For this lecture we had to watch three episodes of In The Best Possible Taste by Grayson Perry on 4OD. The program was about the artist Grayson Perry and the journey he took in order to create 6 large tapestries. In each episode he looked at a different ‘class’ in England – in the first episode he looked at the working class, in the second he looked at middle class and in the final one he looked at upper class people. He spent time getting to know the people as well as the places where they lived. Through this analysis he was able to create his final art piece. Perry looked specifically into the ‘taste’ of people in these different social classes. The reason that he wanted to create tapestries is because in the 17th century they were only filled with noble people or people of great importance. He is contradicting this idea by making tapestries of normal everyday situations ‘whether they shop at Waitrose or Ikea” (Grayson Perry). Perry’s inspiration in William Hogarth, an 18th Century painter.
Over the past three weeks, Britain’s most-famous transvestite potter has been exploring the taste of the country’s different social classes, before turning his findings into a series of tapestries. But when I say “exploring”, I don’t mean it in the traditional television sense of “making a few generalisations that he knows we all agree with anyway”. Instead, Perry gives every impression of thinking carefully about what he sees – even to the point of changing the opinions he started out with. More controversially still, he seems to be trying to understand people different from himself, rather than simply sneering at them.
The three part documentary was incredibly interesting. I didn’t think I was going to like it at first, and was very hesitant about watching it, but when I started the first episode the thing that stood out to me most was the way he did his research. Instead of going to the library and reading books or going on the laptop and searching for answers online he actually met people from each of the social classes and analysed their lives. He photographed their belongings and asked them intuitive questions. He was incredibly perceptive. To see how his experiences turned into a tapestry was also very fascinating to see. You could identify the things he learnt within the tapestries.
In this lecture we had a bit of a debate about the program. A few people argued that which social class you’re in doesn’t actually matter than much because people aren’t too fussed about social classes anymore, while other argued that it’s the completely opposite. The people in Sunderland were incredibly proud of their working class label. Class is something not many people talk about or find it quite an awkward conversation.
Although I found the documentary interesting, I do have a few reservations about the program. It seemed as though Perry went to see people that were a certain type within the social classes. According to the program I wouldn’t fit into any of these classes, nor would my family. Another thing I found was a bit disappointing is the fact that the tapestries were too literal. They showed exactly what we saw in the documentary, there was nothing abstract about it – it was too concrete.