Saturday, 11 June 2011

Tox take two

I am much taken by an interesting comment on the artistic status of Daniel Halpin’s (‘Tox’) work from Dominique Hurle that has appeared in the Guardian Letters page:

“I should like to defend Daniel Halpin (or "Tox") against the charges of certain establishment figures – police, popular artists, and prosecutors – that his work amounts to nothing more than trivial but pervasive vandalism, lacking in skill or merit (Tox tagger faces prison, 8 June).
I have enjoyed Mr Halpin's work since I started to travel to London extensively and would see "TOX 06" emblazoned on mile after mile of train carriages, railway sidings, bridges and buildings. Its ubiquity, regularity and apparent pointlessness is what makes the work a powerful critique of the monotony and triviality of the many signs and notices put up by the state which bear instructions, prohibitions and statements of the obvious.
When I walk down a street and see in the space of half a mile 20 metal plaques bearing all manner of petty injunctions – "No drinking in this area"; "No parking on matchdays 6.30pm–8.30pm"; "Dogs to be kept on leads in the park" – I feel, to borrow vocabulary from Detective Constable Livings, the state has committed a selfish vandalism which scars the environment and contributes to a sense of oppression, anxiety and lack of personal agency.
As artist Ben Flynn says, Mr Halpin's work is indeed "incredibly basic" and lacking in "style". I think that's the point.”

It would seem that the courts and the experts have simply failed in their art criticism: Mr Halpin’s art is an installation and assessing just one of his tags is like criticising Andy Goldsworthy for the configuration of a single twig.

I wonder whether Dominique Hurle has considered the possibility that the authorities responsible for those petty injunctions are themselves a bunch of artists – of some description – and that we inhabit a total art form, with a larger concept. Perhaps that was what Kafka or Lewis Carroll had in mind.