UK Politics

God Is Great #2

“It was the risk of attack alone which stopped us showing John Latham’s work at the Tate, says Stephen Deuchar” says the Guardian’s summary of an article by Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain, explaining the reasons for not exhibiting John Latham’s installation: God is Great #2.

That, in fact, is not precisely what Deuchar says:

We received unequivocal advice that there was a very high risk that a work of art of this kind, shown at this time, would invite some form of attack or physical intervention likely to endanger visitors, staff and, of course, the work itself. It would have been impossible to prevent this without providing a security cordon that would itself have suggested a charged political dimension which was not intended.

In other words, Deuchar’s concern was that the meaning of the artwork would have been changed by the physical context in which it was exhibited.

But is this not the very essence of art in these post-post-structuralist times? Can works of art ever have a fixed meaning? Is the author not dead? Did Barthes himself die in vain? Are we not all, in a very real sense, writing “sous rature” as Derrida so elegantly puts it?