And so we went to the Gee Vaucher Introspective @Firstsite on a damp, miserable Tuesday afternoon.
It was probably far more fun than the Friday night opening.
The toxic combination of jumped up local politicos and local luvvies led to a hair washing night at The Chronic.
Come Tuesday and we almost had the gallery to ourselves.
Um – are we supposed to say that?
The Vaucher exhibition is something that we have been CREAMING ourselves over, ever since Anthony Roberts let it slip that it was being lined up.
It is the parting gift of Anthony to Firstsite – his final act of artistic anarchy before buggering off back to his spiritual home at the Arts Centre.
And so where to start with Vaucher?
It would be so easy to simply fast forward to the Crass years and treat Firstsite as though it was some shitty rock ‘n’ roll museum.
But the artist deserves far more examination and space.
Which is precisely what is presented to you at the Golden Goose.
Put simply, Vaucher is the first artist who has been able to fill the gallery space. You get the impression that there are crates of other material that didn’t make the final cut.
With a background that takes in collage, photography, paintings, sculpture, film, performance and typography, the issue here was always going to be one of selection.
The red flags displayed along the first sloping walls of Firstsite was a nice touch. Would it have been too much to push for a black and red anarchic colour scheme?
But don’t be fooled if you think that Introspective is some watered down Punks on Postcard pastoral display. Vaucher and her work with Crass has always defiantly been against the posturing.
This is true Walk it Like You Talk It.
Sure, the images are striking, but the real artistic value is if you then walk away inspired to fight those that try and places structures upon you.
That’s why we stayed away on Friday evening, Comrades…
The first display of artwork is the New York period. This is apparently juxtaposed with audio to replicate New York in the late 70’s.
We thought that it was the Firstsite air con tbh.
You then walk through to the proud Berryfield mosaic, which has been hijacked with a Vaucher slogan.
Those Romans were fond of telling tales through their fancy artwork. It’s good to see this tradition carrying on at Firstsite.
The gallery space acting as a roll call for former US Presidents tells you pretty much all you need to know about American foreign policy.
Quotes are offered up by each ex-White House incumbent, along with the number of war dead on their watch.
A nice touch was the late addition of a Trump collection of crappy quotes. It’s not a cock measuring contest, but the death toll compared to Dubya will no doubt be alarming in years to come.
And then you get to the Parental Advisory notice.
Like punk never happened, etc.
There is some pre-Crass Vaucher work here with her EXIT project alongside Penny Rimbaud. A rare archive film recording from a Colchester Institute ‘performance’ from 1973 is a fantastic find.
This is also where the Crass archivists / activists will be heading for the action.
You are familiar with all of the artwork from the albums and intricate inners, but seeing it blown up along with the originals is an incredibly powerful experience.
Elsewhere and 90’s portrait work is also explored, along with sculptures and some thougtful pieces addressing adult cruelty.
It’s like a crash course to the world of activism. One visit is of course not enough. You need to find what interests you, and then go away and consider some of the ideas raised.
And this is the whole point of Vaucher’s work.
It’s not there to be enjoyed; it is there to get you off your arse and think about what is taking place around you, and then act upon it.
We pity the Firstsite outreach staff trying to theme a kids programme around this.
But seriously – it’s Firstsite at its absolute finest: disruptive, disrespectful and dangerous.
Funny as fuck.