A few weeks ago, I went along to an exhibition at the GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) in Brisbane. It was called “Falling Back to Earth”, by Cai Guo-Qiang and consisted of three installations. The first was a large blue pool, surrounded by many different animals, a hundred or more, very life-like, but not real. The water was completely still except that every thirty seconds or so a small drop would fall from the ceiling. That was it. The friend I was with remarked that it gave her an awful feeling, as though in the future, the only way you would see such things was in a museum. I found the thing totally incomprehensible. For me it was what it was: a whole lot of models of animals, very cleverly wrought, around a fake pool. I just didn’t get the point.
But the next installation was downright depressing and just plain stupid. It was a dead tree. That’s it. A dead tree, on its side, roots and all. It had been ripped out of somewhere to make way for something, so the artist had had it dragged into the gallery and put on display as…well, a dead tree, representing…dead trees?
The reason I found this particularly irritating, is that only a few days before, I had seen several trees, exactly like this, whilst paddling down the river. They’d been pulled up in the floods three years ago. They were dead trees, that had been pulled up and displaced by a flood. But now I had paid $15 to come into a gallery and see exactly the same thing with someone trying to convince me that it was somehow more significant than what it was. If there was ever a case of the “emperor’s new clothes”, this had to be it.
Turns out I have a whole property of installations.
And I thought they were trees.