The Rebel(s) Artist's talk at  The Sheffield Artists Book Fair.

The Rebel(s) Artist’s talk at The Sheffield Artists Book Fair.

‘Consider the Badger’

Floating WorldTalk/Performance: duration 30mins

In the 1961 film The Rebel Tony Hancock plays a down trodden clerk who although lacking any discernible talent, harbours the ambition to become a great artist. The film gently mocked what it saw as the pretensions and high ideals of the contemporary art world of the 1960’s although a fascinating aspect of the film is that Hancock’s supposedly ‘bad’ paintings are far more memorable than the supposedly ‘good’ paintings his short lived fame is built upon.

In their ongoing project and artists book The Rebel(s) Glenn Holman and Andy Parsons pay tribute to a film they love and use its absurdist humour to investigate questions of critical importance to contemporary art. In particular, what constitutes rebellion in an age where rebellion is seen as being an essential component of a credible arts practice? Part homage, part critical discourse, Parsons and Holman use their own experiences to investigate what it means to be an artist. The absurdities, contradictions, joy, successes and failures that come to define the existence of anyone navigating their way through the baffling world of contemporary art. At its heart The Rebel(s) uses humour to interrogate the contemporary structures and thinking that privilege intellectual complexity over visual and emotional experience when responding to art. Beneath the projects absurdist humour lie questions of central importance to contemporary art, in particular who decides who is ‘an artist’ and by what criteria? Indeed, at a time when the boundaries of what constitutes and define art have collapsed completely, does the term ‘artist’ actually have any continued relevance or meaning?

As part of the project Parsons and Holman have been giving a series of talks/performances exploring themes central to the artists book. Rather than arriving at pre-determined conclusions, each talk/ performance aims to be part of an open ended dialogue with the public.

For Sheffield they will being doing talk entitled Consider the Badger. This wide ranging talk/performance will look at what motivates people to become artists in the first place given the precarious nature of it as a career choice. Is it in-fact disingenuous to declare yourself an artist? Who decides someone is ‘an artist’ and by what criteria? An area of particular interest being the use of opaque language used to explain the role and motivations of the artist in society and the motivations of their makers.

The talk will also explore the way in which Parsons and Holman have used the Rebel(s) personae to take a critical look at their own practices. The section of the book which gives the talk it’s title is about the artists relationship with nature. Artists have used nature as a theme since pre-history, but contemporary art seems to have a uniquely awkward and unwholesome relationship with the natural world. Parsons and Holman’s work has often referred to nature and their talk will explore their own complicity in the perpetuation of a number of tropes about the relationship between art and nature.

Floating World’s involvement in the Sheffield Artists Book Fair has been supported by: