Banality rules. 0K?
Tramway and the Centre for Contemporary Arts are threatening to upstage the Edinburgh Festival with a major show of works by Tony Cragg, one of the world’s leading sculptors. He talked to Miranda France about his contempt of banality and the need for a ‘new visual language’.
When Tony Cragg describes himself as a ‘materialist’ he is not hinting at a passion for fast cars and Gucci shoes, far from it. He is a materialist in the same way that someone might be a humanist or an animal liberationist; Cragg believes that materials - wood , metal, glass, plastic, polystyrene — are an important and grossly misunderstood part of our spiritual lives. ‘Most objects are made in a way which is irresponsible or manipulative,‘ he argued in an interview given just before his 1987 show at the Hayward. ‘Irresponsible because people — the makers of this or that — don’t really consider, in any metaphysical way, the meanings of the objects that they’re
making, and manipulative because things are K, I . . j - , . i 1, , .1 ' 1
made for a variety of commercial and power-based “ g _ jg a. - . s ,' . 7 v ' "I . t: Rve’iﬁesys . 4 - ' 5
reasons.’ ‘ " - -' * '~ = ~ *- ~ -“ ~ in . ‘ t. 1 a! Such a sweeping indictment of all modern Mom and °m°'Am'b°d'°s' 1992 (“a”)
humankind seems at best pompous and at worst scientific credentials have been exaggerated; the coloured plastic directly onto the wall.
like exclusive artistic snobbery. But the core of truth is that he worked as junior lab assistant after There is no didactic or evangelising intent
Cragg’s argument is reasonable: it wouldn’t be so leaving school in 1967. Although he later trained behind Cragg’s work, but he is interested in
bad to be a greedy consumerist society if we took as an artist, his interest in science , and conviction pursuing the idea that if we could throw off the
at least some interest in the origin and appearance that the vast majority of us are woefully ignorant tyranny of ‘word violence’ and learn a new, visual
of the objects we consume. of science , have inﬂuenced his art. language ’ 0‘" soetety might be a happier one . ‘The Take Cragg on detergent bottles: ‘if you’re going At the Centre for Contemporary Arts these SnarPeSt t00' we have to aPPteetnte OUT eXiStenee
to make things in plastic, which is the one material ideas flavour every piece, Walkman shows a giant is our eyes. The written word is so tired. I can look
you can make any colour, anything you want of, personal stereo wedged into a hunk of stone, like a at a few centimetres of skin and know immediately
why does it always have to be the most garish, fossil on an archaelogical dig. Mother’s Milk is a What age» sex, State Of health and mind a Person is
commercial colours? They’re hysterical. Plastic blown—up version of a piece of laboratory in it WOUid take at least 1000 Words to come
objects are made to scream at you in equipment resembling an udder. Spirogyra takes anYWhete near that 50“ 0f deSCnPtion- Visual
supermarkets.’ Plastic, which Cragg has described its name from a spiralling underwater plant, but language Opens UP freedoms for "S'-
as versatile because it is, ‘without a mythology and here the fronds of the plant are provided by YOU COUid say that Cragg was fighting a losing
without a poetry’ has been fundamental to much of watery-looking, sand-blasted bottles, Less battle, if it weren’t for the way he so strenuously
art. immediate is the scientific reckoning behind tnSiStS that he isn’t interested in Winning over There are three COHSiderationS at Work behind Angels and other Antibodies — a wooden angel and disetples anYWaY- Ctagg is one Of the World’s most
Cragg’s sculpture. The ﬁrst is a natural 3 table studded with metal hooks from which hang POPUlar SCUlPtOTS; his W0ka are constantly
consideration. the second an urban, man-made other wooden objects. Cragg says that he was touring. he has had more than 100 solo shows
one. The third is an exploration of the process by inspired after reading about the biological Worldwtde- But now might)’ is 0388» Compared to
which natural things become man-made. These lock-and-key mechanism by which antibodies Dal?
three strands combine to make sculptures which latch onto bacteria, At the Tramway, along with
have brought him international fame as an artist more sculptures, is one of Cragg’s most popular Tony C ragg ’s sculpture is at the Centre for
with a scientiﬁc bent (one critic even compared pieces, a mural depicting a crowd of people. Each Contempom'y Arts and Tram Way, Glasgow, until
him to Leonardo da Vinci). Cragg says that his figure is made by sticking tiny remnants of 6 sept-
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The List 31 July - 13 August 1992 49