I’d walked past the gallery many times before but never popped in until today. I’d got the train into Oxford just for something to do, but shopping for anything non-essential-for-the-house leaves me panicked, and the hot muggy day meant battling hoards of tourists just for a wander wouldn’t be much fun. So when I passed the museum I thought I might as well pop in.
I hadn’t heard of Kruger before, but I was wow-ed on entering the first studio. Her oversized site-specific work involves floor-to-ceiling text and slogans critiquing mass media. This is exactly the sort of art I’ve always enjoyed, I thought — graphic, large pieces of work where you become part of it.
It reminded me of Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at the Hayward gallery a few years ago, where she transformed the studios by wrapping them in red and white polka dot paper and mirrors to match her sculptures.
On leaving this studio, the vast impressive scale of the first room was removed, and I was faced by a room filled with small, similar looking black and white images Kruger had emblazoned with her own slogans. The art in this room felt dated, and so did the next, where projected images of bedazzled handbags and old flip-style mobile phones were interspersed with thoughts on consumerism. The old fashioned objects meant the work felt irrelevant, and I was surprised to see Kruger made it in 2008. (Although I’m sure there are lessons to be learned when the fashions of a consumerist art work look dated just six years later…)
The exhibition continued to underwhelm me but I was glad I’d visited for the first, impressive piece and even more glad that I hadn’t had to pay for the privilege. I’d definitely suggest popping in for a short visit if you pass it. And the cafe looked good too!
An avid reader as a child, I’ve realised that (despite commuting) I rarely pick up books. It might be that such a large part of my job (as a writer and press officer) involves reading, so I want to give my brain time off from words, or it might be that I’ve got lazy. Either way, I wanted to rectify this. So a few months ago I started a book club.
We meet monthly in the Cornerstone, a local arts centre (so nobody is burdened with tidying or snack buying), we have about 10 members and we each take turns choosing the books. The first month we read Room by Emma Donaghue, and chatted about the book for about twenty minutes before the chat turned to gossip. But last month we read Day of the Triffids.
I’ve never been that much into sci-fi novels, but I’ve also never been that fussy about what I’m reading, as long as it’s engaging. Day of the Triffids is mentioned so often in pop culture that I was quite excited to read it and find out what all the fuss is about!
The book isn’t too long so it’s not that intimidating and I settled in to read it on my morning train journey. Like most end-of-world plots it starts in a hospital, where the main character is trapped after an eye operation, and I immediately drew links to The Walking Dead which we’ve recently been making our way through all four seasons of.
Drawing links to recent shows/films and other books was something I did regularly as I continued to read – it’s amazing how many apocalypse movies and books must draw on Wyndham’s plot. I know I’ll be that annoying person now watching TV and shouting ‘he stole that from Day of the Triffids!’
I surprised myself in how much I enjoyed this book, and how hard I found it to put down, but it scarred me for life that watching an asteroid shower could blind you as I know I would have been the first one on hearing about a huge meteor shower to rush to the garden, eyes to the sky.
Although a lot of our book club members neglected to read this one, the few of us that did had an engaging discussion for over an hour that drew on all our political, historical and cultural opinions as we talked about the underlying themes of genetic modification and the Cold War which are all still so relevant to today’s society, particularly with the recent disputes between Russia and Ukraine.
More than any of the books I’ve read recently, Triffids really inspired me to start reading again, and has made me rethink what types of story I actually enjoy. I definitely won’t shy away from sci-fi books anymore as it turns out I quite like them, and I’m looking forward to trying other genres I haven’t read in a while.
Have any books inspired you to start reading again? Which books have your book club loved?