As we walked through Hyde Park on our way to the Sackler Gallery on the Serpentine, a green woodpecker flashed across our path, its plumage breathtaking, its undulating flight unmistakable. Our artist friend, Mew, who’d recommended the exhibition told us later that in folklore, woodpeckers are said to carry the spirits of our ancestors, here to keep a beady eye on us – but to experience that glint of wild nature in the midst of our capital city was an unexpected pleasure.
We’d come to see Boomerang, an exhibition of work by artist Pascale Martine Tayou who makes art “because I think about the world; I ask myself, who are we and what is it we do and what consequences that has for humanity.” This artist statement really set me thinking: can this be the fundamental statement for all artists and in that of course, I include writers? We make art, we write, we create music because we think about the world – because the world bounces back at us like a boomerang, reverberating, demanding a response? I certainly feel that is the case for me.
Tayou’s exhibition was incredible on many levels. For him, what bounced back was the cruel inequality foisted upon indigenous peoples by the capitalist system: a tangle of fuel pump pipes squirming across the floor depicting the sinister consequences of fossil fuel addiction; an upturned corrugated iron hut – home for billions – floating as if blown by a hurricane; a fluffy cloud with wooden stakes protruding, suspended from the ceiling like the Sword of Damocles – which must have had different connotations for people, but for me was a perfect symbol of the climate crisis we now face.
“We are all boomerangs,” says Tayou and of course he is right. The ancients have imparted this wisdom to us for millennia: as we sow, so shall we reap; what we do to the world we do to ourselves – but we have ignored them at our peril and now the boomerangs are flying back at us thick and fast. The bleeding hearts and artists still try to make sense of it all, but ultimately, the responsibility lies with each one of us, because if we alter the course of our boomerang, we alter the course of our lives.
Reflecting later about the exhibition at Silo, the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant – whilst drinking ale out of jam jars and eating sourdough bread from a 16-year old ‘starter’ – I realised that Boomerang was the first art exhibition in years that had made me actually want to make art; to get out some paints, those old bags of textiles and found objects that I’d squirrelled away for years and play with them. And what I want to recreate was that woodpecker, all greens and reds, it’s yellow eye looking directly at me, reminding me that ‘what comes round goes round’, as my Dad used to say. I’ll keep it in the office and call it The Boomerang Effect.
Currently listening to: Django