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VERMEER II by Stewart Home

Stewart Home's last one-man show Humanity In Ruins, consisted of the two page press release for the exhibition blown up to 36 times its original size and pasted to the gallery walls. Aside from a sculpture shown at City Racing last year, Vermeer II is the first time Home has exhibited for six years. Recently, much of his energy has been expended on writing Time Out has described Home's novels Pure Mania, Defiant Pose, Red London and Slow Death as 'the stuff of which cults are made'. Home's non-fiction includes The Assault On Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War, Neoism, Plagiarism & Praxis and Cranked Up Really High: Genre Theory & Punk Rock.

Although Norman Rosenthal was unable to bag Vermeer for the Royal Academy, Stewart Home is bringing him to workfortheeyetodo. Rather than mounting an expensive blockbuster with the original paintings, Home is exhibiting degenerated photocopies of Vermeer's work. Thus blockbuster conditions are effectively simulated without spectators having to suffer the inconvenience of being pushed and shoved by a milling crowd. Vermeer's work is distorted far more powerfully by cheap copy technology than through the opera glasses used by those visitors unable to get anywhere near his paintings at the Mauritshuis gallery in the Hague.

However, Vermeer II does far more than simply raise questions about authorship, the institution of art, the relationship between a copy and an 'original', the commodification of culture and the status of painting in post-industrial society. Home's treatment of Vermeer's work invokes the detourned paintings of the COBRA and situationist activist Asger Jorn, who in the early sixties set up the Scandinavian Institute for Comparative Vandalism. Simultaneously, Vermeer II develops themes raised by Gustav Metzger's Historic Photographs exhibited last year at workfortheeyetodo. Home is already notorious for his aggressive appropriation of Metzger's art strike tactics.

A critical response to cultural data will inevitably entail a degree of definition - of fixing that data in place, relating it to a code of 'the known'; and investing it with certain values. But if this is so, then it is still the case that this response has itself been prefigured in the process of cultural production: that is to say, in orchestrating Vermeer II, its 'curator' will have had an analogous critical response to the work in hand. To state the obvious - any work of art is redolent of particular (critical) definitions of 'reality' and 'art'; and these definitions are all ideological. The dubious nature of a particular cultural artefact - those dimensions of it that appear outside the control of its supposed creator - constitutes an area of struggle.

Cultural artefacts that have been made to lie down on the Procrustean bunk of art were tamed in the market. Art attains its appearance of ideological autonomy from its commodification. Art as we know it arose with the breakdown of the feudal patronage system and the resultant speculative creation of works for sale on an 'open' market. Any element of doubt is resolved by defining the work first and foremost in terms of money, to a given amount of which it is said to be worth, and via the medium of which it is measured against other works. While artists may indeed 'create' works of art, this is only part of a more complex process: the work of art in part produces the artist. It also in part produces the audience, those who experience the work of art.

It is within the framework of these material processes that Vermeer II operates. The exhibition calls into question the concept of creativity, suggesting that the artefacts have a productive power of their own, which we struggle to grasp. The so-called product actually produces the so-called creator; and the artist and audience occupy a similar position in relation to these artefacts. The audience constitutes a part of the means of production of the work. It is not so much a case of 'everyone can do it' rather than one of 'everybody does it, whether they like it or not', you are implicated. The work is necessarily incomplete and open-ended. The technique used here is deliberately and necessarily 'cheap': and little if any skill was required to realise Vermeer II. Hopefully this makes the work, as well as the cannon from which it was drawn, hard to venerate.

Text carried on the invitation card for the private view of Vermeer II at workfortheeyetodo, 51 Hanbury Street, London.

Back: From Arse To Arsehole by Stewart Home

Next: To Transvalue Value: Vermeer II (more images from show on this page)

Becoming (M)other (2004/5 London exhibition by Home)

Hallucination Generation (2006 Bristol exhibition by Home)

Humanity In Ruins (1988 London exhibition by Home)

2010 Gallery Work by Stewart Home

Ruins of Glamour at Chisenhale Gallery

Home on art/anti-art


Vermeer II (series) by Stewart Home (1996)

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home