Martina Evans

Satur­day Night and Sun­day Morn­ing & X-ray­ing Feet

The London Magazine - - NEWS -

friv­o­lous trin­kets that can be churned out in Chi­nese fac­to­ries. The rest is num­ber crunch­ing, it’s aca­demic.

Ev­ery­where Van Gogh hap­pened to live or pass by, these ran­dom lo­cales, are seized on, pre­served and ma­nip­u­lated to take ad­van­tage of his world sta­tus. The rare at­mos­phere of the twelth cen­tury clois­ter of the still ac­tive St Paul hos­pi­tal near St Remy, a quiet re­served place once vis­ited by a hand­ful-of pil­grims, has now been dis­as­trously com­pro­mised by the es­tab­lish­ment of a sou­venir shop and the so called ‘Van Gogh’s room’. Now paint­ing tours gather there, chat­ter­ing their way through the clois­ter to the shop and coach par­ties de­liver tourists who take their iden­ti­cal pic­tures on their phones stood in the pur­pose-built laven­der field be­hind. Van Gogh’s last sim­ple bed­room in Au­vers-sur-Oise, in France, is a tiny space, a cap­sule of the past grafted onto a multimedia in­stal­la­tion and in­ter­ac­tive visi­tor cen­tre next door. His room iden­ti­cal to count­less oth­ers long de­stroyed, some­how ex­ists, is vis­ited by thou­sands each year who trudge up the old pre­served wooden stairs, en­ter the mod­est space, turn around and go back down, al­most as if per­form­ing a chore­ographed rit­ual, so spe­cific and de­lib­er­ate are their move­ments. Such move­ments are echoed in the hid­ing place of Anne Frank in Am­s­ter­dam, for to­day in cramped at­tics and mean lit­tle pen­sion rooms where half-crazed oc­cu­pants suf­fered unimag­in­able grief and de­spair, the nov­elty-seek­ing pass through in min­utes, a lit­tle awk­wardly and de­lib­er­ately, al­most as if fol­low­ing un­heard in­struc­tions. Seek­ers from around the globe, drawn to the nec­tar of Van Gogh’s colours, their bright anoraks iron­i­cally in­con­gru­ous them­selves against the ru­ral land­scape, are seen wan­der­ing around Au­vers, search­ing for the in­fa­mous wheat field, cam­eras primed. Travesties pile upon travesties in the name of poor Van Gogh, who in his life­time was sub­jected to ridicule and in­dif­fer­ence by the fore­bears of those who now stock up on his im­age in the mu­seum named af­ter him. Ver­meer, Rem­brandt and oth­ers fol­low on be­hind, forced to per­form for us in per­pe­tu­ity in a ver­i­ta­ble com­mer­cialised danse macabre. If they are fa­mous enough and they are dead, all get the same treat­ment, be­cause it has been proved to work. No in­tel­li­gi­ble answer is now pos­si­ble, and no fur­ther ques­tions are likely to be asked.

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