Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-04-02 - 12:13 p.m.

I managed to drag myself along to see Dan Flavin at the Hayward. It was stunning, especially in that specific space which dates from the same era. The photographs give a very poor idea of the power of the neon tubes - they literally possess a power all their own to rock you back on your heels. In that way, this work is much less cerebral than most classic minimalism - its more like going into the Rothko room at the Tate. Genuinely sublime.

I picked up a book by Carter Ratcliff which tries to find patterns in the reactions of younger artists to the onslaught of the first wave of minimalism. CR, correctly in my view, sees minimalism as a massive provocation - a massive shock to the system - which triggers all kinds of reactions.

Inspired by the joys of seeing Flavin, I went to see 'Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World' this week. You could see partly where Flavin got it from - in fact it made you wonder why it took him (them) so long to get there. I liked the late Albers square paintings a lot. Again this stuff looks pretty minimal suggesting that minimalism was less a revolution but more an evolution. So why was it such a shock? I think its partly the way that the minimalists were very confident in what they said about the art - the art went with provocative statements which helped wind everyone up.

I bought the catalogue to Open Systems - which I had stupidly missed last year. This is Tate Modern's attempt to do what Carter Ratcliff attempts - to put the radical post-minimal art in some sort of pattern and sift through what the implications might be. OS works on the idea that the artists begin to see their work as part of a wider system. So for instance, the simplicity of minimalist sculpture is partly intended to make you see the work not on its own but in the gallery space - an interconnectedness that is developed by Dan Graham to name just one. The root metaphor for CR - out of the box - takes the same starting point in a different direction - Bill Le Va recording himself running against the walls of the gallery.

Anyway against that background I decided I countdn't miss the London Sinfonietta playing Steve Reich on Thursday night at Symphony Hall. I was at the top of the Hall and vertigo nearly got the better of me but I persevered. I couldnt help thinking that that the artists had done better than the composers. The composers started with minimalism but couldn't think of any alternative after about 1975 to going back to being old style composers - they gave up trying to get out of the box and settled down inside it. Does anyone feel tempted in music to go back and look at the 60s at all the experimentation and try to find what the implications might be?

That said I was pleased that so many people wanted to hear this stuff played well - that it is Different Trains, Sextet and the new Variations. Sextet dates from around Desert Music which I dont particulary like but has a more classic Reich-style instrumentation which I did like. Some people think DT is a masterpiece - I don't think I was convinced on this hearing - not up to Music for 18 Musicians I don't think. I would like to have been closer but I have never heard it performed before and it has to be one of the major SQs of recent decades, I suppose. The Variations received their UK premier - jumps between keys a minor third apart - four sides of a box - F D B Ab.

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