By Emily Montague
Does art shape the audience or the audience shape the art?
For a long time now, art has generally been viewed by the masses, as inaccessible. Mostly because the artist seemingly occupies such a distant and separate space from the audience. There has been a significant lack of connection or interaction between the presumed intellect of the artist, the reasoning behind the artist’s work, and the understanding of the general public. So much so, the public see the artist’s work in relation to an educated artist, therefore expecting to be confused and overwhelmed by such convoluted meaning. However, Grayson Perry (2003 Turner prize winner) may have bridged this gap and produced the ultimate pragmatic and unifying piece of art, that both academic and labourer can relate to, in his Brexit influenced artwork: ‘Matching Pair’ (2017).
In the Channel 4 special episode ‘Divided Britain’, Perry documents the making of the two vases through his interactivity with the audience, in person and on social media. He uses the vases to house all the information and images he collects from both Leave and Remain supporters alike. As the creative process progresses, he notes how similar the vases become, hence their insightful title which challenges the foundations of the obscurity surrounding a shared British identity, after the Brexit vote occurred. Perry encourages unity between Leave and Remain supporters as he highlights the uncanny similarities through visual affirmation to indicate how it was “not a rational conflict”; either side just simply “voted to protect their way of life”. This is solidified even more, as not only does he decide to leave them unlabelled, but the Leave vase is cleverly, yet unknowingly to the naked eye, 4% larger than the Remain vase. Our inability to distinguish which is which leads us to believe that “our identity is much more shared than it is divided.”
Perry “chose to extricate” himself from the whole thing, allowing the audience to decide for themselves the outcome of the artwork. By crowdsourcing images of tattoos, favourite things, places and people, Perry renews our im
agined visions of our identities, replacing them with a glimpse into the reality of our collective identity. The vases facilitate a refreshing hope for humanity as they make us question why we voted so diviningly rather than fuelling us with hatred for one another.
‘Matching Pair’ emphasises the newfound space, in the art world, for artists to interact with their audiences. It indicates how social media can be used as a positive tool to not only facilitate important debates and questions, but also bring people closer together virtually. In Perry’s case, social media can additionally, as a medium for influencing contemporary art, physically bring people together through its use in exhibitions, as Perry’s ‘Matching Pair’ exhibition: ‘The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!’ demonstrates.