Art Columnist


A live virtual performance by Alan Kane

In addition to their in-person gallery exhibitions, The Modern Institute (TMI) offers a number of online live performances from the artists they represent.  In line with the global gallery trend of art dissemination, the surreality of the Zoom-era seeps into performance art this week as Alan Kane keeps an audience at the edge of their seats with Let me count the ways.  I spent just under 45 minutes on a Thursday afternoon, procrastinating dissertation work, watching the widely exhibited British artist have a go on the claw machine at an arcade in Weymouth.  Kane had the serial repetition of a preteen determined to win that teddy for their crush.  I couldn't help but smile at this wildly banal showing; I found it fixating and trance-inducing as I waited in suspense, anticipating whether the artist would in fact overcome the obviously rigged machine to win the stuffed pug he apparently desired. 

A part of both Frieze’s Online Viewing Room and TMI’s online program, you have to give it to Kane for managing to go to the arcade with his daughter, fully funded on the back of both a premier gallery and influential contemporary art publishing/events company.  The performance was nostalgically nauseating and at times aimless, but that is what really made it viewable.  It was transfixing to stop for a moment and revel in the monotony which also made me appreciate just how bonkers the Zoom art world is.  From a distance I watched a grown man fail to win at the arcade for longer than you would have spent there as a kid.  This is not to say that the piece itself failed, as there was definite provocation in it.  The enduring, repetitive, monotony are trademarks of Kane’s practice and they are also the reasons why anyone would be empathetic to the kids who were probably waiting in line behind him, or the attendants watching.  It certainly had an element of humour that I think is underappreciated in art.  We can become preoccupied with the seriousness of art-making, so there was some comfort in knowing I was one of about 30 watching this.  There was the odd close call that he had in fact beaten the machine, only for the polyester pug to slip from the claw’s grips at the last moment, exacerbating what was already an infatuating nail biter.  Most impressionable was the sheer irreverence and pleasure in the experience that is sometimes lacking in contemporary art.

I hope to see some more performances of this kind, not necessarily a livestream of a day at the arcade, but showing that art is still existing and occurring outside of the gallery walls. Perhaps one bonus of the online shift is that live performances no longer require this built-up, self-restricted reverence - you can simply watch a man fail hopelessly at getting a soft toy while you're in your university’s library.

Frieze’s Online Viewing Room is freely available at https://viewingroom.frieze.com/ along with The Modern Institutes Online Program at https://www.themoderninstitute.com/ 


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