ART & MALE IDENTITY
Are artists the people to help modern men out of their confusion of identity? Two exhibitions in Edinburgh explore the role of the male today — but can they soothe our anxieties? \"v’ords: Andrew Burnet
18 THE usr 14—28 May 1998
WORLD CUP SEASON. As football widows the world over'look out their black clothes for a month of mourning. men are girding
themselves for a collective surge of
testosterone — a feast of soccer. lager and curry. Crude jokes and horseplay. Fighting in the streets and shagging around. Getting drunk and swearing. Er, well . . . '
As everyone has noticed. it’s no longer that simple. Football, for example — a traditional domain of the working-class male — has suffered a pitch invasion from Nick llornby- reading. Chablis-swilling. New Labour-
supporting young professionals. And some of
them are — gulp — female.
The modern male is anxious and confused. As Robert Bly points out in the preface to Irmt .la/m. his seminal call for men to draw wisdom from ancient folklore. ‘by the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man. the tough man. the true man which he received in hiin school do not work in life'. In the post- industrial. post-feminist era. men have yet to find a role that will equip us with dignity without robbing us of our maleness.
Glossy ‘New Lad‘ magazines accrue huge profits by appealing to our baser instincts and anxieties in a supposedly po-mo. ironic fashion. The market-leader. I’IIM. sells 650,000 copies every month. feeding its readers scantily-clad women. ‘bloke tests‘ and sex tips. Loaded and Arena do a brisk trade in its wake. while new titles like Maxim and Details jostle for a place in the league. Even
'l’lia Ira/a — the glossy for the huntin’ shootin’ fishin‘ fraternity — has weighed in with a feature giving 50 reasons why dogs are better than women.
'l‘wo art shows in Edinburgh this fortnight address some of these issues in a compelling way. At Stills. Bad Farm is a retrospective of work by 1 ’ewcastle-based photographer Geoff Weston. Included in the show is Bad Taste — shots of vomit left on the pavement by young men out on the town. Meanwhile. at Collective Gallery. Edinburgh-based artist John Ayscough depicts ‘media fantasies of sex and death’.
addressing male The r0|e 0f men is (hanging '-
attitudcs towards sex what's on Offer now is a MUCh
and violence via two disturbing series of
graphs and two other works.
‘My work is about men. and the things that men do. but I’m not trying to look back at better times for men.’ explains 48-year-old Weston. ‘l was brought up in a community where a particular type of strong. macho masculinity was pretty much all that was on offer. It‘s clear that the role of men is changing — what‘s on offer now is a much greater range of masculinities — and that's got to be good.‘
(‘reated soon after Weston began an MA course in Newcastle in the late 80s. Bad Taste is partly a response to the city‘s hard-drinking culture. the source of its puke-plastered
greater range of masculinities - self-portrait photo- BHd that's gOt to be 900d!