Live art busking performances for Art Week Exeter
Learning how to become a professional pianist in two weeks, with everyone watching me.
Criticisms such as ‘a five year old could do that’ or ‘it’s not art’ are often levelled at contemporary art, and especially at performance artists. Almost anyone– including animals, like chimps and elephants- can make and share deliberate images, sounds and movements, but could a five year old actually make contemporary art? What defines the difference between art and non-art, especially for general and unspecialised audiences? And conversely, are the proverbially easy things that five year olds do really so easy?
I decided to test these concepts out by taking a toy piano to the streets and publicly learning music from scratch, with no prior knowledge of reading music or playing an instrument and using a system designed for kindergarten children. This live art busking pitch is equally influenced by John Cage’s works for toy or prepared pianos, and by the most basic comedy tactic of a grown man playing a very small piano very badly.
Result: I did get better over the two weekends, but playing the piano well is really difficult. It’s hard work to make it look easy. Lots of people tried to teach me, or just had a go on the piano, but the best piano player who came along was a teenager who’d been learning since she was five, and had actually started with a toy piano like mine. QED. I also liked the bloke who thought he was being funny by saying “don’t give up your day job, mate” because the joke’s on him. This is my day job.
The closest I’ve ever been to being in a band: contributing my infantile keyboard skills to mosh o’ clock by one of the other commissioned AWE Street Lab projects with Alice Human, Asthma.