Sometimes art leaves you totally cold.
The modern variety often make me feel this way (I’m a bit of a traditionalist if I’m honest) and I find that during visits to places like the Tate Modern I’ve been quite polarised by what I’ve seen.
Often I simply feel like I ‘ just don’t get it’.
Despite modern art’s sometimes bleak aesthetic I’ve found that sometimes (quite unexpectedly) I can be drawn in by a piece with ‘economic simplicity’. Sometimes a raw concrete wall is oddly beautiful – and there’s an undeniable honesty about a pile of bricks in the middle of a white room.
I can find it all irritatingly pretty without really wanting to – but I remain unconvinced that such examples are ‘art.
However – when faced with a jarringly violent postmodern statement (which is an unnervingly beautiful sculpture called the ‘Knife Angel’ link) when visiting Coventry Cathedral last week I found myself struck dumb for a moment.
This is an installation with something profound to say about the world in which we live.
The 100,000 knives (link) that make up the vicious feathers of this penitent angel (an insane number to comprehend welding together) have been confiscated by the 43 forces policing the UK.
Each one represents a potentially fatal stabbing somewhere in the country and that alone is enough to give anyone pause for thought. Furthermore at the base of the statue were bouquets of flowers from people who knew recent local victims – and on the rear were several inscriptions (link).
I was pondering this message when a group of youths taking photos next to me commented about the sculpture. ‘
They’re almost all kitchen knives – it looks like they’ve just been taken by people from home. I expected them to all be switchblades.’
I couldn’t help but turn and engage her and her friends in conversation. They seemed to be completely invested in the work and honestly interested in the significance of the constituent parts of the sculpture and amazed at the fact they were (mostly) all so ordinary.
I recounted a TV documentary I’d seen some time ago where an expert on knife crime had suggested that the problem wasnt so much the length of knives – but the design.
In particular their sharp points.
He’d stated emphatically that the way to reduce deaths wasn’t to ban kitchen knives from sale but instead to re-design the vast majority of them so that they had rounded ends. Whilst people might still be slashed or cut by such a blade they would be unlikely to die, since it was very hard indeed to penetrate deeply with what would effectively be a sharp butter knife.
Such a change would mean that kitchen knives would be almost universally unable to damage any vital organs.
They listened to me quietly and nodded, looking at the statue.
It was something they hadn’t considered before and as they chatted amongst themselves I thought how valuable such an installation can be. Art is particularly precient when bringing people together from many different walks of life and provoking debate – whilst at the same time providing a space where all are unexpectedly open to conversation and contemplation.
The whole experience left me in a pensive mood and I was rather grateful when my companion suggested afterwards that we have a look inside the Coventry Transport Museum.
I’ve never been there before – and that’s a shame, because the items contained within are both interesting and at times genuinely beautiful (in a very different way).
As you might expect, the proximity of Jaguar Land Rover and its significance in the history and economy of the region means that there are quite a number of such cars on display related to that manufacturer.
As well as the E-Type above the very first car to carry the Jaguar name was in evidence and it was jaw droppingly lovely to look at – with a size and presence that leaves you feeling like you’re standing next to the Batmobile.
It’s not all about cars though – and I was particularly happy to see a slice of my childhood represented in one of the halls.
The 1984 Raleigh BMX Burner.
I had one very much like this – although a slightly cheaper version (and far less exclusive than this beautiful chrome finished one) in red and yellow.
Many many years of my youth were spent in its (admittedly rather brutal) saddle and overall I must have travelled for hundreds of miles holding onto its rubberised handlebar grips, because I eventually wore through them and they needed to be replaced.
Another more contemporary itch was also scratched – and my Dr Who fetish was piqued by an early version of a police public call box – or rather ‘shed’.
The keenly observant will have noticed that (maybe rather unusually for me) I’m looking rather leisurely in this photo – and somewhat ‘yoof’ in my hoodie and sweats.
The truth is that I’d not long before been swimming – and this week I’ve been trying something new.
Getting my head wet.
I’ve now been swimming for over four months, and throughout the whole time I’ve been going I’ve been engaged in breast stroke (or at least my version of it) with my head above water.
I really don’t like getting my head wet – or to be more specific – the idea of trying to breathe out underwater whilst remembering not to drown.
This important need for regular co-ordination seemed rather daunting every time I considered trying to do it.
Then a couple of months ago I bought some goggles (yes I’ve had them that long) and decided that I was going to give it a go. Since that moment they’ve remained steadfastly at the bottom of my swimming bag in a little waterproof baggie and I have found excuse after excuse not to give them a go.
I’m in a rush.
I left them in my locker and can’t get out of the pool to go back.
I’ll end up with goggle marks on my face…
What it really comes down to is being scared – and that’s not on. Fear is something to be overcome, and eventually (even if it takes a while) I try to get past the ones I have.
Oddly when I eventually did try them the issue wasn’t a fear of drowning but one of stamina, because once the breathing is sorted (it’s really not that hard) then it’s just a case of timing. The thing is that when your head goes underwater you have less resistance – meaning that you can swim faster – and that means that (at least in my case) you tire quicker.
I’ve suddenly found that I’ve had to diminish my distance (temporarily at least) to 1km at a time and focus on my technique – because at the end of this I’m panting like a racehorse thats survived the Grand National.
So – if nothing else I’m still moving forward in life, finding new things to contemplate and ways to improve…
With those thoughts internet I have to get a move on.
I’ve a lot to accomplish with the day and many things to get started on!