I’m more marginally martian than mainly martian these days, but my old enthusiasms are remembered in some interesting places — so I was happy to be invited to talk about the new “Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art” contemporary art show at the Barbican on Radio Four’s Front Row yesterday. I’m afraid I don’t have time to blog on it now, except to say a) the concept is a bit overdone, b) there’s good stuff and not so good stuff there and c) Michael Craig-Martin’s An Oak Tree (pictured) is in the first of those classes. It reminds me hugely of Stranger in a Strange Land, and has the advantage of being a lot shorter (nb that’s a cheap jibe, not a serious diss). Here’s part of the artist’s accompanying text; if you want to imagine the Answerer as Michael Valentine Smith in order to grok it more fully, be my guest…
Q. To begin with, could you describe this work?
A. Yes, of course. What I’ve done is change a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accidents of the glass of water.
Q. The accidents?
A. Yes. The colour, feel, weight, size …
Q. Do you mean that the glass of water is a symbol of an oak tree?
A. No. It’s not a symbol. I’ve changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree.
Q. It looks like a glass of water.
A. Of course it does. I didn’t change its appearance. But it’s not a glass of water, it’s an oak tree.
Oak Tree image copyright Michael Craig-Martin — used with respect but without permission
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