Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Barry Thompson at Rachmaninoff's

In 2000, an artist called Lucy Harrison was in a show called Anxious Words, curated by Sharon Kivland. It was presented in the fifth floor of the bookshop, Waterstone’s Piccadilly. At that time I was the marketing manager of that branch and worked with Sharon on arranging the show and working together on ways in which it might integrate into the bookshop. Sharon wanted to do a whole panoply of things which I thought were totally unacceptable in terms of my role as guardian of the bookshop and we went through a prolonged period of negotiation and discussion regarding what could and couldn’t be achieved. And, bless her, Sharon was a very cunning and subtly manipulative curator and ended up with getting pretty much everything she wanted. And maybe, ultimately, I wanted to be manipulated in precisely that way.
Anyway, as the show opened I gave a short talk in one of the rooms in the store to the artists involved, thanking them, and Sharon, for the work they had contributed. I don’t remember seeing Lucy in this group and I certainly didn't speak to her but somewhere in the large safe in my brain her features must have been softly imprinted and locked away.
So then it's five years later and an artist called Lucy Harrison starts emailing me at the ICA bookshop about a publication she has produced called Fantastic Cities and could we take it to sell in the shop. And we have a few emails about it and I take the book and I sell a few and we email some other stuff and I get on her mailing list and she onto mine. Then one day she emails out that she has a new website up and running (check that out here) and I look at it and of course I look at her biography and there I see that she was in a show called Anxious Words and I remember back to when I was the marketing manager and I remember the show. And I think, that's weird, innit.
Anyway, a couple of years after that and I'm standing in the ICA bookshop and a girl comes in and asks about the Beck's catalogue and mentions that she is on the long list of nominations and a part of me thinks, out of all the nominations, I'll bet that this girl is Lucy Harrison. And it is and we say hello and shake hands and properly introduce ourselves.
So, tonight, when I walk into Rachmaninoff's on Kingsland Road to see Barry Thompson's show and see Lucy Harrison standing there I just have to say hello.
I don't really have much else to say, of course, so I tell her about the Anxious Words link, which I've never had the opportunity to mention before. She remembers me about as much I remember her from that, so I guess that's ok.
And then she is talking about looking back through some old copies of Art Monthly she has in her studio and reading back thru the list of artists in a group show in which she had some work when she was a student and how now there are so many names that she recognises from their subsequent works and her subsequent knowledge. I love this. I'm always pulling up group show listings, award nominations, recent acquisitions, prizes and long artist cvs through google. Each time I revisit them there’s more names I recognise, or people I've met, the names of artists whose works I've just seen and finally 'got' or got into. It’s the most addictive thing. I'm fascinated by that ever changing landscape, both out there and within myself. There's a work to be created around lists like these. There, you can have that one for free. Although on second thoughts, no, wait, leave that one well alone, I might just go there myself (or maybe that's exactly what I'm doing right now...). Hell, maybe even Lucy might go there...she likes words...
Lucy introduces me to Bob Matthews, who she works with. I don’t know Bob, but Lucy definitely thinks he is worth knowing. You should know him, says Lucy, he's curated loads of shows. Then they try, together, to remember the full title of a show he curated at Keith Talent. It was called Limbo...cluttering. Cluttering about in limbo, or...or, it was..then they get to 'Cluttern Colours Roamin' in Limbo.' I think. Anyway, Bob curated that one. So, later I check out Bob Matthews on google and, yeah, he's certainly worth knowing. He’s done a bunch of great stuff.
Lee Edwards is there. I don’ t really know him or what he does but he has a habit of appearing in photos of private views I‘ve been to, sometimes laughing directly into the camera, sometimes appearing in the background; often with Joseph Richards. Lee was definitely at Deck of Cards at 39, People Like Us at No More Grey, Office Politix in Brick Lane. He’s probably been to many more, but these are the ones where I’ve taken a photo and he’s been in it. Whatever. I take his photo again tonight.
Did I just mention Joseph Richards? Well, whaddya know, he’s here too. I say hello, because I know Joseph from when he applied to work in the bookshop. I’ve seen him since that application and tonight he tells me that he is leaving London. It’s too expensive. He has debts he wants to clear. He’s going to move to Bath and stay in the parental home for a bit. He's going to clear his debts, then come back. But before he comes back he's going to walk to Scotland. From Bath. Seriously. That's what he said. And he's well up for this. Could take about three weeks, a month. Then we talk for quite a while about beards and how long his beard will get during this walk and how big his hair will be and how it will look like a mane...he might make a book, or a show out of it. The walk. Not the beard.
Cressida Kocienski is there. I know her too from when she applied to work at the bookshop. She is very nice and has just taken on a job at Tate Modern bookshop, full time. She's also going to carry on doing her own work and set up a company or some kind of agency with a friend of hers (I’m sure that’s what she said). Is that possible, I wonder? It’s hard to keep stuff going when you have time, let alone when you are working five day a week. She shrugs. 'I’m used to working 7 days a week,' she says. She seems invincible. So I take her photo. 'Yeah, great,' she says, pretty unimpressed. 'I look like my mother.' Well, I reckon Old Mother Cressida should feel pretty flattered…
Barry Thompson is there, obviously. I first met him outside Museum 52 in Redchurch Street one evening when Lena and I thought he had some work in show there. He didn’t. But he has work in tonight's show. Heck, it’s his very own show.
Barry does small, intensely worked, realistic drawings. There's maybe 12 or so here tonight. All framed. They are intricate, delicate and immaculately executed. They are mostly of birds, trees and pop bands and singers. They are like memories. Sharp, and brittle. Small pieces of a much bigger and profound, and slowly fading, story. They are really, really good. Barry used to work at Tate Modern bookshop. 'I've left all that behind now,' he says. 'Hey, that's great,' I say. 'Yeah,' he says, 'now I'm at Tate Britain.' Then he laughs so much I think he might need the toilet.
But he doesn't.
I do though.
So I go.
It's a nice toilet. It has spirit levels hanging above on it on the wall. I think, though I can't say why, that this is a good thing.
When I come out, Matthew Arnatt, the guy who runs the place, comes over and shakes my hand. 'Hi,' he says, 'I'm Matthew, I mgmmhghghnhh jhhhhhgdnnew Barry's work, mmmmmmmmggmmghmfgremgfgm, hdgmsk, taking risks, ghfhfgfgdhgfdhsgahgd...'
'I'm sorry,' I say, 'I didn't catch a word of that.'
He talks some more and I catch bits and pieces. He definitely likes Barry's work and he thinks that Barry has found a way to invest drawing with something new.
As I ponder this he looks at me squarely for the first time and says. 'I'm sorry, I'm bursting for a pee.' Then he disappears past me into the toilet.
I think it time to leave.
And because in some way tonight has been about history and memory and lists and all that, I'll leave you with this.

New Contemporaries 2000:

b.1975 Dartford, England 1999-2001 MA Fine Art Sculpture, Slade School of Fine Art, University College London 1996-99 BA (hons) Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art 1995-96 Foundation in Art and Design, Stockport College

John Askew
b.1960 Ashford, England 1998-99 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1993-97 BA (hons) Fine Art, University of Sunderland

Anna Barriball
b.1972 Plymouth, England 1999-2000 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art, London 1992-95 BA (hons) Fine Art, Winchester School of Art 1991-92 Foundation studies, Falmouth College of Art

Jennifer Beattie
b.1973 Perth, Scotland 1998-99 MA European Fine Art, Winchester School of Art, Barcelona and Winchester 1995-96 Postgraduate Diploma Fine Art, Cyprus College of Art 1991-95 BA (hons) Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art

Richard Bradbury
b.1976 Kent, England After studying in Manchester, he gained his BA from Chelsea College of Art, London in 1999.

Gail Burton
b.1977 Edinburgh, Scotland 1997-2000 BA (hons) Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art 1996-97 Foundation Studies, Chelsea College of Art

Don Bury
b.1964 Vancouver, Canada 1998-99 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1994-98 BA Fine Arts, Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada 1997 Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux-arts, Paris 1983-86 Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada

Josephine Butler
b.1964 Birmingham, England 1998-2000 MA Photography, Royal College of Art, London 1992-94 BA (hons) Fine Art, Middlesex University

Justin Carter
b.1973 Nairobi, Kenya 1999 The School of the Arts Institute, Chicago 1998-2000 MA Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art 1991-95 BA (hons) Fine Art Sculpture, Glasgow School of Art

Phil Collins
b.1970 Runcorn, England 1998-2000 MA Fine Art, University of Ulster, Belfast 1990-94 BA (hons) English Literature, BA (hons) Drama, University of Manchester

Mike Cooter
b.1978 Epsom, England 1997-2000 BA (hons) Fine Art, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford

Robert Currie
b.1976 London, England 1998-2000 MA Communication Art and Design, Royal College of Art 1995-98 BA (hons)Design and Art Direction, Manchester Metropolitan University 1993-94 Foundation in Art and Design, The Isle of Man College of Further Education

Alistair Hadley
b.1964 Manchester, England 1996-99 BA (hons) Fine Art, London Guildhall University 1995-96 Foundation studies, London Guildhall University

Ilana Halperin
b.1973 New York, USA 1998-2000 MA Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art 1992-95 BA with Honours in Visual Art, Brown University, USA

Lucy Harrison
b.1974 Crawley, England 1997-99 MA Fine Art Printmaking, Royal College of Art 1994-97 BA (hons) Fine Art, Kent Institute of Art and Design, Canterbury 1993-94 BTECH Foundation, Northbrook College, Horsham, Sussex

Saron Hughes
b.1969 London, England 1997-99 MA Fine Art Sculpture, Royal College of Art 1994-97 BA (hons) Fine Art Sculpture, Chelsea College of Art 1993-94 Foundation studies, Chelsea College of Art

James Ireland
b.1977 Derby, England 1996-99 BA (hons) Fine Art, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford

N Bendix & S Larsen
b.1971 Ålborg, Denmark 1999-2001 MA Fine Art Media, Slade School of Fine Art, University College London 1996-99 BA (hons) Fine Art Sculpture, Chelsea College of Art

Jeffrey Ty Lee
b.1969 Malaysia 2000-2002 MA Fine Art, Royal Academy of Art, London 1997-2000 BA (hons) Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art

Johannes Maier
b.1971 Ulm, Germany 1999-2000 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1997 BA (hons) Fine Art, University of Derby 1992-98 Degree Fine Art, Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kunst Stuttgart, Germany

Andrew Mania
b.1974 Bristol, England 1998-99 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art 1994-97 BA (hons) Fine Art, Falmouth College of Art

Marta Marce
b.1972 Barcelona, Spain Studied Painting at the Royal College of Art (1998-2000) with a Bundy Scholarship and in Barcelona at the Facultat de Belles Arts (1990-95), where she began her PhD.

Nathaniel Mellors
b.1974 Doncaster, England 1999-2001 MA Fine Art Sculpture, Royal College of Art 1996-99 BA (hons) Fine Art, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford

Miyako Narita
b.1963 Kyoto, Japan 1999-2000 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art 1997-98 Postgraduate Diploma Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1993-97 BA (hons) Fine Art, Middlesex University 1983-87 BA English Literature, Kwansei Gakuin University

Mick Peter
b.1974 Berlin, Germany 1998-2000 MA Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art 1994-97 BA (hons) Fine Art, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford

Ben Pruskin
b.1968 London, England 1998-2000 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1989-91 BA (hons) Fine Art, Central St Martins School of Art and Design, London

Jewyo Rhii
b.1971 Seoul, Korea 1999-2000 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art 1995-97 Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA 1990-95 BFA, E-wha Women’s University

Hideatsu Shiba
b.1973 Japan 1998-99 MA Painting, Chelsea College of Art 1997-98 Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1995-98 BA (hons) Fine Art, Byam Shaw School of Art, London

Tomoaki Suzuki
b.1972 Ibaraki, Japan 1999-2000 Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1998-99 Postgraduate Certificate in Fine Art, Goldsmiths College 1992-97 Sculpture Course in Fine Art, Tokyo Zokei University

Melanie Titmuss
b.1975 Wiltshire, England Lived in Fairford, Gloucestershire before attending Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education (1993-94) and Wimbledon School of Art (1996-99).

Beáta Veszely
b.1970 Budapest, Hungary 1999-2000 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London 1988-94 BA Painting / MA Intermedia, Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest

Emily Wardill
b.1977 Rugby, England 1997-2000 BA (hons) Fine Art, Central St Martins School of Art and Design 1996-97 Foundation studies, Newcastle-under-Lyme College

Edward Weldon
b.1970 Yorkshire, England 1998-99 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art 1988-91 BA (hons) Fine Art, Humberside Polytechnic

pics from the evening

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Dude Has a Show

It's a lovely evening, the sun slung low over the city, heavy blocks of sunlight lying across the roads and propped up against the sides of buildings. I'm out early, I'm feeling good and the whole of the east end of London is bursting with private views. I check out White Cube and the Gary Hume opening. Everyone likes Gary and the show is bigtime. I spot Sarah Lucas there, dressed in sand coloured top and brown camouflage trousers, consequently looking like she's just come off duty in Iraq. Jay Jopling is there with his curious, slightly larger than lifesize head, and well, most people are there. It's that big, baying mob that collects around the beer bins. I check in with one of my favourite barmen - Matt, who does all the White Cube launches and is clearly in the running for Best Barperson at a Private View - currently it's neck and neck between him and Pearse at Rokeby....and voting opens soon - via text message, phone line or just by pressing your red button. Anyway, I scoot round the gallery. Hume's done a whole load of new stuff in marble. They're so big and so heavy they look like they are gonna fall off the walls - or just bring the walls down with them. It's full on.
I pay my respects to these works and then head up to Store and Claire Harvey's show. I've seen her work before and really liked the stuff she did on post-it notes so I think she is pretty special already. Tonight is no disappointment. She has a bunch of paintings which are all great, but I can't help but be caught up with the stuff around these. Namely, tiny, delicate, little drawings of people on scotch tape, stuck directly to the wall, that are simply wonderful. People walking, sketched from behind, their shadows shifting about before them. Niru Ratnam, who co-runs the gallery, is fiddling around with a record player (remember those?) trying to play a white label 7", called 'Sorry'. This is also by Claire, a gentle song about a fly that died when it flew into the wet paint on a canvas she was working on. Above Niru, on the wall, is a photograph. It's called Self Portrait Disguised as a Mountain. It's of Claire, hunched under a sheet with a small mirror on the floor in front of her, the whole scene spotlit in her studio. It's a captivating work, perhaps because it has no immediately understandable meaning, perhaps because she has used the word
'disguised' in the title (stroke of genius, that), perhaps because it stands so elegantly apart from the rest of the show. I ask her about it. Thankfully she can't provide a neat answer to it. She had a camera with a ten second delay on it, which meant she could take her own portrait, and she was in the Netherlands which is, like, quite flat, and it was the end of the day in her studio, and well...the mirror is like a lake at the bottom of the mountain. Sounds great, I think. I like works which lie just outside the artist's ability to articulate them. That's why it was necessary to create it, because you couldn't describe it in any other way. We also talk about the figures drawn on the tape on the walls. These pieces are called 'easily removable'. Then she has to run and greet her mum who has turned up and then I take a couple of photos of her, both with her eyes half closed in that way that echoes a thousand million photos in a thousand million family photo albums throughout the world. I take another. It looks ok. I show Claire. She's not so sure. We show Niru. He thinks it's fabulous! 'Claire,' he says, 'you've got a really good photographic face! It's brilliant!'. I don't think Claire is that convinced, but I guess that means it's good enough. Outside, Ryan Gander has turned up. He kindly agrees to be tonight's hand model for what we are drinking. I also ask him about the project he started in Becks Futures last year, called The Grand National. I like this a lot. It's a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere here tonight and it seems a shame to leave, but there's more I want to see tonight...
I pass by White Cube again, the crowd now twice the size of earlier. I can't think Matt and the beer will hold out much longer. I quickly nip into Standpoint, a painting show by Rebecca Scott - I looked her name up in google. It turns out she's a famous Playboy model - she was Miss August 1999, hmmm, plenty of images too...click, click...but maybe tonight it's a different Rebecca Scott. I can't imagine the one in these images doing any painting...anyway, the vibe is wrong for me here so I head to Redchurch Street and Studio 1.1. It's a group show called Unsteady with Craig Andrews, Rafael Sanchez and John Summers and I'm very much here to see the latter.
I arrive and find Will Cunningham. He's leaving the ICA as Gallery Manager at the end of this week and going to work for Haunch of Venison (some private view reports from there in the future, then...). John Tiney and Tom Cox-Bishop are there too and I go get a beer. Ron is on the bar again like last time I was here (I wonder if all the people of 1.1 should be in the running for best barperson...). I get a beer and have a look round. Lisa Penny arrives and we both catch up with Summers. He goes off to get me and Lisa a drink. Time passes. Quite a bit of time. I go and find John at the bar, confused about the drinks. I think maybe he has had a beer earlier... I chat to Will for a bit and others, then Summers is back. 'Hey, man, I'll get you another beer, yeah?' Figuring this could take some time again I quickly nip along the road to have a look in at Trolley and Abigail Fallis's show. She's probably most well known for doing pants with British flags. Tonight I'm looking at all these big sculptures of newspaper hands holding typical fast food - kebabs, hot dogs, burgers - or bottles of wine and fags. One of the hands is holding Billy the Singing Sea Bass which was like some stupid craze thing a few years back. (What happened to the Crazy Frog in all this I wonder?) Well, I guess there's still some allusion to Britishness here like her last works. And her work certainly has a bit of a following. It's just unfortunate that most of that following seems to be amongst a media/fashion crowd - or maybe it's just me, but tonight I have to try and concentrate on these works with the 'mwah, mwah' of airkissing bursting loudly across the gallery and a guy standing in front of me, the nexus of his braces clasped together with a picture of a dick. (It occurs to me later that maybe he didn't know this and he was the butt of someone's joke. Even so, I wasn't laughing either way). So I take myself back to 1.1 and meet up with Lisa and we decide to quickly head down to the Hauser and Wirth opening, in Cheshire Street, of the Kippenberger/Roth show. It's enormous and it's heaving. It's a big, fat, money packed, back pages of Art Review kinda of thing. Not the kind of opening I'm usually around. I bump into Joe Frazer again from Truck Art. He mentions the job at the ICA Bookshop. We have a part time vacancy. Most people I meet tonight ask me about the job at the ICA Bookshop. It goes with the territory. I also see the guy who played Mr Endon in the last Truck Art piece I saw. And, whaddya know, he's in costume again tonight. Yes, black trousers, black shirt and a name badge saying 'Hauser and Wirth'. I look around, but, sadly, the truck's not here...
Lisa meets up with Dallas and Tom Ellis and we head back up to Redchurch Street. Outside 1.1 I bump into Simon Ould. He's talking about 'Mad' Mark McGowan and an upcoming show. 'He's going to eat a horse, he's going to be in the street eating a horse. Mmmmmm,' he says, then:'horseradish, yum yum' and makes an action like he's rubbing it all over his body. That's about as coherent as it gets with Simon. I then recognise one of the girls who played the part of a nurse at the Timecreep thing I was at last week. Then Summers is back saying, 'hey, where did you go, dude, I got you a beer and then someone said you'd gone to Trolley, dude...'
Anyway, I'm back and I'm talking to Summers about his work. Imagine a cat, maybe 30 or 40 feet tall, a real monster of a thing, terrorising the city. And imagine it living off chemical and industrial waste and all kinds of mouldering detritus, then imagine that every now and again it has to bring up a furball of all that stuff - hack! hack! HACK! Eurrghh! Out it comes, drops on the floor. Ok, that furball? That's what Summers's work looks like. I like it a lot.
He's talking to me about a piece in the front gallery. 'This piece is called, aw, no, I can't remember what it's called, dude. What's it when someone, like, gives something to someone?' 'A helper?' I say. 'No, no, dude, like, like... a feeder, what is that?' 'Enabler?' 'Yeah, that's it, dude, Enabler...'
It looks like a giant furry mouth made out of asbestos and fibreglass with a big red glittery lollipop thing hanging in front of it. Grotesque, and clearly leading on from his earlier works - the stuff which looked like horror films and bomb blasts (check that stuff out here). And now he's pointing inside it - 'I put a whole bunch of stuffed toy animals in there and the whole thing really expanded, but I thought that was really cool too, dude...'
And it is cool. I just find myself thinking back to the soft strains of Claire's song from earlier, from a gallery that seems a long time ago.
I wonder what would happen if a fly got into his studio?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Timecreep in Walthamstow

I walk up through the market - busy and bustling and impossible to get thru at any speed. Eventually get up to the newly refurbished bus station and the sparkly new tube station and head north to the Vestry Museum. It's their diamond jubilee open day. There are children led around by parents, old people sitting at tables proffering books on the history of Walthamstow. A nice lady greets me as I arrive. Would I like to become a member of the mailing list for the Vestry Museum? Why, yes, I would, thank you very much, ma'am. I take a look around. It's a real museum. It has glass cases with old things in them. There are ceramic pots and plates and other kitchen implements made of cast iron. There are faded and battered childrens games, an old car, a recreation of a middle class Victorian parlour from around 1850, a display of the Walthamstow Tea Service (did you know Walthamstow had a tea service?), a scale model of the area we are in and even a room housing two mannequins, acting out a scene from a prison cell some hundred or so years ago. So, like I said, it's a real museum, right here in Walthamstow.
I go for a walk in the gardens. They have an old street signpost, a mangle, an old street light, a post box, the sign from above the police station in the last century. They have a butterfly garden too - plants especially cultivated for their seductive power over butterflies...the sound of people talking and children laughing and playing comes out of the community room. There's a refreshments room. I buy a cup of coffee. Look, there are even homemade cakes: fairy cakes, chocolate cornflake cakes, and good old crumbly fruit cake. I grew up in a village and we always had an annual fete with this kind of stuff. I'd forgotten so much of this kind of thing. I am smiling like a fool, the whole thing is like going back in time. And either I smile or I crumble to the floor, weeping tears of endless pain at the terrifying loss of innocence...
I pull myself together, go back inside, smile at some old people, wave to some kids.
There's a room with a black curtain pulled across. 'What's this?' I ask the nice lady. 'It's a psychic art exhibition,' she says, as though it were the most natural thing to find here. 'You can either take part in it or just watch.'
I go in.....
There's as strobe light tickering away, about five or six chairs with adults and children sitting on them, everyone looking at some bizarre character sitting in a large glass box with the word BATTERY written on a board above them. Further back there's a bed and someone lying on it with SUBJECT A written above them. There's a microphone hanging down nearby. There are TV screens all over the place, some playing white noise, some blank, marked with a cross on the screen. And there's a NURSES STATION where two white faced nurses stand, watching the proceedings. I have no idea what to make of this at all. I wonder what all the other punters, here for the museum open day, are making of it.
I stand and watch for a bit. I notice that the figure in the glass box has a professor's coat on, a large false moustache, a tin hat with loads of string in it and is making some sort of drawing on paper with their feet. I also notice that there is a very tall guy filming this with a video cam right in front (how come I didn't notice him straightaway - he's right in the way of the audience..). There's also a guy sitting to the side with a large pair of earphones on. It might have said something like SOUND STATION above him. I think I can hear some slow whooping noises. I guess that's what he's doing.
After a while the strobe stops, the figure in the box gets out of the box and goes and has a conversation with the person at the back on the bed...It's all a bit eerie - obviously the kids watching this are arranging for the nightmares to be delivered on time tonight.
What's happening, if I can remember it, is that the SUBJECT A tries to describe an object that is hidden on another bed marked SUBJECT B. The psychic link is made with the professor making drawings with each foot to complete some sort of circuit. Or something...
OK, this is PERFORMANCE ART. I know this , because it says it on the poster outside, advertsing the museum's open day. I also know that it is the work of Ruth Calland (she's the one in the hat) because I got an email from her. And she's done this sort of thing in Walthamstow before. She plays with all that science and psychic stuff, locating herself at Vestry House, burrowed away deep inside a traditional small museum, where she bounces around her own ideas of investigation, classification, representation and authenticity. She makes a lot of the seeming ridiculousness of the whole enterprise (there's that colander with bits of string and pegs for a hat to start with, and the silly moustache) but dares to carry it through in all seriousness. It all sits very well here. The work chews over all those questions about the definitions of artefacts, what we choose to believe and not believe, our faltering ability to adequately describe things, the way we arrange history, and the adoption of glib hindsight that can make the past seem populated by ridiclous people in funny hats...
It's a fun, if spooky piece. I also think there may be a sound piece which develops out of this performance, of the people trying to describe the hidden object. I think that should be a nice piece of work... but I may have got that wrong.
I push past the black curtain again and make my way out.
The nice lady at the door smiles and says goodbye.
a few pics

Friday, May 19, 2006

Paperworld at Transition

It's the end of the week. I'm dog tired. It's the opening of Paperworld at Transition tonight and it's going to be a long trek there and then home. I'm sitting in the bar at the ICA with nice people. I've just finshed work. I am drinking a beer. I could fall asleep in a moment.
How fragile it is sometimes, that commitment to go to a private view. If I sit here a second longer I know I won't go. I'll get another beer, cosy down, have a chat and then tube it home, get into bed, have a lovely sleep and -
And I'm up and I'm heading for the bus and I'm going!
It takes an age to get there. The bus I need doesn't show and I have to detour about,
wasting time travelling. Time I could've spent sitting in the bar...time I could've spent sleeping.
Of course this is no one's fault but my own. It's another opening and I need to record it - however briefly, inacurrately, subjectively, ignorantly, poorly. This blog is my work. Your show is my work.
Lisa P is there on the balcony, but soon after she's gone. There are lots of people here again. Transition always pulls them in. And Transition always runs out of alcohol when I arrive. My timing is appalling in this respect. I get the last cup of red wine before it goes. Later I see Sarah Doyle walking thru the gallery with some more bottles in a box. 'I'm very popular,' she says...
I get talking to Karen D'Amico. Or rather she talks to me and I listen. I'm far too tired now to have a conversation. I realise that I forgot to bring any vocabulary, grammar or interesting thoughts with me tonight. I take a few photos while she talks, holding the camera up without looking and doing crowd shots. 'Don't mind me,' I say, looking around and generally being quite impolite, 'you just keep talking...'. I don't think I make any sense even when I do speak.
Mark Pawson is there handing out invites for the show he has coming up in Brighton. Rosie and Harriet from Tatty Devine are there. Space Station Sixty-Five. Lots of others. Ingrid Z from that fateful cake eating night at Residence is there. I say hello. She is inscrutable. I make a note to go back to Residence some time.
Rosemary Shirley is there from the small but perfectly formed Leisure Centre. We talk briefly about Karen magazine and I tell her that she and Karen are part of the 'nu village' scene. You can have that one for free. It's all garden fetes, local community, infrastructures of locality, connections to wider concerns than art...
See, told you I wasn't making any sense when I did speak.
I take a crowd shot outside and some guy starts jumping around, trying to get into the frame (above). This is Asif, partner of Sarah Doyle. He is chatty and funny and I nod and laugh a lot. Until he offers me a sweet, that is. Even as he produces the bag I have that nagging thing about sweets from strangers going round my head. Anyway, I take one and pop it in my mouth. It is absolutely vile. I spit it out. Asif is laughing. He points to the bag. 'Norwegian,' he says, 'salt sweets.'
I take the gun from the holster I am wearing, cock the trigger, then blow his head clean off. I start shooting all over the place. Blam! Blam! Soon, the corridor is a bloody mess.
Man, I'm tired.
Cathy is closing the door, virtually pushing us out onto the balcony, saying 'I'm going to have a lie down.'
It's a very good idea - and after many hours of travel, pouring rain and trying to rid my mouth of a disgusting taste, I do indeed get to lie down too...

Thursday, May 18, 2006


It looks like a huge pair of pants, but I don't think it is.
We are in the gallery downstairs at flaca, looking at a piece of work by Karla Black.
It certainly does have a pants-like shape. It's some sort of clear plastic, with a residue like pva in it. Some of it is leaking out onto the floor. It's both messy and formal at the same time. Mmmm, yum.
I talk to Tom Woolner. I've seen him around doing tech work at the ICA but we've never chatted before. So now we do. He talks about that careful balance one has to keep when doing tech work in galleries. Don't do too much for extended periods. Don't forget about your own work. Don't get bitter from installing other people's work. Sound advice, I think.
John Hayvend arrives. He has broken his glasses so the world is in soft focus to him. I ask him what he thinks of the small sculpture piece on the wall and, of course, he hasn't seen it all. I point it out and he peers at it. A tiny lifesize tip of a finger. I think this is Sally Osborn's work. It is enormously beautiful and quietly impressive.
We go and stand outside for a bit. Matt Bryans is there, drinking from a coconut. Seriously. There's a guy selling big green coconuts. I'm a big fan of Matt's work and ask if he has anything coming up. And he does: there's a show in Atlanta. So I guess I'll miss that, then. While we are talking, by chance, some friends of John's arrive. There's lots of hellos and they head inside to look at the work. Then suddenly they are back out again and then John and I head back down for drinks.
And downstairs it's Lisa Penny, back on the scene. (She missed my opening because of an injury to her foot, but I see no evidence of a limp. Surely she should be on crutches, no? Barely able to walk?? Not even out of hospital yet, I'm thinking...) She's fine, but adding a suffix to everything she says of: 'and don't put that in your blog, ok? You can't repeat that.' Except on one occasion, when she says, 'you really ought to put that on.' But now I can't remember what it was she said...
Anyway, there's no time to ponder because Dallas Seitz arrives! Dalles runs 1000000mph and I've seen him a few times at various shows but we've never met. We do tonight. But only after he has regaled us all with a huge story involving an artist, some bailiffs and some very odd behaviour - none of which, for legals reasons, I can repeat...
Lisa introduces Brian Reed and Tom Ellis, part of a group who are planning to go to Berlin later in the year and make work and present a show. And, ah ha, now with Lisa it's 'why don't you come and blog that - we're all London artists, go on....'
We'll see.
Someone who can't see, of course, is John. He's gone back up to check on the people he met from earlier. And it's the last I see of him tonight.
I check in with Tom Humphreys to tell him how much I like the show. I ask if Sue Tompkins is going to do any performance. 'No. She's a bit burnt out after Beck's.' I'm not surprised. Most of those I've spoken to have been surprised at how gruelling the whole Beck's experience is. Sue's work is on the walls of the gallery down here. It's great stuff. 'This work is full on. It's great.' I tell Tom. 'Yeah,' he says. 'You can tell they all talk to each other.' It's a very good way to describe the dynamics between the work on show here. All three artists are working at the extreme edge. Any further and there'd be no work at all.
It's subtle and in your face at the same time. Delicate, disintegrating, almost disappearing, but lying like an iron bar in my memory.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rokeby vs Mark Moore

Let's check the list:
Pearse the barman serving the drinks? Check.
Great hosts, Ed and Beth Greenacre, in attendance? Check.
Great art in the gallery? Check.
Lower gallery far too hot and sweaty? Check. And double check.
So, everything is as it should be at Rokeby. Or rather, as it should be - and more. Tonight is the opening of the Erica Eyres show in the top gallery and a small group show of artists from the Mark Moore Gallery in California. Of particular interest here is Alastair Mackie. I've seen some of his work before and it's brilliant. Tonight there's a baby's head made out of eggshells and a machine gun made from comics. The baby's head is called Egghead and it is one of those beautiful works that need no more explanation than what it is. It is just ace. But much as I want to look at it, the heat in the downstairs gallery is getting far too much for me. And just as I am passing out, Beth introduces me to Raul Ortega Ayala who did the previous show here. Yes, the one I never made it to, but kept pouring over the images on the website. Beautiful stuff. Beth gives me a catalogue of his work and then we all head our separate ways to get out the heat.
Catching some air outside on the pavement I chat to Calum F Kerr. We talk about the Office Politix show from last week and I also meet Emma Holden (above) who curated it. I tell her how much I like nettles (she was showing some) and then later, for no reason I can fathom, she puts on a glove puppet - snake monster or whatever he's called - and chat a bit more. Snake monster likes beer apparently, so I take a photo of Snake with some beer.
Noah Sherwood is there, saying 'don't take my photo.' He's too hot to have his photo taken because he's just come from the lower gallery...We talk about psuedonyms and about John Summers, who is in a group show next week. Noah introduces me to a girl called Boo. (Unusual name, I think. I quickly flip thru all the files marked 'B' in my back catalogue: there was Boo Radley in To Kill a Mocking Bird and then there was Boo Hewerdine, the singer songwriter who I used to go and see play tiny pubs in Cambridge in a band called The Bible a hundred and fifty years ago. And Betty Boo? Her too. And then, the only other Boo I can think of is an artist called Boo Ritson, whose name has come up a couple of times when I've been looking at shows, and I wonder if it is her). She's very nice and after a few words says to us, 'Can I tell you my good news? Is that ok? Before I EXPLODE?' And it is indeed good news. Saatchi has just bought five of her works. She says she dropped the phone when she found out, had a few tears and a stiff drink. Now she is thrilled and overjoyed and trying to be sensible and grounded all at the same time. I better get a photo I say. What's your second name? Oh, she say, you won't have heard of me or know my work, but it's Ritson. Bingo, I think. Then we bump into Hugh Mendes, who I know from his obituary paintings and the show Art News from last year at Three Colts.
Graham Hudson is talking to Noah. Being out on Chelsea Parade ground has given him a tan. He looks like he has just come back from holiday. They are with a guy called Max. Max runs the Mark Moore Gallery and has set this whole swap thing up with Rokeby. Why Rokeby? 'Because they're young, they're happening, their ambitious and they want to be a player.' Rokeby get some Mark Moore artists and Mark Moore gets Graham (have they any idea what they've let themselves in for, I wonder?). So Graham is off to the US at some stage. And then to Rome. And then, I'm sure he says, Nairobi. Can that be right?
Harry Pye is there too, talking about Rebel TV - a sort of updated Warhol TV. I think it's a great idea, as long as it's not too much like Warhol TV (which was just awful....).
Then it's closing and we head to The Asylum, an underground bar/club/place on the corner of Percy Street. There's a pole in the middle of the bar. It's a dive.
'Rokeby can do dives,' says Beth.
And I think, given what Max said earlier, Rokeby can do most things...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Office Politix

I take a walk up Brick Lane to catch Office Politix, curated by Emma Holden and Angie Hicks. It's a beautiful warm evening, the first pv of the summer months...
I'm supposed to meet up with John Hayvend but he's a no show...(hasn't this happened before?). Anyway, I collect a beer and stroll around.
We are in a half converted shop, I think. There's breeze blocks and a bit of plastering. And a real mix of work. The one piece everyone notices and doesn't notice is 'Rebel' by Christopher Davies, a lifesize geezer (that's him, above) on a little scooter. Me, and plenty of others first see him out the corner of eyes and think he's just another punter, then suddeny realise he's not real...
Hard, though, not to notice Calum F Kerr, who is doing a performance piece in the galley upgrading people's bagels (or beigels) bought just down the road. 'Health and Safety' he keeps muttering, pulling on cellophane gloves and filling up people's bagels. It's called Beigelore. I never properly figure this piece out. Or maybe I never quite figure Calum out. It's just another one of Calum's pieces. There are so many of them.
There's a cellar here too. You go down some steps and walk into the unique smell of simultaneously damp/dry, chilly dust that cellars have. There's a video piece down there by Angie Hicks, a piece showing a girl filing her nails, the action overlaid with loud sawing. Being down here it's lent a sinister quality which maybe overstates the point, because in many ways it's quite a delicate and subtle work. I go and stand down there twice.
Emma Holden has displayed a line of blue flower pots with different species of nettles growing in them. With reference to the office I can only get an image of large rubber plants, but never mind, I love nettles. No, seriously, I do. I think they're beautiful. Full of a childhood evil and intensity. So whatever the intention, I particularly love this piece.
I also pick up a leaflet by Jenny Baines on Office Free Climbing, like parkour for offices. Which is nice, and also makes me think of James Ford's House Gymnastics, which in turn made me think back to Lucy Gunning's film of her Climbing Round My Room (1993). I guess it's just such a good thing to do...
I am pondering leaving, having another beer, wondering what kind of photo to take and, feeling a little tired already, suddenly realise that I have glazed over somewhat, when Beth Greenacre from Rokeby appears. 'Are you alright?' she asks. I realise that I was probably looking a bit odd. But then I get it back and we have a chat. She's here for Sam Dargan's work. Then it's an invite to Rokeby next week. Then I ask her to hold a bottle of beer so I can take a photo. She gives me a look which says 'you poor, strange boy', but obliges just the same...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Did Priya Pathak Ever Get Her Wallet Back?

'We've had a few technical problems.'
Richard Dedomenici's lecture begins with this declaration. It's not part of the lecture, he's telling the truth. The projector they have set up for the night has a slight focus problem and is distorting the images a little and cutting off the bottom 10% of the projection. It's not a big problem. Probably more disturbing and offputting for him than for the 30 or so of us in the audience.
It's a warm night and we are sitting in Studio 1 of Battersea Arts Centre. I've been trying to catch up with one of Richard's talks for ages and I've finally leveraged some time and am here.
So, technical difficultes aside, he kicks off.
He starts with a funny story about Franko B and giving blood, showing a slide of Franko, and we are all laughing and thinking we know where we are going and then he moves abruptly to that picture of Jean Charles de Menezes lying dead on the floor of the tube train in which he was mistakenly shot. It is extremely shocking. Like being the peach and getting hit with the hammer. I'm not sure he even realised himself quite the effect that was going to have.
His work often sneaks down the small, back alleyway between Mr Bad Taste's house and Mr Unacceptable's garden fence. Like a little urchin rattling a stick along the railings, seeing how long he can get away with things before someone tells him to stop. And he usually is told to stop. And it's usually the police that tell him so.
Thus tonight, the lecture is a look back at some of his many earlier works, in various states of disintegrating video and bad filming, using them as a framework to discuss whether the police, who interrupt and intervene on cue in most of these pieces, are a force for good or bad. Each video segment ends with Thank You The Police or No Thank You The Police.
Despite the quality of some of the filming, the dicky projector, Richard's sometimes slapdash approach and his fast forwarding through sequences, there's some great stuff. There's even some footage, purportedly shot at Greenham Common when the Women's Peace Camp was down there and his mother took him along. It's quite unexpectedly moving. There's also a great piece of film of him wandering round Chicago with a plastic bag over his face and his hands secured behind his back. The allusion to torture is shocking again but I can't help but be caught up in the film itself - the sunshine and the noise and the very real sense of being there... the people and the background to all this work....it's a great archive. It's a history of him...
Anyway, in the end, the No Thanks and the Thanks equal out, but for the question over Priya Pathak's wallet. Richard found it and handed it in to the police. Did she get it back? Maybe one day we'll know. This piece is an attempt to reach out and find her. Maybe you know her?
Once the piece is over I go shake the man's hand. He's done a good piece despite the pressures of the technical stuff. He is quite palpably relieved. I have to go, otherwise I would buy him six trays of drinks. He is taking some deep breaths and I get the picture above.
Already his mind is on tomorrow night's performance.
I wonder: Did Richard Dedomenici Ever Get His Projector To Work Properly?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Russell Herron's 69 Magazines

'Are you going to blog this, then?' asks Alex Michon.
Well, I guess I have to. It won't be easy and it won't be quite like all the other events I've done so far, but if I am going to keep mapping this particular strata of art in London, then I really have to. I hold up my camera and take some crowd shots. Here we go, then. We are in the bar at the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel and it's the opening of my own show.
Your own private view always take months to arrive. Then when it finally does, after all that preparation and work and stress, like a wee baby coming into the world, the umbilical's snipped, the bum's slapped and it's whisked off, screaming, in a bundle of blankets and you're left standing in an empty operating theatre wondering what happened...
Anyway, there's a good enough crowd - I don't know exactly what number the needle needs to be flickering above on the amount-of-people-at-your-private-view dial, but we are definitely above the number which signifies that everything is going to be ok. People are here and they're drinking and chatting and I am relaxed.
Back to Alex. She is there with Paul Gorman who has written a book called The Look. It's of particular interest for a chapter devoted to Alex herself, a chronicle of her wild days making clothes for The Clash. She holds the book up, open at a picture of her, and I take a photo. That looks like a work, I say.
Brendan Michael Carey, founder, publisher, producer, inventor (and re-inventor) of Nice magazine (the one made out a piece of wood) is there. After I take his photo he asks to take mine, but comes over all way too creative, taking photos of me from different angles without looking thru the viewfinder. Later when I look thru them I find a series of blurred close ups of my teeth...
The lovely Nigel Grimmer is there and we talk a bit about his show at Standpoint and a bit about blogs and a bit about private views. At his, he tells me, it was people coming up and saying 'Your work's really funny', followed by 'Your work's really sad', followed by 'Your work's really funny,' followed by 'Your work's really sad,' followed, eventually, by 'Your work's really funny and really sad.' Tonight I have 69 magazine covers all with Geri Halliwell on them, mounted and framed into one big piece. So what I get are two questions from everyone: 'Are the magazines in any order?' (Yes, chronologically.) and: 'Is Geri going to be here?' (No, categorically.) There's someone else not here tonight too. 'Where's Miss Penny?' asks Nigel, referring to our usual accompanying private viewer, Lisa P. And it's odd, indeed. She is nowehere to be seen. (The next day I get an email from her with some bizarre story about carrying a desk up a flight of stairs and it falling on her foot...is serious physical injury excuse enough for missing my opening, though, I wonder?).
Graham Hudson is there, happily chatting and offering critiques of my work. Emma Quinn from the ICA (there are lots from the ICA) is clutching tonight's award for the person who turns up with the most friends. (Did she have to pay them? Do I have to pay them??)
Jamie Eastman is there with a girl called Lynette. I take their photo but they aren't that happy with it. So then I take another. Still no good. Eventually we have to go outside in the street, where it is still just light enough to be doing without flash...and finally get their picture approval...just. Some people can be so difficult to work with...
Simon White is on the decks (it was supposed to be Jonny Trunk, but at the last minute the Arts Council of Geneva - or somewhere - offered him a paid trip of a few days to go promote his book. So he weighed up the balance between accepting their offer or doing a bit of djing at an east end club and he...well, he went to Geneva and Simon came down to the club). Simon is brilliant, though, playing mostly film scores and TV themes (yes, it turns out that was Animal Magic....this one goes out to all you Johnny Morris fans....etc, etc). I go to get people drinks, but keep bumping into to other people arriving. I get caught up in the continual river of: 'hi, how are you? thanks for coming, yes, really, good to see you, the drinks are over there on the table, no I didn't, seriously, yes, thanks, have you picked up a badge? really liked your work at that show, yes, oh, thank you, what's next, when's that...' and all the other half and quarter and smaller slices of conversational pie you eat when you are the artist with the show. I never finish one conversation all night. I feel like I've spoken to everyone and no one. Whatever, it's great to see so many people here -even if I didn't get to say more that one word to some of them...
Then suddenly five hours have passed.
Where did they go? I start to head home.
Karen D'Amico came for a short while. Within 12 hours I am blogged by her (click here). So the picture at the top of this column is by her. I pulled it off her blog... It was either that or a blurred close up of my teeth....
Thanks to everyone who came along.