Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kitson Kaleidoscope

I'm getting absolutely thrashed here. Completely hammered. Stuffed. James Ford is potting the yellows like he's putting eggs in a basket. I stand and watch him laughing as another ball plops into a pocket. Ah well. I'm easy. It's always enjoyable to watch the little ritual of playing pool in a pub. Or in fact, watching any game where men are involved. It's always the same. Whatever we're playing, we are really just wandering around like drunken monkeys, showing off the size of our dicks. And the way James is using that cue here tonight, it's pretty obvious he has the biggest dick of all of us. Mind you, that said, I did notice that Mark McGowan is a fair size too...
And I'm doing my best but I still have about four reds to go and James is down to the black, which is sitting, flirtatiously, on the edge of the top pocket. 'Too easy,' says James, 'gotta end on a trick shot.' He lines it up, shoots. The white just misses. I get a go. Try and pot a red. Miss the pocket. Take my extra shot. Miss again.
James is back at the table, looking across it, checking the angles, the deflections, the whole tricksy shot he's about to pull off. He eases back the cue and then lets it go. It clicks against the white which starts, inexorably, towards the opposite end of the table from the black. It rolls on, bouncing gently on its tour from cushion to cushion to cushion, to finally conclude with the gentlest kiss - 'tock' - on the black, which slowly drops, like paint being poured from a tin, into the darkness of the pocket, and clomp, clomps its way below. James pulls away from the table, stretches like a tiger that has finished feasting on its kill, and I realise that I, pretty conclusively, have the smallest dick here.
Even smaller than Lena's.
And she's a girl...
But never mind. Because less than hour ago I saw James dressed in bra and panties, waving his long blonde hair about, dirty dancing with a big red bedbug and drawing on himself with a black maker pen.
Ah, yes, it could only be the the wonderful world of Performance Art. And whenever I hear those two words I reach for card. Of which more later.
We are in Kitson Road, south London. Well out of my comfort zone, thank you very much. I feel like I'm coming out in hives I'm so far south of the river. Mark McGowan is standing in front of James Ford's house, next to a large TV balanced, not entirely safely I think, on a big green wheelie bin. There's some wires trailing from the back of the tv up the front of the house and disappearing into the top window. This is the set up for Kitson Kaleidoscope, an evening of performance based work blasted out across the internet via a webcam in James's bedroom. Well, that's the idea. I'm not really sure if many people actually got the technology to work on this one, but whatever, I feel sure they'll be edited highlights in time to come.
Mark is handing out wine, beer and Ritz Crackers, so it's just like a real party.
There's a mixed bunch of people here, all invited to contribute. Some names I know and am very happy to meet. And, talking of dicks, as we were before, here's Sally O'Reilly.
No, I don't mean - what I mean, is that tonight Sally has a dick too. Right between the legs, exactly where it's supposed to be, just sitting there, while the rest of her is dressed in white. It's quite lifelike. We are all admiring it. There it is, above.
Sally is, I'm assuming, the same Sally who is a writer and critic. I've read some of her stuff. She is very clever and writes very clever things. As well as having a nice dick.
The lovely Sarah Doyle is there. She is busy taping boxes together and standing a big Barbie make-up dolls head on them.
Calum F Youknowwho is there dressed in fetching red tights and top with a red cut out mask. He's a bedbug. A couple of people question whether indeed bedbugs are red. 'When they're full they are,' he says. But curiously his piece finds him on the bed in James's room for the duration of the recording, croaking 'Bite me! Bite me!' at the end of each performance. But aren't bedbugs supposed to do the biting?
I also get to meet Olivia-Jane Ransley. And, surprisingly, also her mum and dad. She does works about the flotsam and jetsam of human interaction, like waving or saying hello - check this out - or, like tonight, about smiling. Her piece has her and her friends and her dad all holding a smile, all trying to outlast each other. Dad wins. He's like a big smiley, smiling machine. When he realises he's won, he smiles even more.
The pieces go by. Sally's was about Health and Vim (is that what she said?) and has her and her dick and a paper roll of written out headlines from health magazines of the past. Or maybe that's not what it was at all. To be honest, it's pretty hard to work out what is going on most of the time with anyone's piece. And then the beer runs out too. I think Sally has already done a trip to the shop so I reckon I should go this time. Simon Ould's piece is happening when I leave and is still going when I get back with the beer. He's spitting water and throwing sweets out the window onto everyone below. Sarah is complaining of loss of feeling in her finger from mass use of an aerosol can on the big Barbie head in her piece. Barbie ended up as a goth, I think, though what all that tape being pulled out of her head was about, I really don't know. And what the hell's this next bloody piece about? Someone wearing a wrestling mask and holding what looks like a card. Oh right. It's my piece.
'Mustafa Hulusi', says McGowan. 'Sort of,' I say. 'It's a rip off of his stuff.'
Then that's done and James appears on the TV in that bra and panties get up. Nobody says 'Mustafa Hulusi' about his piece.
C.Cred, who I've never come across before, do a full on reading piece based on Samuel Beckett novels. They hand out some info about it but I can't get my head, or my beer, round it. Very good to listen to, though.
Then it's big Brian Catling's piece. No idea what that's about, but he brings a certain weight, history and sensitivity with him, which is recognised, I think, by all of us there. Then a curious horror film sort of thing by Karina Thoren and John Chantler, but that didn't add up at all to me. There's supposed to be more. Katsonobu has turned up but decides it's not quite right so leaves. Paula Roush doesn't, I think, turn up at all. And Richard Dedomenici, who is billed but was never going to turn up because he's giving a lecture at the Arnolfini, has left some instructions that McGowan says he's going to follow, but, well...
Then we are in the pub.
And I, and my little dick, am getting beaten at pool.
dick pics

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Schoolgirl Crushes

Get this: tonight I'm dressed in shiny, black buckle up shoes, knee length white socks, short pleated grey skirt, white blouse and royal blue cardigan. My hair is in pigtails and my bright white panties, forgive me, gentle reader, are just a little bit moist...
Well, heck, might as well be. I'm around town to see two artists whose work I really, really like. And you might as well dress me as a schoolgirl as, tonight, I'm just that excited.
The anticipation began a few days ago when Alastair Mackie dropped an email into my box saying 'Hi, there, cutie, how about coming to see some of my new works? I just know how hot my stuff makes you feel.' I mean, what's girl to think?! Luckily, though, he wrote it in code, so that to everyone else reading the email it looked like he said: 'Please come to Augury on tuesday evening. There's three new pieces of mine and paintings by Oliver Clegg - with whom I share a studio.'
So our little secret is safe.
Worth pointing out at this juncture too: I don't actually know what Alastair looks like. I've seen his work before, most recently in Rokeby, and raved about it here - you remember that baby's head made of eggshells - I know, wasn't it fab? So, anyway, tonight I'm going to meet him. I mean, he's email couldn't be more promising, could it?
And yes, later that evening, we are standing together, he and I - in the dark!
Yes, in the dark. And I have to say, it really is quite dark in here. I'm in a space just near Borough tube. Outside, the sign reads Tara Bryan, but inside, through a blackout cloth, there's a two person show by Oliver Clegg and Alastair Mackie. And it's as far from the white cube space as you could get. It's black. Pitch. Apart from some spotlights blaring down on the works. There's a basement too, that has the feeling of only recently having been vacated by a serial killer. Maybe, it's just as well it's so dark.
Anyway, I'm cooing over one of Mackie's works - a skull covered in semi precious stones, referencing a helmet design from 'Top Gun' and Aztec death mask called 'Ghost Rider' (and thinkng about Brian Jungen's work and Ricky Swallow's work), trying to take some kind of decent photo in the dark when some guy, seeing me doing this, asks if I'm a dealer. I tell him not and we have a chat. He's a photographer of Mackie's work, and thus, perfectly placed to essay an introduction for me. Which he does: 'That's 'im, there,' he says, pointing. And so I meet the great man, adjust my blouse, pull up my socks, grin at him through the sparkling silver of my teeth brace.
I think I may have laboured this point enough now.
Anyway, it's great to meet him. The set up tonight is 'cutting out the middle man'. He and Oliver have decided to make sure their stuff gets shown and have rented the space and done the show and got people along and bought some beer. 'It gives you a certain liberty about displaying the work,' he says. 'We just wanted to try something a little different.' Job done, I'd say. The whole atmosphere is very different from any gallery I've been in recently. It's almost a bit spooky. Especially with that skull, sitting spotlit in the serial killer's basement.
I say hello to Oliver too, who says, 'I hope you write good things on your website.'
I tell him I do. But try as I might I just can't quite get a fix on his stuff. Paintings of discarded, lost or broken child's toys and paraphenalia. It is undoubtedly good stuff, and the man can certainly paint, but...there's no voice whispering in my ear from this work. And how does this fit with Mackie's work?
I wish them both a great evening, and head off, as they are talking to some collector...I think it will be a busy night. And, if they continue as planned, a busy space in the coming months.
Then I'm standing on the pavement, blinking in the harsh, bright light...stagger to the tube and up to Rokeby.
If there's a theme tonight it's about dominance. At Rokeby there's another two person show. But once again, I can't help but have my feet brought fluttering off the floor by one artist and not the other. I do try and look properly at Catherine Morland's work, but tonight I just can't see past Tim Knowles's stuff.
I first caught his work back in March at VTO's final show. A small piece, which quietly snuck down a corridor in my brain, found a door, slightly ajar, and silently pushed it open, stepped in and waited. And here tonight the door's thrown open.
The best of Knowles's work is based around tying pens to the ends of tree branches and then letting the tips trace an irregular and unpredictable course over a stratgically placed sheet of paper. The resultant 'drawings' are then framed and hung next to photographic documentation of the process. A scribbly mess on a page sitting side by side to a photgraph of a tree branch resting on a sheet of paper attached to an adapted easel.
I am completey taken with these, not least because of the decision to include both the drawing and the documentation of the process as the single, equal work, but also because by providing so much evidence of what has been done you realise that what you are left with is not the actual work at all. The actual work happened elsewhere: out in the field with the tree's movements on that day, in that a month, in that place. It is extremely good stuff. The more I think about it the more I want to think about it. It's so satisfying. 'Honest', says Ed Greenacre. Yes, that's a great word to use in relation to this work. (Thanks, Ed.)
So I say hello to Tim and pluck at the buttons on my royal blue cardigan and dribble through my silver brace.
I also say hi to Jamie Shovlin and his girlfriend Sigrid Holmwood who are there. I met Sigrid the other day at an editorial meeting for Garageland magazine.
Jamie's a nice man and tells me a whole bunch of things that I can't repeat on this blog (so I have put them here on my SECRET BLOG!). Lisa Penny and Sally Underwood are there, but I forget to check what shoes they are wearing. Graham Hudson appears, looking tanned from his continuing sojourn on Chelsea Parade Ground.
But, sadly, someone who isn't there, and I can hardly believe this, is Pearce. I go down to get a beer and there's some other geezer standing at the bar.
They killed Pearse.
I speak to Beth about it. Apparently they didn't kill Pearse. He's just off being busy working on some filming, and doing very well by the sounds of it, thank you very much. And, guess what, the geezer behind the bar is Pearse's brother!
Ed and Beth are dangling the dubious temptations that are the Asylum bar above my head, but I need to go.
Like most schoolgirls my age, I have a lot of homework to do.
some pics

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sarah and Simon at Platform

And talking of goodbyes, as we were, at Redux, the night before, here we are again: this time saying goodbye to Sheila Lawson's Platform, on Wilkes Street, after an almighty, intelligent and challenging 8 years. It will be sorely missed. Tonight is both the launch of the Platform book, detailing all the shows, and the final show itself, number 55. It's called Sarah and Simon because all the artists in this show have one of these as their first names (nobody, as far as I can tell, has both). And that, I think, is a very good way to do a show. And here, indeed, is a Simon. Simon Bedwell, who I got talking to recently at Chapman Fine Arts. He points out his piece, high up in the corner. It's an overpainted poster of an Indian(?)woman with a veil and the text 'Come to London.' We talk about BANK again. We both agree it's time for a re-evaluation (well, he would, wouldn't he?). I tell him that when history is being made there are usually very few people looking at it. He mentions Chris Burden nailed to the Volkswagen ('Transfixed', 1974, factlovers). There were, like, 7 people who saw that. I think of the places I've been over the last few months. By that criteria I've seen quite a lot of history being made...
There's a good crowd here tonight. Patrick Brill (aka Bob and Roberta Smith) is holding two inside-out crisp packets full of beer bottle tops. A new work perhaps? An impromptu performance piece? No, just something his little son has collected and got bored with so given to Dad. Mum is there too - Jessica Voorsanger - and their little daughter runs between them at either end of the street crowd, passing messages.
Anyway, Patrick is talking about a Ken Ardley Playboys gig sometime in August. That's a real blast from the past - I didn't even know they were still going (are they all still alive?). I guess you should watch this space.
Mathieu Copeland is there too, wearing big shades and talking about being a curator and curating (probably).
Warren Neidich is there. He's always around. But never seems to know quite where he is. Whenever I see him at a private view he's always, hi, what's this place? What sort of work do they show? What's it like? As though he's been given a time and a place and told to just 'Be there!' Or as though he has just recently landed. And indeed, tonight, he arrives with a large suitcase on wheels. So, maybe he really has just landed. I introduce to him Lisa Penny - what sort of work do you do, she asks? And he's off: within the first sentence he's into cafes as improvisational theatres and, blimey, he's mentioning non-places... He used to lecture at Goldsmiths. You can tell.
Back into the show for a look around and more beer. Two nice early pieces by Simon Patterson: Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova from 1993. Big cream canvases with simple black text. A fantastic, thickly painted advert for a Tracey Emin show from, I think, Artforum, by Simon Linke. The paint is slathered on so thickly and the text picked out so finely and precisely. I marvel at the skill of this.
Simon Popper, who was in this year's Beck's Futures, has a piece in the show. Two pieces of paper side by side with stamps on. On the left hand side the Queen, on black/blue stamps and on the right - is that Abraham Lincoln in red stamps? I guess there must be a lot more to this (knowing what Popper's like) but I can't help just being drawn into it, simply for what it is. It really is a very good piece.
Up on the ceiling is a small piece by Sarah Staton. A watercolour of the word, and, I guess, place, Wigan. I don't see Sarah around but I do remember her from years back when she was doing Sarah Staton's Supastore. It was a travelling 'shop' or 'boutique' of editions and multiples, appearing in disused spaces and galleries. It was quite a thing at the time. I remember it had Bez masks by Jeremy Deller and aviator glasses by Fiona Banner.
Outside in the street people are meeting up. Sally Underwood appears and I am sorting out my camera to take her photo, pointing it at the ground when Lisa Penny looks at the screen and says: take that photo. So I do. It's the one at the top of this entry. Lisa is wearing the pink ones and Sally the red. It seems as good a time as any to say goodbye.
Goodbye Platform.
It Just Won't Be The Same Without You.
platform pics

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Initially I think I like pretty much everything here. And this is generally what I tend to think whenever I come to Curatorspace, a gallery which is carving out a reputation from some interesting work. So that's good, I think, looking round 'Q', the show opening tonight. But then, on reflection, each work here seems intent on pressing its palm down on the old fashioned bell in my mind marked 'Why?' And it all goes slightly awry. Take, for example, this work I'm standing in front of by Dermot O'Brien (above). It's a series of small triangular pieces of paper stuck directly onto the gallery wall in a grid pattern. Now, I know from the press release that these pieces of paper are corners cut from books that Dermot owns. But the release fudges it a bit with the details. I'm not sure, for instance, if these are the corners from all the books he owns or a certain selection. I'm also unsure if these are all the corners from page three of each volume. Certainly the number three appears on some of them, but not many. And the triangles are different angles. Why is that, then? Is that to do with the relative size and proportions of each individual page? Or not? Why the grid? Why the corners in the order that they are in? Why not in a line? Why not by size? Why triangles? Why? Why? WHY? And on and on. The problem being, of course, was that I was drawn to this work thinking that there was something here that I liked. Seduced by the varying shades and textures of the paper, the form and the organisation. But then, well, it just started making me ask questions. And I rarely look at anything that makes me ask those sorts of questions. There's another piece by Chong Boon Pok in the back which is a film of the surface of a canal. I realise when I'm looking at this that things are going wrong because I start thinking, ok, fine, but this is just like looking at the water in a canal. I've done that myself. Loads of times. Water's great for looking at like that. So why should I have to stand in a gallery and watch a video of it. And, quite frankly, I rarely have surly thoughts like this about any art. I'm picturing myself by this point as a snotty little schoolboy, hands in pockets, head down, dragging my feet, following the rest of the class at a distance, risking trouble with teacher. I also read about Gary O'Connor recreating a familiar scent in the gallery 'aiming to provoke a certain feeling in the viewer'. Viewer, I think? Of a smell? I sniff the air. Can't smell a thing. Nothing at all. Not a whiff of anything. Bizarrely, not even what private views usually smell of. (Private views have a smell, Russ? You sure about that?). Then I'm thinking about that video of the canal again and thinking that maybe if I watched it a bit longer then maybe something would come into view. Well, yeah, maybe, maybe not, I think. If someone one day would ever have the bright idea of putting a running time on a video piece I should be ever so grateful...might even stay and actually watch a video piece....
And don't get me started about Mary Yacoob's ballpoint pen wall drawing.
I drink a beer. Take a few photos. Try and wonder a bit more positively about the work here. Wonder too, what went wrong with me? And so early in the evening too.
And so I leave, confused about what I've just seen.
Sometimes it's good to come away from a gallery having been faced with lots of questions. Just not the ones I faced, though.
Anyway, a quick nip into Rocket in the Tea Building, always a bit old fashioned for me but we have a look around. There's a big 10 year round up of work by Michelle Grabner. There's about a hundred and fifty works in the first part of the gallery so absolutely impossible to get a fix, but at the back the works are more spaced out and more recent and I really like them. Big black canvases with a single dot of paint daubed one after the other from the centre outwards in a huge spiral. Meaningless and tedious and captivating and beautiful. Relaxing and energising. Nice.
Then upstairs to Andrew Mummery who's moved across the hallway to occupy the space at 102.
It's a group show and we have a snoop around. At various points tonight I'm with Ben Woodeson and I'm with him here when we meet Bev Bytheway who Ben says is New Contemporaries. A woman of interest, then, certainly. Also one who sees everything in terms of names and dates. She's talking about people - 2004, in the show and so...2001... and so on....
We ask Andrew Mummery for a press release. He waves both his hands around his head in a throwaway gesture like he's appearing in a farce: 'there's no press release: it's a group show, it's a group show, there's no press release' and then he's off, waving his hands some more about something else.
I also remember that we are at the start of the round of summer group shows that galleries now start filling themselves with, like market stalls. It will be interesting to see what comes up over the next few months...
It's too hot in Mummery's new gallery so we head off to Redux on Commercial Street. A rent rise has forced its closure after only three years and tonight is a party, film screening and launch of new magazine Talking Cities. I see a few faces there I know.
Dallas Seitz is there and I nag him about getting on his mailing list - I haven't had anything from him and I gave him my card months ago, surely. 'Have I got your card?, he asks, shuffling through his wallet. He flicks through a wad of about a thousand cards. Finally he gets down to mine. I point it out. He takes it out and puts it into a journal he's carrying. I'm not sure what this signifies. I have moved, maybe somewhat imperceptibly, up his list. To yet another list, maybe, before I reach the actual mailing list...
Other people are there too, mostly people I don't know but who have supported Redux over its short life a lot more than I ever did. I drink a couple of beers, pick up a copy of Talking Cities, flash a few photos in the darkness and decide to leave this party to other people...
Goodbye Redux.
evening pics

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bill Viola at Haunch of Venison

The small pamphlet that accompanies Bill Viola's new show at Haunch of Venison describes him as 'one of the world's leading contemporary artists.' But how great is Bill Viola? Is he, indeed, great at all? Is he, as is claimed, one of the world's leading contemporary artists? What is his place? How much do we like him? Do we like him at all?
I don't know the answers to these questions.
Earlier in the week, someone asks if I'm going to this show tonight. Well, I say, you know, it's Bill Viola. He's like the Tom Hanks of the artworld, no? Or the Steven Spielberg. And the person I'm saying this to takes a bit of umbrage and offence at this and starts pulling out a whole list of works by Viola that should be enough to put me in my place. And they sort of do. Because I'm thinking for every E.T. there's a Schindler's List. For every The Terminal there's a Duel. I mean, yes, I saw the Nantes Triptych a few years back when they had it at the Whitechapel and I thought it was the first work which seemed to suggest that video art had come of age: it dealt with the BIG THEMES full on, head on, and wasn't ashamed to wear it's heart on its own three massive video screens. But later I also saw a lot of other Viola stuff which made me think - 'Speed up, man, just speed up'. A crass commentary, certainly, on what Bill is doing, but I think sometimes there's just a tendency to link slowness with meaning. And that's not right, is it?
Aw, heck, what do I know?
So I go along and check out the stuff on show across three darkened floors of Haunch of Venison. The place is filled with rich, posh darlings and art world heavies. As I'm walking around I'm picking up stuff like: 'oh, yah, I saw this in New York. Oh, hi. Yah, I saw this in New York,' or: 'You know I spent the day with them and they bought a LOT of work, and I mean a LOT...' and I spread myself around from piece to piece, coming and going and returning and leaving and picking up certain pieces and sometimes I think: 'Hey, Bill. Speed up, man, speed up.' And then suddenly I end up quite liking some of the stuff on show here. I find myself getting caught up. I stand there thinking, this is very seductive: the colours, the slowness, it's all very pleasing to be a part of. I'm liking this. Then a part of me goes, 'Yeah, but speed up, man, speed up....' there's more to being slow, surely? Hell, I'm not saying he has to become Benny Hill, for goodness sakes, but...
Anyway, while I am thinking all this up pops Simon Tyszko. He's very happy. And I'm very happy for him too, because a project called PHLIGHT, on which he has been working since I think I first met him about three years ago (can that be right?), has just secured Arts Council funding. And so happy is he about this that he's quickly printed out some 'phlyers' (as I think they should surely be called) to pass around to people telling them all about it. It's an exhibition, a book, a happening. You can check it out here. So, he's happy and I take his photo. His sharp blue eyes, like pure drops of sunlit sea scooped up from a glittering mediterranean coastline you can still remember from a holiday you were on at the age of eighteeen, sleeping rough in train stations and on beaches, light up in the camera flash. We are all very happy. And that includes his friend, Anne Pigalle, who is there. She is very glamorous and very french - as you can see here.
There's a small video work in the top gallery, along with some drawings, called Old Oak (Study), slightly away from the other stuff which, as far as I can tell, given the irregular, but repeated viewings I give it, is a film of a tree, with dawn slowly breaking through its branches. In theory it should be the most beautiful work I've ever seen, but somehow I never quite hit the groove. Though I'm sure if I did stuff with video it's exactly what I would do. But I don't, so....
I bump into Calum F Youknowwho who has just come down from Larry Gagosian's gallery and the Francis Bacon/Damien Hirst extravaganza. We have a chat. He talks about bedbugs. This will form his contribution to Kitson Kaleidoscope next week. He also points out and gives me an introduction Mark Westall, who is one part of FAD. FAD have a blog which I added to the blog list on the right of this text a few weeks back. It's interesting. Check it out. They are also doing another issue of FAD the magazine soon, a free issue, to give out to friends. It will be interesting too. Then we have a chat. About the internet, Rupert Murdoch and the problem of being Robbie Willams.
Then I look some more at Viola's work. There's always a discomforting hint of sentimentality, or schmaltz, about his work, which I find difficult. Maybe it's why Americans love this stuff so much, I think.
Anyway, I'm confused about all this so I go to the only man who can help: I say hello to Bill himself. I tell him I have followed his work for a long time. 'That's great,' he says, 'In this country, people do follow the work. That's why I love showing here. You know, I showed this work in New York and I didn't get a review. What can you do? You can't do anything.' He shrugs and smiles.
At this point I want to hug him.
But I don't.
I just take his photo (above).
Later, the person I had the conversation with when I said Bill was like Spielberg sees me and says, 'Hey, what you said about Viola's work before? Actually, I agree.'
I think about this.
Because bizarrely enough, I'm no longer sure I even agree with it myself.
Viola pics

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Punk's Not Dead

It's true. Punk isn't dead. It's just 30 years old. And when you get to be a 30 year old punk band, you still get to play and you still get little punk people moshing in front of you.
So here we are at the Underworld in Camden watching punk survivors, 999. Which is odd because I'm not really into gigs - too loud, too hot, too many young people jumping around (precisely the things that make live music what it is...), but tonight is an exception as we are here to see this band and, specifically, watch their guitarist in action.
Guys Days is the maintenance manager of the ICA and, when he's not fixing lightbulbs, unblocking toilets and doing all manner of glamorous things like that to keep the ICA going day to day, he's also a punk legend. No kidding. He's the guitarist in 999.
So we go to see him. And at the front by the stage there are indeed real punks. People wth strange, spiky coloured hair, tattoos and pierced bits. All jumping around, hitting each other and smoking and drinking (all at the same time). And only a gobbing distance behind them is where we are. Blending in with all this quite nicely, I like to think. Jane Pearce - or 'Mumsy' as we like to call her - from the ICA is there, wafting herself with a pretty white fan to keep cool. It's almost Siouxsie, but no, not quite...
Anyway, never mind the crowd, let's check out the band. They're fast, loud, tight as a clenched fist and simply the best fun I've had for months. Thirty years in and they're still totally up for it. Every song comes out at a hundred miles an hour and they look like they're loving every sweaty, raging minute. They're as sharp as a drawer of knives and look like they could play all night. But, because it's punk, the songs don't last very long and they are all done in about 45 minutes.
It felt like three.
It was a complete joy.
And it certainly beats watching him change a lightbulb...
Punk pics

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Feeling Sick

That smell. No matter where you are or what you are doing the smell of vomit has a uniquely revolting odour that's hard to define but instantly recognisable: nauseatingly too familiar and enduringly unpleasant. And it doesn't matter how many video, digital, film cameras and mobile phone snaps are taken of her as she squats in the middle of the road, nothing can adequately capture the stench which accompanies the action of her pushing her shaking fingers down her throat and sicking up a torrent of brightly coloured liquid.
Yep, I'm sorry to say, that's what we are doing this afternoon: watching a girl squatting in the street puking up the red, orange and green contents of her stomach so that it soaks the white T shirt she has stretched over her knees...
Well, ok. It's not too hard to see lots of ways we could go with this. Painting, body art, performance, actionist intent, pornography even. But I'm not going to go those ways, because the only way I'm going is down the street away from that smell.
Each time she finishes puking up a particular colour she stands and presents herself and her work. Quite a few people applaud.
And let's not forget, either, what else is going on around her. Hang on a moment, though, John Summers is on the phone to Lucy, explaining things: 'There's some girl barfing up colours, kneeling in front of some dude who's like got a bit of a gut and is like really white, and he's, like, covered in horseradish. And he's sitting underneath a little dude, who's like a jockey and he's taped to a lampost.'
I wonder what it was exactly that she said to him following this description? I can only posit that it may have been: 'And what about the little japanese lady who is saying things through a tiny microphone? Why didn't you mention her?'
Maybe she said something different though, I don't know.
Who knows, really, what this is all about? Well, maybe Mark McGowan does. It's his piece. He is walking around dressed in some crappy cardboard headress. He also moves around this whole mad scenario with total calm. And, despite myself, I find it inexplicably affecting when he gently and carefully wipes the mouth of the girl when she has finished being sick. McGowan's such a strange character, making all these works about the very nature of taste and decency.
So I guess it seems no surprise to find that this piece is part of a group show being presented in Jake Chapman's house. It's called RIGHT ON WRITE OFF and there's some really interesting names in it. Not least that of Simon Bedwell, who used to be a third (or some such fraction) of BANK. I remember seeing their stuff in the early 90s. Or rather, not seeing their stuff, as the whole thing scared the shit out of me. I can remember titles like Zombie Golf and Cocaine Orgasm. They were so full on I never even went near them. They were ferocious. From afar it looked to me like they were totally part of the artworld and totally outside it too. What I found out later was that they were exclusively the latter. Anyway, Simon's here tonight. He says they were totally obnoxious to everyone when they were doing the BANK stuff. They thought it was fun, a laugh. Just that no one else did. He used to wonder why none of the galleries were interested in them. Now he can understand why. I can't help but think that the whole story of BANK hasn't yet found its proper place in history.
And standing here in the street, the skin on my face crisping in the heat (it's such a hot day), talking to Simon, smelling the vomit in the warm afternoon air, I feel a very long way from Rokeby on Store Street, where I was earlier today, watching the first half of the England v Paraguay game. The tension in the gallery was cracking like neck muscles each time the big screen went black and a small blue box appeared in the middle of the projection with the words 'NO SIGNAL'. And then watching the second half of the game at Keith Talent. (For those of you now reaching for a copy of your London A- Z and calculating the distance between these two galleries, can I just say that I had to really work out my transport options in advance here). Keith Talent is not only watching the football, but also roasting a whole pig. Simon and Andrew have never done things by halves. They are recently back from art fairs in the States and I have a chat with both of them, though I still don't know who is who. They're just the Keith Talent geezers. I look around at the show. Ben Woodeson (New Contemporary 2003, factlovers) is there. I take his photo and get him just at the point he is saying, 'don't take my pho-'. So it doesn't look too good. So I take it again, this time just after he has said, don't take my photo, then kindly held his face towards the camera long enough for me to get the shot. Someone taps me on the arm. It's Matt Bryans. I keep seeing him recently. But I don't see much of his work. Which is a shame because I really like it. We talk about Christmas trees (he did a work using bits of trees - I saw it at his Kate MacGarry show where this blog started - all those months ago - and which I called at the time: Funny Little Wooden Things) and we talk about how it's good to be able to say what you are. I tell him I am artist and a shopkeeper. And some people don't like this at all. But luckily he does.
Anyway, back to that nice girl puking up her insides. The show also includes work by Mustafa Hulusi (he is one of the curators of this show). Regular readers of this blog will know that I am very keen on his work though I have never met him. And when I say keen, I mean in the way that when I give my card to people over the course of the night, at least three of them look at it and say - 'oh, so you're doing work like Mustafa Hulusi.' So, I figure I really ought to meet up with him tonight. Except I don't know what he looks like. Luckily Jen Thatcher, who I know from the ICA, is there and she points to the back of a guy in a striped shirt who is walking away from us. I clock him and take note of as many details as I can. Right, striped shirt, shaved head. That'll narrow it down, then...
But actually it does, because as we are going into the Whitechapel after the Love Parade I see - sorry? Did I not mention the Love Parade? How could I forget. At the end of the show at the Chapman's house there's a bit of standing around and then some nice ladies dressed in pink and purple outfits, wheeling an enormous phallic inflatable lead us, to the accompanyment of some excellent drumming and percussion, and a short detour to hear an indian song sung by a guy in a shop doorway, to the Whitechapel Gallery. The large inflatable turns out to be a balloon firing rocket launcher and we all watch as purple and pink balloons rise up the front of the Whitechapel, then seemingly burst into light up as they catch the last rays of the sun above the roof. And that was the Love Parade, brought to you by Zoe Walker nad Neil Bromwich, leaders of the Friendly Frontier Campaign, and very nice it was too....
So anyway we are going into the Whitechapel late night and as I go through the door I see a guy with a striped shirt and a shaved head, just to my left, standing outside, but it's too late to say anything as I'm through the door and he's gone.
If you can be bothered to look through the photos at the end of this entry you'll see him in a few of them, inadvertently caught by my camera. In fact, you can play your own game of Where's Mustafa? I think he might even like that.
OK. Maybe not.
Yeah, pretty definitely not.
Ingrid Z from the Residence is there. 'Hi, Zed,' I say. 'It's Zee,' she says irritably. We talk a bit about the Residence and about a guy who had a private view there recently with no work (fabulous, I think to myself). I say I'm gonna take her photo. She holds up all the bags of shopping she has with her and says 'Madonna and Child'. I take the photo, thinking how much, bizarrely, I quite like Z.
I mean Zee.
Anyway, we are in the Whitechapel and we have a few drinks and we talk to Jen Thatcher. 'I need to go for a half an hour and see JJ,' she says. Charlesworth? I ask. 'Yes,' she says. Jen and JJ are together. (JJ is also one of the curators of today's show). We all leave. I bump into a couple of girls in the street, one of whom I vaguely recognise. And then I remember. She came into the shop and I took some fabric patches she had made, with really gross, offensive, sick sentences printed on them. We all exchange cards. Hers says Fleur Charlesworth. I have to laugh. 'JJ?' I say. 'He's my brother,' she smiles.
The world is so small sometimes.
I don't know whether to laugh or throw up different coloured liquids...
sick pics

Friday, June 09, 2006

Who I Am and What I Want

David Shrigley and Chris Shepherd in the ICA bookshop, signing copies of the DVD, Who I Am and What I Want.
Shrigley, left, looks weird because he was pulling 'a pained expression'.
Chris, right, just looks bemused.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ellen Gallagher at Hauser and Wirth

I'm completely busy so rush to Hauser and Wirth to pay quick but deep respect to Ellen Gallagher's new works here. I've been following her work for a while and a couple of years back happened to be in New York and caught her Deluxe series (pages of old magazines with the plasticine and everything on them) at the Whitney, which are just the best thing ever. I was so into it I kept getting security guards asking me to stand back. I wanted to eat it.
Anyway, this is new stuff tonight. It's a whole move forward, especially the piece above (not as blurry in real life...).
Genius. I'll be back for more.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Canal Opens

Vyner Street. Doesn't matter how any times I go down there I always think it's like entering a scene from a horror film. Boarded up factories and closed down buildings. It's grey and it's grim. I always feel like one of the many shuttered gates will one day slowly rumble open and a bloodied, howling, stumbling creature of the undead will lunge forward, bits of flesh flapping from its bones, and with one long, eerie wail, call upon it's brothers, who slowly and inexorably appear from all the doors and windows down the street, like some evil army: panting, leering and jerkily looking for death...
Hell, what is wrong with me these days.
Anyway, there are no zombies tonight, especially not at number 29 which as been commandeered by a gang of bright things (Matthew Darbyshire, Anna Colin, Sarah McCrory, Olivia Plender, Melissa Franklin, Djordje Ozbolt and Celine Condorelli) with the idea to set up a project space for films, art, games and some very serious thinking over the next year. This is Canal (on Vyner). Tonight is the opening and there's a screening of three films to celebrate. There's a good crowd building when we arrive and everyone's talking and holding green bottles and there's a projector hanging down from the ceiling and, towards the back of the space, I notice a slightly forlorn row of fairy lights tangled round one of the ceiling supports. It looks nice. We get some beer and stand around looking. I spot Olivia Plender there, half heartedly making a shushing action at the gathering crowd - are you going to say anything? someone asks her. It looks like there may be some form of introduction to the evening, but then it's gone. The first film is suddenly running and we're off. We turn and look at the wall and start watching Ken Russell's The Light Fantastic (1960) and some geezer in a cockney accent talking about how much he loves Spanish dancing....
And people are still coming in and the chat is getting louder and everyone's rubbernecking to see who's here and a few people keep watching the film, but most start to talk and drink and smoke and stand around. The noise of everyone means that the film's soon drowned out. At some point the second film, Beehive by Jim Self and Frank Moore (1985) starts but by this time it's background. And when Screen Tests – Neil Cummings, Maria Lewandowska, Eileen Simpson, Ben White (2005) makes it up, it's wallpaper.
Anyway, it's opening night, it's busy and loud and everyone wants a piece of it. So, no worries. Canal will undoubtedly be an important space over the next year and there'll be some interesting stuff going on. I just suggest you get there early...
Eventually we fall out the doors and it's a street party. There's a bunch of folk who have come down from Maureen Paley's tonight and a 'performance' staged by Banks Violette which seems to have left most frustrated, confused or just simply pissed off. 'Mad' Mark McGowan's there and he hands me a flyer for this thing. There's a few people I know in the crowd and I say hello.
Luckily, none of them are undead.