No Direction @ The Royal Standard


There are effigies of One Direction alight in The Royal Standard car-park. C James Fagan braves the flames and investigates… 

The weather is all over the place today, going from rain to bright sunshine in the time it takes to put an umbrella up. Yes I’m talking about the weather, but we’re British, it’s part of the national cliché right, something which defines our cultural boundaries? It’s something that might seem strange and exotic to a visitor to these shores, to be precise, a visitor to Liverpool.

One such visitor is Eric Bridgeman whose ‘experimental performance’ is taking place at The Royal Standard, or rather in the cark park of the industrial estate which is home to the artist lead gallery and studio space.

Upon my entering the car park, the artist is positioning a number of plywood figures, which have the spray-painted images of the boyband One Direction. Really. They have a slight totemic quality, and I’m informed that they’ll soon be set alight. I also discover that this is not a performance per se, as today’s actions are to be filmed, to form another piece of art later.

I watch Bridgeman dress the set, admittedly this set is the car park. As he goes through readying everything, he appears dressed in black, face covered in a bandana, somewhere between bandit and chav. It’s hard not to imagine connections to last year’s riots, a thought at odds with the crowd gathered in sunshine, music blasting from a nearby car.

In a moment of good fortune Bridgeman starts to set alight the figures as the swagger of M.I.A’s Bucky Done Gun comes out of car speakers. He begins his act of destruction and as with the riots last year, and as the title suggests there is seemingly ‘No Direction’. Though you might claim that these are acts of nihilism, that seems to be wrong; if it were an act of nihilism that would suggest a sense of morals or of railing against them. Rather there’s a sense of emptiness that destruction is undertaken because there’s nothing else to do.

Bridgeman though, appears at least to have pleased one of the Art Gods, as from the grey skies thunder cracks, then L7’s Shitlist comes snarlling out from the parked car. This makes for a rather apt connection with misdirected, unfocused teenage anger.

As the fire burns, the totems topple, and everyone stands, watching the flames consume these effigies of non-culture. I wonder what will come out of this. Bridgeman presents us with two contemporary male stereotypes. In this case the have not ‘scallies’ and aspirational ‘boybands’, and in this context, the two become self-defeating constructs. Neither appears to offer a sustainable future. I was also wondering whether this was a piece that spoke specifically about the UK or about contemporary culture in general.

The piece declines to offer an alternative option: there’s certainly no phoenix arising from any ashes here. This might be the ‘experimental’ nature of No Direction. There was the sense of the artist trying to figure something out, to discover what is at the heart of his own work. So it would be interesting to see if this is addressed in the future video piece. Of course you can argue whether or not it is necessary for art to provide an answer. In the end, perhaps it’s enough to raise questions and let them fly around like ash caught in the fire’s updraft.

C James Fagan

Posted on 06/08/2012 by thedoublenegative