Monday, 5 November 2018

..Everything Matters

An 4m glycee print, perhaps the largest I have seen, is hung impossibly, delicately by what seems like 4 pins at Wolfgang Tillmans vast archival show at the Tate Modern early this year. Shot on a hi resolution camera, the image is of a common little weed growing through a crack in the pavement in a shadowy corner of a London street. It is monumental but equally tender, verdant and incredibly beautiful, classically composed equal to any still life or landscape master work but defiantly and unashamedly 'photography'. The title of the show pronounces 'If One Thing Matters Everything Matters'.

The work is both deeply autobiographical and political. It is clear from the immediacy and genuineness of the image that Tillmans is responding in the moment, his subconscious gasping at otherwise meaningless and ignored objects that are elevated to the desirable.

The success of a work is in direct correlation to the risk of failure, holding back the narrative to allow the audience our own epiphany, our own discovery of meaning and therefore a sense of ownership. It creates a huge bond between the viewer and the work, it is in line with Gestalt practice; the idea of assisting others towards seeing new patterns in reality space through self-discovery. The artist subjugates his ego in the pursuit of a bigger conversation. 

I have empathy for this pathetic, unwanted weed. Tillmans has come to terms with his non-heteronormative sexuality and is an immigrant, I imagine he has had feelings of disenfranchisement. The otherwise unseen, uncared for and reviled is held up and glorified. In so doing Tillmans shows great knowledge of the power of photographic imagery in the representation of what we consider normal. He reminds us of the nature of prejudice and how easy it is to be complicit in the oppressive status quo in documenting reality. 

The Weed, 2014 © Wolfgang Tillmans