Tim Noble & Sue Webster's art embodies, as Noble himself says "your worst nightmare as to what art can be:" their sculptures are vulgar, aggressive and seemingly more pop than the Grammys yet also contrasting and ambiguous.
Falling Apart juxtaposes the gross and monstrous with the beautiful and refined; rubbish has been turned into art. Noble & Webster, a couple both professionally and romantically, amassed the junk for the sculpture during a period of several months. Thus this is a self-portrait in more than one sense of the word: besides the shadow on the wall their junk reveals to us who they are.
The title Falling Apart alludes to the couple's many arguments during the work on the sculpture, and the silhouette is a quite literal reading of this crisis in their relationship.
YOU ARE YOUR RUBBISH
Noble & Webster have done a series of self-portraits with junk. They utilise, manipulate and transform mundane materials in order to challenge our expectations of the artistic self-portrait.
Furthermore by using rubbish they demonstrate how our identities are created by what we buy and consume in a broad sense, that our identities – in both a positive and negative sense – are closely connected with the consumer society governing our lives. Moreover the use of rubbish is a stroke of anarchy in an art world that increasingly emulates the rest of society when it comes to banality and commercialism.
Noble & Webster's art in general
As do many artists of their generation, Noble & Webster have a keen interest in the everyday around them. This everyday and its significance to one's identity form the basis of their art.
When challenging the established norms of art and beauty, they do so with provocative and confrontational styles and strategies. It is the spectacular and more vulgar aspects of contemporary culture that the artists comment on, in a manner plainly mimicking that very culture's attention seeking style.
They position themselves deliberately between the two ostensible antipoles: highbrow art and the consumer society's lowbrow kitsch in order to emphasise the surprising similarity between the two worlds.
In addition to their fascination with junk's aesthetic potential, the couple have a penchant for references to Las Vegas, the symbol of a glinting and glossy but superficial society.
THE CELEBRITY ARTIST
The two artists also comment on the changed position that contemporary art has held in Britain since the emergence of the so-called YBAs (Young British Artists). YBA put the UK back on the world map of art and has subsequently been used by the British government to increase international interest in British culture. Here art is on a par with fashion and music, and some artists receive the same kind of attention as pop stars and actors.
Noble & Webster are only considered fringe YBAs but they have frequently sneered at the relationship between innovative, cutting edge art on the one hand and on the other government subsidised attempts to create a common, British cultural idiom that can be exploited for selling anything from music to food.