53. The World Goes Pop (Tate Modern)

Seeing a show when you are drained and exhausted must surely be different to seeing it bright as a bird in the morning sun. Similarly, seeing a show for the 2nd or 3rd time (didn’t T.J. Clark write a book about going to see the same two paintings every day for a month?), or seeing  a show in which you are somehow invested or implicated etc. must all affect judgement.

That is why you have written and published against ‘Judgement’ in art writing per se, and why you try, and have always tried, to avoid judgement when writing on or ‘about’ art.

It seemed, a long time ago, to you that the best ‘judge’ if there was going to be any in my art writing, would be the writing itself. i.e. you always tried to describe your subjective experience and then allow any less subjective, perhaps even ‘objective’ evaluation emerge unconsciously though the language you had used, the adjectives that appeared, in a kind of writing that you have always conducted as a kind of automatism.

Yes, writing is other, an other, it is the strange alchemy of a certain technology, a weird interface between language, self, fingers, pens, words, keyboards, and ‘pages’ of the actual or virtual kind. ‘Art writing’ is simply writing of this kind directed at or embroiled within art.

Yesterday, at the end of a long, exhausting day, right in the middle of the busiest week of the teaching year, you visited Tate Modern to see ‘The World Goes Pop’. In truth you were in a bit of a daze and couldn’t give it your full concentration; couldn’t attend to every curatorial caption, but drifted through feeling ‘interested’ in this, ‘not sure’ about that, wondering and worrying, but only slightly, about the coherence and purpose of it all.


Kiki Kogelnik


You did gain a kind of ‘Eureka!’ moment in the  section titled ‘ROOM 6. POP BODIES’ where, suddenly you encountered a whole run of works (dazzlingly contextualised by pink backgrounds and bases, that, you have to admit; you just LIKED, found ‘fascinating’, ‘surprising’, ‘provocative’, ‘entertaining’, ‘idiosyncratic’ etc. (of course these adjectives are platitudinous, tired and uninspired, but hopefully the reader gets what you mean here.) You  wish, in fact, that you could have shared that those moments with ‘you’ the reader.


Kiki Kogelnik


Kiki Kogelnik, Nicola L, Jana Zelibska, Delia Cancela Corazon Destrozado, Renate Bertlmann all stopped you in your tracks, brought to smile to your soul (yes, you still have one) and you were able to return to them, get to know them better and see more of their work as the show continued to unfold in its rather confused, slightly unconvincing way.


Renate Bertlmann


The point of it was – you gradually gleaned, despite reading the blurbs and publicity – to represent international, and alternative responses to POP, showing work of artists who are less well-known than the usual Euro-american, mostly male, giants of the genre.


Nicola L

It would of course have been unethical, unworkable and unacceptable to make a ‘Women’s POP’ show, but ultimately, you and – from what you’ve subsequently glimpsed in media – other art writers may be of the opinion that the work here that is most vital and vibrant and really approach POP-INESS with a different attitude and purpose just happens to be by women (damn it, you’ve gone and made a judgement!)


Delia Cancela Corazon Destrozado


It is, nevertheless, a valuable (if risky) notion to set up shows that represent otherwise marginal or historically marginal nations, artists, or genders, contributing as if from the edges of very well known movements etc. Someone please tell the TATE, this idea has ‘legs’  (potential, possibilities, a future), as now we can image ‘The World Goes Minimalist’, ‘The World Goes Arte Povera’, The World Goes Realist’, ‘The World Goes Simulationist’ etc. (it all has a slightly Bourriaud-ian ‘Altermodern-ist ring to it). So maybe TATE have here given their increasingly formulaic-looking ‘Blockbuster’ format a bit of a shot in the arm.


Jana Zelibska


Aside from the striking works by the artists listed above, you came away enamoured of certain very early uses of Perspex and Neon as well as being reminded of POP’s sugar-coated political purpose, most of all the underlying and enduring principle of détournement, whereby POP always turned commercial imagery back on itself by re-presenting it in a different context, juxtaposing it, or by means of a personalised, humanised process. Hence, in this show, we see numerous logos adapted to mischievous purposes, clips from advertisements looped on TV monitors or simply sonically, as edited radio ads play into the space through speakers. It all makes grotesque nonsense of advertising’s original intention to make us buy rubbish that we do not need to live more fulfilling lives. In one B&W TV loop a 60s model repeatedly shakes out her fashionably cut blond hair in apparent ecstasy over the fact that it is “Cleaned” but not “overcleaned.”







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