I had the very great pleasure to visit the new Hans Peter Feldman exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery recently. It is open until June 5th. Feldman’s output shares many themes with my own and so I had the usual,’ I wish I had done that moments as I went round as well as the odd’ I wouldn’t have done it quite like that’. His work is quite conversational and so there is a feeling as you stand next to it that he is engaging with you and asking you a question or presenting something for you to respond to quite explicitly.
I recently failed to win funding for a project involving people singing in their cars. The idea is still just something I glimpse in the corner of my eye every now and again and I had hoped that the funding (for a Go Pro camera) would give me the confidence to approach my local choir (it sounds better if you can start by saying ‘I’ve received funding from Creative Scotland’ if you are asking a group of people to do something very odd). Anyway, Feldman presented in this exhibition a set of photographs of car stereos with the caption that explained that they were taken whilst happy music was playing. I then had to think, what else would my wee videos add to that, has he already said it, more succinctly?
Feldman makes artists books and photographic series. I particularly liked a set of individual photographs of the contents of a punnet of strawberries. That experience of looking at a punnet of strawberries where you see the big fat one, the wee shrivelly one etc was drawn out and laid before me like a museum exhibit and I felt it almost anthropomorphosised them. It reminded me of those obsessive Cesare Lombroso inspired photo series produced by the Victorians of aberrant characters.
Feldman is a collector and a chronicler. His work is humane and humorous. I find it very hard to make work which is about the inevitable bathos of humanity without being patronising or simplistic or appearing to sneer. It is a fine line to walk. Jeremy Deller seems to pull it off very well and largely I found that Feldman has too. Overall I felt this was a gentle salute to the courage and tenacity of ordinary humankind, something I aspire to in my own work.
The Serpentine Gallery is a great gallery to visit by the way. It is in Kensington Gardens so you can get to Hyde Park and just spend the day in the Park, splashing in the Lady Diana memorial water chute and watching the birds over a cup of expensive tea. It is also relatively near to South Ken so you can do the V&A and Natural History overland at the same time. The current exhibition is on until 5th June.