Saturday, May 31, 2008

Post-Modernist Monsters (2000)


Book Review from the January 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Crass Art and Other Pre Post-Modernist Monsters. By Gee Vaucher. (AK Press, Existencil Press, 1999). 104 pp.)

Gee Vaucher is the artist who worked with the inspirational anarchist music group Crass, producing the striking artwork that accompanied their sonic wake-up call. She also produced plenty of cracking stuff before and after Crass, and produced and illustrated an irregular publication called International Anthem.

As commented on in the foreword to this collection (referring to the title), Gee Vaucher is a pre- (or non-) "post-modernist" artist in that she visibly strives to present a beauty and a meaning in human existence. And, as with the searingly political musical assault of CRASS, her work also seeks to expose the horror of the global system we live under, and show that there is an alternative. Shoulder shrugging is not an option.

"She pulls us apart and puts us together in such a way as to shake us up and wake us up." This is a pretty good description of how Gee Vaucher's artwork works, and works so effectively. Her most overtly social-political stuff uses the method of creating collages—i.e. rearrangements of images from a wide variety of sources (usually from the mass media and advertising) to produce new and confrontational compositions. Anyone with a few Crass records at home will be familiar with this technique. Maybe it's so effective because it takes the images we are bombarded with every day of our lives (politicians, religious symbols, war, consumption), rips them up and makes them into something unfamiliar that is also a comment on the reality we can all recognise. In the words of Pablo Picasso (quoted by Gee Vaucher): "At its best, art is a lie that helps us realise the truth, at its worst, it is a confirmation of the lies that we inherit".

She also uses her great abilities to produce hyper-realistic paintings of her collages, and also combines the two. These works also have the effect of forcefully questioning life in the hideous circus of world capitalism. Her more personal work, often abstract, while less explicitly "political", is also very interesting in its exploration of human experience.

In short, this is surely what good art is all about. In the words of Crass: "Mickey Mouse fuck off".
Ben Malcolm

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