Leeds artist Tony Baker steers the @BASLeeds
twitter account for #TuesdayTakeover this week:
The term 'daft stupidity' was once used to describe the somewhat outrageous outpourings that used to emerge from the Fine Art studio at Leeds Poly during its heyday in the nineteen seventies - when Patrick Heron
referred to it as the most cutting edge Art School in Europe.
Although its intention was to question the validity of these largely esoteric conceptual doodlings, this catchy little phrase also knocked the nail on the head when it came to quantifying the quintessential basis of modern art (of which you can also include that slippery fish known as post-modernism). For if art is to take itself too seriously, it is in danger of missing the point. This is not meant, however, to demean the importance of art and its place in our culture, but merely to give it a context vis-a-vis the Emperors New Clothes, spurious arbiters of taste and doyens of opinion.
To add a personal context to this, way back in 1976 I took it upon myself to call myself an artist, which meant that whatever I produced could, 'ipso facto' be called art - the result being that ever since that point, I've never needed to question what I produce, and can just get on and do it. This has required ignoring any delineations and working in whatever art form seems right at the time, whether this be print, photography, video or rock'n'roll.
Last year, in order to test this cheeky little premise, I set myself the task of seeing how much art I could produce in one hour - I think I managed to knock out one short abstract video, a set of five photographs and a piece of digital printmaking. I then extended this to a month, which very shortly became tonybakerartystuff.tumblr.com
, an ongoing artists blog where I've found myself exploring a variety of themes in projects such as Little Theatres of the Absurd, Books What Have Defined Me, Innocent Lives, Everyday Objects of Infinite Beauty along with a few other forays into the eclectic world of fictional vérité.
In addition to individual projects I recently collaborated with Peter Heaton on PhotoResponse
, a project whereby we each delved into our respective photographic archives to present each other with an image to which we had to respond, until we reached our target of 100 sets. These were uploaded onto the blog and have been made into a protoype book.
Inspired by Paul Casal's address to the United Nations in 1971, where he talked about the inherent democracy of Catalan culture, I decided to produce a book (of 300 images) that would explore the essence of this culture through three defined strands, photography, typographic poetry (that referred directly to the narrative of Orwell) and a series of digital prints that were a visual response to my whole experience of this nation of passion, community and understated revolution - the resulting visual tome going by the somewhat obvious title of Homage to Homage to Catalonia.
As part of Unfold (the Leeds Programme for British Art Show 8) I am organising NUMBER 2 an exhibition of paired images produced this year by staff from the Creative Arts Faculty at Leeds City College where I will be exhibiting some, yet to be determined new work at Northern Monk Refectory. Running from September 5th to November 27th the show includes in its throng the inimitable Tony Tomlin who has already produced two diptychs, one being of me with a piece of bread and the other being a ’good’ and ‘bad’ Tony Tomlin.
For some reason I’ve been given full control of the @BASLeeds
twitter account for one whole day, although I don’t know any of the details of what I’ll be tweeting. I thought it only appropriate that I should produce something specifically for the whole event and will be setting off early in the morning with a camera, a graphite stick and my eyes wide open.
Whether Leeds itself has defined me, is hard to say, but certainly my experience of the Fine Art Department has most definitely left its mark - and forty years later, it shows no sign of wearing off.