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After visiting Johann Arens’s ‘Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery’ ‘installation’ at Paradise Row, I know for a fact that Nick Hackworth has either completely lost his mind in his addictions or has consciously gave up on straight thinking. The sole fact that German-born Johann Arens had completed an MFA at Goldsmith and is currently in residence at the British School in Rome, should already be a matter of concern for those of us that still believe in the existence of something called art. This does not explain, however, Paradise Row’s vocation for showcasing the worst art around while keeping the straightest face. Do they realise how silly all this is?

Nick Hackworth has been running his gallery by trying to generate the necessary buzz by using and juggling his relations in the specialised press. For a while he worked as assistant to the main art critic at the Daily Mail’s sister newspaper the Evening Standard. I met Hackworth a few times and he has no clue about art. What fascinated me, however, is the effort that he invest convincing us and, only later, himself that he cares for art when everything he does is either small business or, as the French call it, ordure.

This show can only be justified from the point of view of the already moribund artistic education system in Britain which does not teach prospective students how  to draw or paint, while giving them a jargon to justify a self confidence of sorts that is increasingly coming across as pathetic. The ‘art of installation’ is the result of the excessive institutionalisation of the art system (through artistic education and the emergence of the curator as the institutional ago-between) during the past thirty years. Installations have applied the diachronic aspects of text and the moving image (‘starts here, ends there) to the synchronic nature of painting and sculpture in order to facilitate (in a populistic way) the work of the viewer/visitor. Through this, it has attempted at increasing clarity of meaning and reduced ambiguity to the status of nuisance. This has transformed the experience of art into a theme park experience because art has been, is and should be ambiguous.

Having said this, my point is relevant to criticise the art produced twenty or thirty years ago. So what is the point of reconstructing that cybercafe in a gallery basement. I think that these people has too much time on their hands. To be perfectly honest, . that show is embarrassing.

Please read these two paragraphs of Paradise Row’s Press Release. Enjoy:

‘Up until its closure in June 2013, Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery in London had been a busy ‘corner-shop’ and internet cafe which sold food and also offered basic computing services to members of the public. It was frequented by a diverse group of customers mostly from the local neighbourhood seeking assistance with copying, scanning, gaming, international calls, translation, computing skills, electronic repairs or money transfers. For 50p per hour, the cafe offered a place to sit down, a personal computer and a headset for privacy. At Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery, every desk partition became a temporary office for those without one to go to.

An installation with the same name at Paradise Row will combine remains of the café’s interior with an array of standard exhibition furniture. The café’s instructional printouts will be displayed in archival show cases, dysfunctional computer terminals in the space and deteriorating furniture and bags of green coffee beans will be placed beneath Perspex covers.

As visitors browse the desktops and trash bins of the antiquated personal computers, they will build up an insight into the lives of Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery’s customers through curriculum vitae print outs, long distance coach-tickets, pictures of property for rent, lovenotes, snapshots, a business ad for a pedicure salon’.

WTF! Just a thought.

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