ Bad Art is about changing the way we interact with art. It is a protest against the white-walled, well lit, every-centimeter-invigilated gallery. It is about celebrating the self-deprecating, the ridiculous, the lazy, the untalented (whatever that even means) and essentially something with a sense of humour. Whenever I walk around the big fancy galleries and museums in Europe I hardly ever ever ever hear people laughing. To me, when humour is removed from the equation what is left is a quiet fear and apprehension. More of my work comes from The Simpsons rather than Satre, you know what I mean? And I like that. We should not fear art, or be scared of standing too close to it or to laugh at it’.
What would you say to someone who claims that some of the beauty of art is in the viewership?
‘I’ve met people who really can’t get on board with Bad Art, that argue there should be a quiet respect for art, and sure I reckon if a bunch of people suddenly started rubbing their hands all over Rothko’s paintings in his Chapel the power and purpose of his masterpiece would disintegrate. But Bad Art is about inserting something alien and weird into the contemporary art world, saying “yeah that’s one way of doing it, but now try it like this.” What happens when suddenly you’re allowed to play with the art rather than look at it, what relationship is formed and how has it changed?’
Touch Me Baby will be held at Bones & Pearl Studio. Due to the transient nature of the show, it will only be on for the one night of Saturday 20th January. The evening will feature live music, complimentary refreshments and will be raising funds for Haringey Mind charity and will feature a selection of works by established and emerging artists.