Tate Britain until January 6th 2013
Why go and see a series of scaled up leather bicycle saddles scattered on the floor of the ART NOW room at Tate Britain?
Not for the first time in her work, the artist is reminding us that things as well as people have a biography; and goods have an emotional as well as a monetary value, especially notable when they change hands. The title reminds us of the 2011 London riots. Just over a year ago David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, described the rioters as 'mindless, mindless people'. Is that what they were? Jess Flood Paddock has chosen her title in order to challenge his way of thinking.
Saddles are easy to steal, are highly valued by cyclists, can be quickly sold and resold and have become a sort of alternative currency. The very word ‘saddle’ conjures up a history of speed and daring: horses, races, cowboys, highwaymen. In the second picture you can glimpse on the far wall a video displaying the empty scruffy streets, barricaded shops, barred gates and doors around London’s Broadway Market, where these bicycle seats used to zip along. Each image moves slowly, pausing long enough to discomfort us.
For the viewer is inside a beautiful and well-loved gallery, Tate Britain, standing in a quiet, well-lit room looking at these elegant sculptures. The artist's gift is to 'tell it slant', to stop us in our tracks, to conjure up a fresh awareness before we have time to gather up an armful of defensive clichés. Pause for a moment and imagine streets with a proliferation of chained up bicycles, without seats, the main stem poking up to the sky: an eye watering picture. In the studio the saddles are humbled, grounded, detached from what gave them purpose and meaning in life. She's asking how far do circumstances dictate what we see, think and feel?
The result is visceral. How far are we all complicit? Do we all need to exchange mindlessness for mindfulness?