Let Them Eat Cake
I just knew it was going to be an odd evening when John Hayvend arrived, fully wired for sound. Hanging on a cord around his neck was a small digital camera, about the size of a fat credit card, looking like some hi tech piece of bling. A small red light visible at one corner, the camera switched to audio function only, this thing is going to accompany us on our evening, documenting everything that can be heard.
'That's going to be quite a job to edit down, though,' we say. 'Easy,' he replies, pointing to an almost invisible button on the underside of the machine. 'It has an index button: if anyone says anything interesting I can just press this button and it leaves an edit on the track. So I can go back and find the good things from the whole evening.' We all agree that the index button is a good thing. I start trying to think of something clever to say.
We head for The Residence tonight, to something that I know is going to be fairly off the normal range, so should therefore be worth having a look in.
We arrive to a small bunch of odd looking people standing around in the front part of the gallery. There's a load of old family photos stuck directly to the wall, a large painting of a man's head, some enlarged photos of derelict houses and the striking and strange looking 'artist' (and founder of The Residence) Ingrid Z.
I'm trying to place her look, and some of the others who are here. There's a smattering of new romantic, goth, blitz, and even something I can't quite place from the 60s. We get some beer and get Ingrid to talk us through what's going on here. She begins by telling us about her parents splitting up when she was 2 and a half, (she points to a photo of her mother), then the years in Canada growing up and setting up galleries and fashion stores and all sorts of things, and then the relationship with her boyfriend (she points to another photo), followed by moving out and tracking down the alcoholic father (points to an old black and white snap of him on the beach) who left so many years ago. John asks how she found him. 'I just looked in the phone book and there he was', she says. (Did he index that, I wonder?) Anyway, she finds him and the next day he dies. No kidding. And she doesn't realise for a couple of days, she just thinks he's sleeping off the drink. But the the chicken meal he had by the chair begins to go off. So, y'know, she had to deal with all that. The large painting of the man's head is him. 'It's done from memory, but I think I really caught him.' She points at another photo, but I am really straining to see any connection here. Then, what happened? Someone else died two weeks after she'd met them. And then, I think there was another death. There could have been more. By this time we are all feeling a little queasy. Plus there are more bizarre people arriving. And Ingrid has been given a chocolate cake. Which she eats by taking bites straight out of it then passes it round. Other people takes bites out and pass it on. Has nobody heard of plates here, I think? Forks and spoons? There's some funny business going on with the toilet out back too - people keep going in and out in a fairly bizarre manner. Also, what happend to the lock on the door? It was there when we arrived. Olivia, the 'press officer' for The Residence starts saying words like 'nebula' in regard to Z's work. I tell her not to use words like that. My companions are giving me looks that say: GET OUT OF HERE NOW.
So we go. I realise what the 60's thing was I kept picking up on. Z and her colleagues are like a tribute band for Warhol's Factory. And now I understand a little bit more about why Andy wanted to photograph these people.
We go to the Macbeth on Hoxton Street. This is another one of those old time east end boozers which have been brought bang up to date by incoming Hoxton art/culture/music/media types. The sunday supplement article about the 'achingly hip' pubs of Hoxton can surely only be days away now. There's a band playing. I think they are called The Horn. This means that the lead singer gets to perform in a T shirt that says 'Have You Got The Horn?' I see an image of fly posters, stickers, stencil grafitti, badges, etc all bearing this neat little line. I wonder what came first: the band or the name? I take a couple of pictures of the band and the bar for record and start getting dirty looks. One of the bouncers stands rather too close to me (or maybe he's just being friendly?). We have a last drink and then I say my goodbyes.
And as I go to the door I can't help but think that, despite my scintillating conversation and incisive comments about art and life throughout the evening, John never once pressed the 'index' button after anything I said.