Art as a lens on “reality”.

You may be forgiven for mistaking the image above for photo montage. But it is not: it is the London Mustaba project, a temporary (and contemporary) work of art, and it floats on the Serpentine,  in Hyde Park.

It is Christo and Jean – Claude.

When I saw it it struck me as hideous, so I went to see the accompanying exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery.  I soon became converted to “oil drum art”.  I saw a stark utilitarian beauty in their structures.

I had loved many other pieces of their work; to be honest, I am not sure why. The sheer audacity perhaps of altering vast natural landscapes with a “valley curtain”; of disguising structures like the Pont Neuf in Paris with wrapping.

It is also about shock – jolting you out of the mundane. The Mustaba on the Serpentine struck me as an alien spaceship and suddenly I saw the beauty.  Yes it is man-made, mechanical if you like, but in an Ian Banks “Culture” sort of way; it is huge, colorful, magnificent and daring. It ought not to be there and perhaps at its centre there lurks a “Mind”.

As so often these days I am trying to see the world through different eyes: to use a different lens to understand “reality”.

To intuitively grasp that in a sense, all reality is subjective; a figment of our own minds rather than an absolute.

Shocks like this help.

Our senses allow us to experience only a small part of the universe. We can only see lightwaves of a particular wavelength. We sense time even though it may not exist. We believe we have a past and a future even if in reality the present may be all that is granted to us.

Expressions such as “mind bending” are perhaps not so trite after all.


  1. I wonder, what do you think of the idea of inciting shock as a primary purpose for a piece of art?


  2. I suppose that “shock” does no actual harm? And I suppose “shock” is very subjective. I might find Damien Hirst shocking, you may not.

    I am a little bit uncomfortable about deliberately setting out to shock with art. It seems to have perhaps just a little bit of “violence” conceptually.

    But then perhaps we ought to be shocked, perhaps we need to be shocked and certainly photo journalism achieves shock, even if it does not always do so deliberately.

    I find “Napalm Girl” devastating, utterly shocking.

    But then of course I am supposed to. I would be a monster if I did not.

    So perhaps on balance I feel shock has a part to play in art; certainly if that shock has a positive purpose. Such as drawing our attention to the horrors of war.

    As far as I am concerned then, any sort of art, shocking or otherwise is good if it shakes us, stirs us. Napalm Girl is the sort of art which makes me long to do something towards achieving a better world.

    The music of Pergolesi by contrast makes me think what that better world would sound like.


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