the seduction of simplicity

Complexity is mighty tiresome in the run up to Xmas. There’s a part of us that wants to solve something, anything before the end of the year. A tick box to deal with the unsettling business of 2014.


This is my only explanation for the feverish reaction to an exhibition now showing in London Town. Thousands of families seduced by an exhibition of Lego-Art.


Let me save you the expense of a ticket, parking, finding food for small children and an existential crisis ending in a prolonged and unshakeable sense of the what-the-?.


The exhibition starts with one of many quotes from Nathan Sawaya, who painstakingly walks us through his creative process RE the Lego-unt-Art-combo.


“When I was a lawyer I quickly came to realize I was more comfortable sitting on the floor creating sculptures than I was sitting in a boardroom negotiating contracts. My own personal conflicts and fears, coupled with a deep desire for overall happiness, paved the way to becoming a full-time working artist.” Signature of Nathan Sawaya, literally his signature under each quote in case anyone else wanted to take the credit.


Call me a bitter baggage of crushed artistic ambitions but this does not feel like the start of auspicious artistic journey.


The exhibition involves Lego reproductions of iconic impressionist paintings, Van Gogh to the finger-touching sign for God’s own creation on the Sistine chapel. In Lego. No irony intended.


Flashbacks of small children screaming next to a lego version of, wait for it…wait… Munch’s The Scream of Nature. The sad face of Andy Warhol in lego an image that will haunt me forever.


The exhibition moves on to more abstract shapes in primary colours. The blue room is a man swimming in water, do you get it? blue water!! Red room is really angry.


Adults collectively squirming at a video of a man and a woman wearing girl’s clothes building stuff out of lego to represent Nathan’s creative journey in his NYC executive flat. I’m very sad. Lovely curtains mind.


The final insult is Nathan’s closing quote “Fortunately, there are no rules to art” placed painfully close to a lego skull which you can buy at the shop for £450.


This is the point at which I want to put a cheese grater to my own face to numb the pain of being in a packed room on a rainy sunday watching a generation of excited kids thinking this is art. How to explain that when someone tries to sell you an idea of art which is made of lego and sponsored by Nike its very unlikely to break any neo-liberal rules.


This is the ABCs of Art. A seduction indeed to find ourselves in a world where art can be constructed brick by brick and comes out miraculously in a single vibrant colour that goes well with your home furnishings.


For me its the same itchy scratchy psychic experience of being a room of clinical psychologists arguing that CBT is the stuff of transformative learning. Positive psychology might be a useful tool for surviving work but as a guide to the complex grungy stuff of human relations its at best colour by numbers.


Much like the charismatics of the optimism movement, Nathan makes the rookie-TEDTalk mistake of believing that just because he cares so very much about his idea we would too.


In the final room there are boxes of lego where small people are absorbed in the collective energy of making stuff. From the kid who needs everything to be red to the one who walks around curating the best abandoned constructions left by other children. Bypassing the hyperbole and the price tags they are engaged in the instinctual need to play and co-create.


This is the only creative space in the whole exhibition.


At the end of an austere year simplicity may be a great comfort but it won’t bring about anything new. Creativity involves, ahem, an intercourse with life and with other people. Our boxes might remain un-ticked, but with this remains the possibility of something new coming out of the rough and tumble of playing with the other children.

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