I had never been to Ambika P3 before and I was prepared, through rumour and suggestion, to be impressed by the space. Yet it was not the raw basement warehouse that overwhelmed me, but the sound of 1001 cathode ray TV sets regurgitating day-time shows, glimmering, flickering and flashing as a life support of hanging wires sustained them.
‘End Piece’ is incredibly powerful, for its immediacy and incessance; living on the last of the analogue signals broadcast from Crystal Palace, the Ambika will crackle with ‘a visual sea of white noise’ when the digital switch over is finally complete. For now, the warm TVs absorb us, gallery-potatoes.
The art world seems to be obsessed with the imminent digital switch-over. I have never seen so much telly-art; the ICA are doing it, then there’s The Final Broadcast Collective at the Russet Gallery, and Switch/Over at the Wimbledon Space. I doubt that any will feel as epic, none will be as affective a memento mori, as David Hall’s apocalyptic tribute.
On Sunday I went to see the Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition at Tate Britain. On that sunny Sunday when I could have been basking in a busy park, I chose to go to the Tate because I was sure that Picasso’s genius would be able to lift my spirits.
It is a difficult exhibition because I want to love it but can’t. It is true that the British artists on show seem weaker, muted, and compositionally messy, when held up in the light of Picasso’s bravado, challenge and perfect balance. The most successful example of influence and comparison comes from David Hockney’s series of prints which pay homage to Picasso’s towering legacy without trying to imitate him.
There isn’t very much Picasso to see and this is only testament to Britain’s, and in particular the Tate’s, poor history of acquisitions. Most of the works here originate from private collectors such as Roland Penrose who championed the work of Picasso while the Tate continued to snub him. There is a sense of the exhibition’s lack. What the Henry Moore room really needs is more of Picasso’s heavy, playful sculptures in order to offer its audience something fresh. I also suspect that it isn’t fair to tackle Guernica when the Reina Sofia would only agree to give you a few sketches and a laminate reproduction.
The one joy was Marie Therese Walter. I had never seen any paintings of Picasso’s teenage lover and their beach-drift affair. Her voraciously painted pink curves were the pure visual pleasure I was seeking to cheer myself up.