It was a slightly odd experience listening to a talk being given by someone, who is quite frankly, famous in the “art world”
T. J Clark is a British art historian and writer, who as taught at many schools across England and America; he has also written many books that have been the foundation of my essays in this first year. So when I read he was giving a talk at University of Manchester, I thought it only fitting to attend such an established writer’s talk.
There was such a high demand for tickets, it would seem Clark is the McCartney of the art historians with someone even asking for his autograph, that the venue had to be changed to a larger room; much to Clark’s dismay. He explained that by making the venue larger it took away the “seminar feel” to the talk and made it into somewhat of a lecture which is what he did not want.
The room in which it was changed to was very nondescript, unlike the grandeur of the Whitworth setting, a plain grey lecture hall that filled up rather quickly with students and public. Upon reflection I can see what Clark meant about the room change, himself sat at the bottom of rows on chairs gradually sweeping upwards created a disjointed atmosphere.
Clark was introduced by a lecturer of UoM and it was all very formal and proper. Clark stood thumbed through his notes and started. I don’t know why but I was surprised by how softly spoken Clark was, explaining how he would give us facts about Picasso and raise our awareness to aspects of him and his work. But what Clark wouldn’t do was tell us his personal opinions in depth; by this he meant that he would give us the facts but it’s up to us which path we choose to go down.
Clark explained his reasons for the talk, Picasso and Misogyny, the theme having been on his mind for some time when he had been co-curating on a Terror and Play exhibition with Anne Wagner for the anniversary of Guernica. Saying that with Picasso it is a disorientating experience, you’re never quite sure what you will get.
“You don’t know what you’re in for!” in Clark’s words.
With Guernica Clark found that all gender vanishes under the pressures and horrors of what is happening at the time, which is unusual for a Picasso piece as most of his work is shrouded in some form of misogyny.
So the question was- Is Picasso’s art misogynistic? Clark replied “Yes, for sure, sometimes.”
Though Clark went on to explain that there were many accounts in which suggest Picasso was misogynistic in himself when dealing with women, often there was a representation of fear, hate and resentment. But also there are subtle elements of tenderness and care that are overlooked in some cases.
Clark went on to compare Picasso and Kahlo’s work, Kahlo being a huge feminist icon of the modern era and then went on to make reference to David’s Death of Marat.
But in all honesty Clark lost me when he started quoting Picasso in French and didn’t translate it. Yes I can appreciate that if you are quoting in French that translating it may change the tenses somewhat therefore changing the quote but nevertheless I felt it was quite an excluding move on his part. Don’t assume that every person in that room can speak French, which I personally think is a bizarre assumption in general.
I infact left early, not out of stubbornness or protest but simply because I felt completely out of my depth. This talk was in November, 2 months into my first year, and looking back now 5 months later, I wish I’d stayed.
I wished I’d stayed purely to show myself that even though 90% of that room spoke French, (proven when most of the audience laughed at the French quoting), that I was not out of my depth and that I belonged there just as much as McCartney-Clark did.
This goes hand in hand with my thoughts of the “art world” that were taught about is a terribly exclusive and excluding one, which it really does not need to be.