l’esprit de l’escalier bleu
2013 by Nick Wadley
The Postcard is a Public Work of Art, X Marks the Bökship
The Postcard is a Public Work of Art was made up of 60 British artists’ postcards. The postcards were not simply postcard-sized artworks but explorations into the postcard itself. Each artist used the postcard shape to harness their ideas about the much loved card, using its ingrained meanings and associations to make points of their own. Whether it be Molly Rooke’s Realistic Expectation postcard, which shows a large white van driving in front of the building you just came to visit, or Ruth Claxton’s playful lampshade cut-outs around St. Celilia’s head, the exhibition is an electric display of big ideas in a small communication-focused form. These artists are playing with the crux of the postcard, that the image is supposed to carry the message, making these cards truly powerful works of art. Wadley plays with this idea of meaning and message by illustrating a phrase with no apparent meaning. Yet once set upon their watery blue stairs, the letters of his phrase fall into animation, ignited with humour and movement in their topsy turvey ascent – or indeed descent, as they appear to be toppling downward. In mixing letters and the image they describe, Wadley visualises one of the main relationships behind a postcard, that of the text and the image – the fact that his words are ‘meaningless’, even silly, makes the potent mixture all the more clear. The simplicity of this card, together with its none-too-serious approach, embodies the carefree or uninhibited reactions postcards allow us to have. They are wonderfully accessible, often deliberately personal – the carriers of memories and pleasant nostalgia. The Postcard is a Public Work of Art should not be missed; nor should its catalogue, a beautifully printed ‘breakaway’ book – made up, of course, of each of the postcards.