Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always review – young Turks do Morrissey
Source:theguardian Author:Rachel Cooke Date: 2017-08-25 Size:
It takes less than 10 minutes to scoot around Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always ……

‘Delightfully unbridled’: a still from Phil Collins’s dünya dinlemiyorat at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery.Photograph: © Phil Collins

It takes less than 10 minutes to scoot around Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always, a diminutive new show at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne that aims to explore the effect of pop culture on contemporary artists, and at first sight it’s all a bit underwhelming: even The Uses of Literacy (1997), an installation by Jeremy Deller comprising drawings and poems gathered from fans of the Manic Street Preachers, fails much to stir me (until now, I’ve never seen anything by the brilliant Deller that I didn’t like).

But just as I’m about to give up and leave, I force myself to sit down and watch something I passed on earlier: dünya dinlemiyor (2005), a video by 2006 Turner prize nominee Phil Collins. I’ll give it 10 minutes, I think. Forty minutes later I’m still there, mesmerised.

Dünya dinlemiyor is the second of three installations by Collins that put to work the Smiths’ 1987 compilation album The World Won’t Listen. This one began its life in Bogotá in 2004, when Collins arranged for local musicians to record every track on that album, minus the vocals. The following year he appealed to Smiths fans in Istanbul, via radio, television and an outbreak of fly posting, to come along and record their favourite songs, karaoke-style, backed by his Colombian instrumental versions. There were, it seems, plenty of takers, and the result was this, a video replica of The World Won’t Listen. The singles and B-sides come at you in the same order as they appear on the album – as sung by the enthusiastic young Turks whom Collins filmed, microphones in hand, against static Technicolor backdrops (beaches, woods, snow-capped mountains).

It sounds like an awful lot of fuss for nothing. No one will ever sing Shoplifters of the World Unite or The Boy with the Thorn in his Side better, or more affectingly, than Morrissey. But time, and Turkey’s shifting politics have, I think, worked on Collins’s efforts to extremely powerful effect.

A decade ago, his recruits’ reedy voices and jerky dance routines must have seemed not only sweetly funny but hopeful too; their enthusiasm, which is sometimes veiled by hesitation and at others delightfully unbridled, would have pointed happily to the future of their country, one that was going to involve ever more freedom for them and their children, and, ultimately, membership of the European Union. Now, though, only the ignorant or the hardhearted would be tempted to laugh at their mispronunciations and air guitar, let alone to think too lightly of the woman who all but yodels Rubber Ring (“The passing of time/ leaves empty lives,” she warbles frantically, close to tears by the time the music stops). These days, President Erdoğan is in every line.

It sounds like an awful lot of fuss for nothing. No one will ever sing Shoplifters of the World Unite or The Boy with the Thorn in his Side better, or more affectingly, than Morrissey. But time, and Turkey’s shifting politics have, I think, worked on Collins’s efforts to extremely powerful effect.

A decade ago, his recruits’ reedy voices and jerky dance routines must have seemed not only sweetly funny but hopeful too; their enthusiasm, which is sometimes veiled by hesitation and at others delightfully unbridled, would have pointed happily to the future of their country, one that was going to involve ever more freedom for them and their children, and, ultimately, membership of the European Union. Now, though, only the ignorant or the hardhearted would be tempted to laugh at their mispronunciations and air guitar, let alone to think too lightly of the woman who all but yodels Rubber Ring (“The passing of time/ leaves empty lives,” she warbles frantically, close to tears by the time the music stops). These days, President Erdoğan is in every line.


dünya dinlemiyorat at the Towner Gallery. Photograph: © Phil Collins

When someone belts out: “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt”, I picture street protests, blazing piles of tyres. When two girls sing: “I want to see people/ And I want to see life”, I think of lives restricted by censure and fear. The guy who performs Ask (“Shyness can stop you/ From doing all the things in life / You’d like to”) has his shirt open to reveal his bare chest (it’s a little more tanned than Morrissey’s) and a bunch of pale pink plastic roses in the back pocket of his jeans, and it fairly makes the heart ache. In Turkey in 2017, shyness isn’t the half of it when it comes to trying your sexuality out for size.

It would, I think, be worth visiting Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always for this film alone – which is just as well, for the pickings elsewhere are, even on second examination, slim. In Sid Vicious (2001) by Jim Lambie, the Sex Pistols bassist is memorialised by the placing of a photograph of him in what looks like a giant black envelope; Venice Kimono (2012) by Anthea Hamilton is a dressing gown of silk satin on which the face of John Travolta in his Saturday Night Fever heyday has been digitally printed; Transitionary 8 (2005) by Graham Gussin comprises a pair of collages made using niftily cut and intermingled images from the movies The Exorcist and Psycho.

What these things – the majority on loan from the Arts Council Collection – have to say about pop culture, or anything else, remains a mystery to me, unless the artists involved are simply hoping to make their audience long for the real thing (I would rather watch Saturday Night Fever on a loop than read another word about Hamilton’s artistic process, which in this instance involved – who knows how or why? – the facades of palazzos on the Grand Canal).

‘Each one more banal and more puerile than the last’: Ross Sinclair, T-Shirt Painting, 1993-98. Photograph: Alison Bettles

Dominating one wall of the exhibition’s first room is T-Shirt Painting (1993-98) by Ross Sinclair, an artist who, according to the curators, “is interested in how T-shirts became a prominent vehicle for self-expression”. Sinclair’s shirts, emblazoned with “puns on pseudo-American phrases culled from literature and philosophy”, as well as “snippets overheard… in the pub”, are hung in rows, and as I run my eye over them, my spirits sink faster than the pebble I hurled into the sea on my way here. “Slug love”, says one. “Shit creek”, says another. There are 80 in all, each one more banal and more puerile than the last. Beside dünya dinlemiyor, it’s almost an insult: ugly, where that piece is radiantly beautiful; tuneless, where Collins’s film is (in spite of everything) ever melodious.

• Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always is at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, until 8 October

[Editor] 姜鑫

    Artintern