Turning Over Tables

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(Poem dedicated to the Liverpool Tate art gallery which has chosen to buy and display this piece of abusive exploitative art)



Sometimes I wonder if I'm wearing the right glasses

wrong glasses

wrong lens

or  wrong vision?


All around me

people see things

differently -






the unforgivable


the inexcusable


the unjustifiable


speak dispassionately

where I would scream

scorn the expletives

that I need


see what I see

then walk on by

while I ooze liquid

from these maladjusted eyes


And Christ may not have been the son of God

but I know he'd agree

feel the rage

and the passion

that I feel inside

so I'll do what I can

in my own small way

turning over tables

for the love of mankind






abuseexploitationintellectualised art gone wrongloss of humanity

◄ Beautiful

Touch and Go ►


<Deleted User> (11485)

Fri 27th Sep 2013 22:41

Brilliant poem.

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Sun 22nd Sep 2013 13:46

Thanks for contributing to the discussion and liking my poem Chris. I am glad that we are in agreement that this piece of work is reprehensible.

My poem was directed more at intellectuals within the art world - those who purchased this work and displayed it in their gallery. But if I'm to be honest, it's also for people who could watch this video without feeling the same rage and anguish that I feel.

I take your point that just because people don't say anything, doesn't mean they don't agree. I HAVE reacted to what I saw in quite an extreme way - possibly more extreme than most people would have. When you really feel something deep inside, sometimes it's hard to understand how others can't. I think I'm passionate by nature and hardwired to act in this way. I guess we are all different and that's what makes for an interesting world :)

I hear what you are saying about censorship but do not agree.I don't see the art world as being on a par with the film industry. I can't imagine that banning a video from a publicly funded art gallery would create a stampede of people wanting to see it in a privately funded gallery. Nor would the artist benefit financially from any voyeuristic curiosity via people on the internet.I take your point that agreeing on a set of principles might be trickier. I would be looking for a very simple formula. Just that no live person or creature should be hurt or exploited in the creation of a piece of art. I think that publicly funded institutions should be accountable to the public in some way - and that there should be channels we can go through when they cross the line. If we allow galleries to fund this kind of art, where will it end?

Thanks again for reading.


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Chris Co

Sat 21st Sep 2013 09:07



the unforgivable


the inexcusable


the unjustifiable


Do they though? Sorry Isobel, but I think this was part of the problem. In so much as - in getting very upset about the artist and their art, you attached opinions and connotations to quite a few people (that they themselves did not display/have) who didn't agree with your position wholesale.

Many people, of whom I was one dislike the art and the artist but did not think that attempts to ban would be a good idea. I thought a) it would not be possible to have the work banned and such attempts would be futile, b) that banning such art, does nothing more than promote it. Take every horror movie or cpu game that was ever banned, compare that to comparable products that were not banned. Far more of the former gained a certain fame and notoriety. Movies like chainsaw massacre, we know of them precisely because they were banned. Yes I know that the subject matter differs, however what does not differ is the nature of banning and human behaviour and it is here that the comparison stands-up. In the age of the internet, banning equals even greater promotion. c) Another problem with banning in this instance, is who would write the guidelines, to whose standard of ethics would the world conform? Ethics change over time and differ culture to culture. How would you ever get a world-wide agreement on such ethics? I don't believe this would be feasible. Not only that, d) we would also be introducing censorship and the many problems inherent with codifying art along such lines.

So - YES the art and artist are reprehensible and YES some choose to vote with their feet and have a differing way of dealing with such things, but that makes their position no less decent or reasonable.

But your poem here - you say we forgive, excuse and justify. Sorry but that is very wrong. It's absolutely NOT what many people were doing. Rather a few people felt the situation was more complex, nuanced and less strightforward. And also a few of us did not believe that going ballistic with expletives was helpful or conducive in terms of dealing with the situation at hand.

Sorry, but I had to raise this given the specific nature of the language here. It would have been shying away from the truth not to.

On the positive side, I do actually like the poem. I like the fact that you highlight your own feelings and opinion subjectively. It works very well and comes across as a strong protest. Remember I, like some of the people you were arguing with, if not all the people you were arguing with - agreed in essence when it came to this art work and its value, or rather the lack thereof.

Ooze is very good as is maladjusted, the latter in fact is particularly good considering the nature of what the artist claims to be art. One could say that it is the artist and art that is maladjusted, or that the world we have come to live in, that calls this art is maladjusted. The eyes, our senses, a cognitive dissonance in humanity causing us to struggle with what are normal feelings of outrage.

I like the poem overall and I do like the passion. But I can't agree with your summation of others - me included.

The biblical reference to turning over tables of course relates to Jesus and his own direct action in dealing with impropriety. Poetically/artistically this sits well given modern direct action ala Mark Bridger - having a double connotation.



Turning Sierra over via black paint would be easier to pull off, more pleasing aesthetically and ethically and less problematic than censorship.

Best of


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Thu 19th Sep 2013 16:22

Great idea Laura - I'll have to plan a few more trips to Liverpool - and somehow find a way of blinding all those guards/guides they have hanging around - now I understand why they need so many...

We've missed you too Jane. WOL goes through waves - times when people have time to read and post, and times when they don't. It's always great when friends come back - they add so much value to the site.

Ian - I'm not sure if my poem is a thing of beauty - it was a quick write to vent emotions that were churning me up inside. I feel better for having done it. Art should provoke as well as entertain - but provoke thought for all the right reasons, not the wrong.

I'm just happy if my poem has managed that.

Thank you all again for taking the time to think about it and comment.

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Laura Taylor

Thu 19th Sep 2013 09:27

You know what? I think you should print your poem onto flyers, and leave them lying about the Tate. Also, put one up right alongside the video.

Direct action!

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jane wilcock

Wed 18th Sep 2013 22:15

Hi Isobel,
You dont need to see the sweat shops of India through a hidden camera, just turn on the telly and watch them tumble, swallowing their workers in our vicarious greed.
The desire for "shock and awe" is no different and I doubt it completes its aims, as the USA found,but more concerningly it might.
I have mised you and those other thoughtful poets that have summarised!

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Ian Whiteley

Wed 18th Sep 2013 18:55

art portrayed as the vile - it is an unworthy piece of crap that doesn't deserve a commission - HOWEVER - the unfortunate thing about shock art from 'artists' who have more or less run out of ideas, is that they use it to create controversy which fuels their notoriety and is therefore self perpetuating. I'm not sure what the best response to this sort of abomination really is - it's too easy to say ignore it - because why should we - it's also unlikely to be removed from display because the Tate will see the £ signs in any sort of controversy - they are, after all, social whores. I think the only way to counteract this sort of trash is to provide alternative art - that simply highlights what is wrong with the idea of this type of art - and in that respect your poem is a thing of beauty Isobel. keep fighting the good fight.

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Laura Taylor

Wed 18th Sep 2013 10:51

Okay - I still haven't actually seen the film all the way through, however, I do know pretty much the content, so I will comment now.

I'v read a number of articles on the subject, and I will say that I 100% concur with Anthony's post - it is exactly how I would have approached it. Apart from the Tracey Emin stuff cos I did like that.

I feel that Sierra is just repeating the exploitation whilst trying to score points over the buyers of art. Yes, they are disconnected from the real world. Will this have the same effect on them though, as it does on people who ARE connected with the real world? Doubt it. They're buying it aren't they?

I've read a fair bit about Sierra, and some of his earlier art I think makes some very valid points about the relationship between labour and capitalism, but I think he's maybe running out of ideas and is introducing more 'shock' in order to sustain his 'career'.

I've recently had a similar reaction to Ben Sherman's latest range of 'fashion'. called 'Spirit of the Union', which is based on the miners strike and pit closures, believe it or not. I found this more than insulting, and left some choice comments on their FB page - which were removed within minutes.

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Wed 18th Sep 2013 09:09

Thank you Dave. Thank you Anthony. It helps me to hear what I feel expressed by other people, perhaps more eloquently and more rationally than I can myself.

You are right to say that the theme of exploitation could have been explored in a way that actually brought some positive results. Perhaps if the artist has smuggled a camera into the sweat shops of India, we might all consider more carefully where we shop for our clothes.

There will always be 'artists' who strive for notoriety rather than beauty or something of intrinsic worth. The painful thing for me is the fact that WE the British Public have funded this atrocity - the fact that anyone can try to justify it.

Perhaps I feel things too deeply. I've found myself haunted by this video. I never would have imagined that a family day out could have been so ruined by a visit to an art gallery.

There are more links to articles on the subject on my Facebook page Anthony - and on Stellas - if you feel at all inclined to find out more. I'm going to keep on banging on about it till someone hopefully listens - or till no-one is interested, whichever comes sooner.

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Anthony Emmerson

Wed 18th Sep 2013 02:26

A very well expressed poem Isobel. I can't find the video - not that I'd particularly want to watch it anyway, except to form an opinion maybe. I guess Senor Sierra has partially succeeded in his aim - to shock. But then again I feel it's a pretty cheap shot and not very imaginative to continue that exploitation himself and call it art. It seems to me to be a mercenary act which doesn't express an opinion but simply presents us with a situation we are already aware of. What does it say - I can exploit the already exploited and call it art, and what's more lots of other so-called intelligentsia and artists will say it's art too? Freedom of expression, art for art's sake? It provokes for sure (it obviously provoked you to write a very relevant piece of work!

Essentially I always find this kind of shock-art a little lazy. It relies on one (not very original) idea. Other than that is there really any craft or skill involved? After all, even Tracey Emin had to put up a tent! And what is its achievement? Does it put the exploited in the headlines - for the right reasons - or turn them into some kind of freakish, helpless and hopeless sideshow?

I know you, and I suspect many others, could find much more imaginative, creative and effective ways of making the point - and probably do some good into the bargain.

A picture may well be said to paint a thousand words, but not necessarily in intelligible sentences when the brush is wielded so clumsily.

Well said and thanks for the heads up on this.


A.E. x

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Dave Bradley

Tue 17th Sep 2013 20:53

Powerful poem Izz. As you know I visited the exhibit too. I didn't watch the whole thing because I felt like a voyeur at something fundamentally vile and nasty. The Tate have said - in responding to my complaint - that the work is intended to "evoke moral disapproval....aiming for the viewer to be appalled by any exploitation of human beings." They also say it "explores unfamiliar ethical territory and features four drug-addicted prostitutes hired for the price of a shot of heroin. In return, the prostitutes consent to being tattooed."

Exploiting extremely vulnerable people in order to create "art" (for sale) which highlights...er... exploitation is simply wrong. That it involves permanently marking their bodies is sick. Give 'em hell.

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Tue 17th Sep 2013 15:07

Jane - you are right that this is not about extermination - the similarity arises from the way human beings are treated like cattle - there is no differentiation in the way they are defaced - there is no expression of individuality. For me that makes it doubly disturbing.

The girls appear to be in agreement to what is being done to them - and yes they have been paid. They have been chosen because they come from a social group most desperate for money; the piece is supposed to explore economic exploitation. Perhaps the artist and the Tate believe that less of a public backlash would be felt from choosing this type of victim.

Laura, I'm glad you are going to watch this video and add your opinion. I see you as the feminist of all feminists, though for me it's not even about the subjugation of women. I think I'd feel exactly the same way it was a row of young boys being abused. The sad fact is though - that it's women who end up selling their bodies for drugs - most men take different routes to fund the habit.

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Laura Taylor

Tue 17th Sep 2013 14:39

Oh well Is, at least you got a poem out of it eh? ;)

Flippancy aside, I still haven't watched the video, and until I do, I can't make comment.

Will try to watch tonight and get back to this though.

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jane wilcock

Tue 17th Sep 2013 14:04

Well actually Isobel, I wasn't thinking about Nazi camps as that puts me in mind of extermination. This seems more about exploitation and autonomy. The girls may have approved of the extra money and tattoo but its the exploitation of usually vulnerable individuals from poor relationship backgrounds that concerncs me and how much in control of themselves they are especially as labelled as drug addicted. However, unlike Francine I have not watched the full videoand there is a point about starting on a road...

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Tue 17th Sep 2013 08:15

Thank you Jane. Thank you Francine for feeling things the way I feel them. I couldn't watch beyond the first few seconds of the video because I felt so sick with anger - but yes, the treatment of the Jews definitely came to mind.

The big issue here for me is that British taxpayers money has been used to buy this work and we are currently displaying it in a prominent art gallery to children and students. What message are we putting out to future generations? One that I thought we'd put to bed with Auschwitz. And in the name of art...

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Tue 17th Sep 2013 04:38

I read the ideas behind it and watched the video. I find it sadistic, degrading, and unconscionable. How can this be called art when in fact he is exploiting the very ideas he wants to explore - and use as a metaphor! As I watched the video, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Nazi camps!

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jane wilcock

Mon 16th Sep 2013 20:18

They should buy your poem and put it up next to it. It would be a much more significant and powerful statement - though the video should not exist I agree.

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Mon 16th Sep 2013 15:24

This video features in the DLA Piper Series: Constellations. It is the work of Santiago Sierra. A group of drug addicted prostitutes were induced to have these tattoos for money. The piece is supposed to explore the concepts of power, economic exploitation and objectification of the human body. The Tate have paid for it and now have it on display. Shame on them!

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