Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, The Barbican

18th April 2008 at 01:00
We have spent a lot of time and effort attempting to make direct, unambiguous contact with life on other worlds - sending up snippets of Beatles songs or brief Morse code messages. What we should be doing is sending up tubs of human excrement and lemons attached to electrodes.

Art is supposed to be the story of what it is to be human. So what would aliens make of contemporary art, an aspect of life that even humans find hard to digest? This is the amusing idea behind the Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, at the Barbican Art Gallery in London (until May 18). The show bundles together about 175 rather disparate pieces (including Scott King's Pink Cher, above) from the Sixties to the present day, all presented as artefacts of human rituals and behaviour, as interpreted by extra-terrestrials.

What function does this kind of art have, ask the aliens, as perhaps only an alien would of a piece such as Sigmar Polke's "Apparatus Whereby One Potato Can Orbit Another" (a potato on a wire suspended under a stool)?

A highlight is the 1979 piece "Cultural Ties" by American artist Jeffrey Vallance, who sent neckties to heads of state around the world, asked for one in return and framed the replies. Many comply, some return the tie, Austria doubts the value of the exercise but sends a tie anyway. Humans, eh?

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now