"Moniker Art Fair has matured"
by Tristán White for remotegoat on 06/10/16

This time last year, I reviewed for Remotegoat the tenth anniversary edition of The Other Art Fair which, like this year, incorporated a section caled the Moniker Art Fair, a sort of "art fair within an art fair". This year, I have been asked mainly to review the Moniker Art Fair experience, which is enjoying its seventh year at the Old Truman Brewery off Brick Lane.

I found this year's Moniker to be much more on trend and original compared to 2015. Last year there appeared to be a lot of stalls selling prints that were ripping off Banksy and Disney, with the shamelessness you'd expect from a stall in Camden Market. This year there was a lot more maturity, and the one stand that did pay homage to other artists (Imitate Modern Gallery) was technically on another level compared to some of the offerings in 2015: we had modern interpretations of Van Gogh's lilies and sunflowers, and a humourous pastiche of Roy Lichtenstein's iconic pop art but showing a Taser instead of a revolver.

Last year, Moniker was hidden behind a fake wall that would not look out of place in Boom Town or Glastonbury's Shangri La, and behind it there was more fakery. In 2015, there was an attempt to make the area too cool for school by incorporating a functioning Bitcoin ATM, and the artwork could be bought in Bitcoins that you had just bought, which was somewhat pointless and trying too hard. As I said, in 2016, Moniker has matured. The only way you knew that you were in that section instead of the main Other section was if the stand had an M symbol next to its name. In that way, the two fairs blended almost seamlessly and I have no doubt that they will get more footfall as a result, with most of the vistors oblivious to the fact that they are in a separate exhibition. Moniker, with its more urban roots, has gone a little more high-tech this year. Out with the Bitcoin ATM, and in with Oculus Rift virtual reality experiences, interactive spinning wheels on a gamefied 18-foot wall that you can interact with via the bespoke App, and post-ironic nods to gameshows and other popular culture.

I enjoyed the World Art Gallery, which was a curious mélange of toyshop and art. The Dynamite is the only gallery in Brighton that showcases both contemporary art and custom-designed toys, and some of the pieces were really quite extraordinary, occasionally somewhat psychedelic. Further along the exhibition, Colin McMaster's painted hand-cut wood panels were both stylish and charming.

Since entry to the Moniker includes The Other Art Fair, it is important to mention what caught my eye there as well. "Shoreditch Lives" (which is right on the edge of the Moniker section) was probably my favourite. Dozens of 3D-printed action figurines of real-life Shoreditch characters - Kish Kash the sneaker consultant, Leah Abbott the vintage fashion assistant - in their display boxes, with information about how many years they have lived in Shoreditch, were a hoot. Acrylicize invited these people to be scanned while holding an object of their choice that best represents their character or personality. Close-by was Norwich-based Lisa Willgress's hilarious yet subconsciously chilling montage of a sitting-room immediately following a spontaneous human combustion. Max Zorn's "Tape Art" was breathtaking and original in which ordinary sealing tape is used to create quite beautiful pieces of art, which are then sealed airtight to prevent damage from CO2 and humidity, and which come with an LED-lit lightbox. I would urge you all to visit Max's website, maxzorn.com, where you can see a video showing how he creates his art and gives much more detailed explanations of the materials used and how they are treated.

The Moniker crowd were not the only ones to bring virtual reality headsets to the show. The Guardian were showcasing their amazing and immersive experience of what it is like to be in a 6'x9' cell in solitary confinement, which in America is the reality for some 100,000 prisoners, confined for 23 hours a day, sometimes for years on end. Albert Woodfox was in solitary confinement for 43 years - I found seven minutes to be disturbing enough. You can make your own Google Cardboard headset if you can't afford an expensive kit, and download the app from the Guardian website where you can try out this experience for yourself.

All in all, this was an enjoyable if oversubscribed event, and Moniker was a vast improvement on last year's slightly tacky section. It has matured.

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