Rory Macbeth, The Wanderer by Franz Kafka, 2011

Looking at art and reading can seem poles apart. Galleries are public spaces in which we move from one room to another. Reading is usually sedentary and usually in some way private.

But The Wanderer by Franz Kafka, by Rory Macbeth, suggests otherwise. The title promises a mobile activity, while the reading which took place held many gallery goers in one spot.

In case you were wondering, this does not represent the discovery of a lost masterpiece by Kafka.That is a home-made book, a translation, and Macbeth claims not to speak German.

Gregor Samsa crops up, so we may take this to be a version of Metamorphosis. And we may also take it that in every act of reading some translation, or metamorphosis, takes place.

Of course, reading does get done in galleries. We read plaques, interpretation boards, even the works themselves. But this work suggests it may all stray from the path of intended meaning.

The modernism of Kafka et al may be to blame. And this may be a warning, given the outcome for his best known protagonists. Wanderings can only go so far, after all.

NB: That’s not the artist in the photo, but someone he delegated to perform The Wanderer at the launch of Display Copy at Kunstfreund Gallery, Leeds (29/01/11). The show features work by Rory Macbeth and Ross Downes and runs until 12 February. See gallery blog for more details.

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