Trouble at flaca
Even the seductive qualities of vodka and lychee juice can't keep me at the ICA's opening of Alien Nation tonight - well, ok, that's a lie - I quickly knock down a couple straight off, but I'm really not staying. I've been round some of the show already and been blown away by Hew Locke's bright, shiny, trashy, cheap toy laden spaceships in the upper galleries, acting as some glorious counterpoint to the quiet, rhythmic, ritualistic films of Ellen Gallagher and - well, look, no more, I'm off. I've been thinking all day about whether to stay here tonight or venture off and I finally make the decision, luckily, just before the vodkas pull up a chair and tie me in with a couple of ropes made from old sheets, laughing and cackling at my abject lack of will, winking at each other and pouring themselves down my throat...
I'm going east end tonight towards Modern Art and flaca, looking for something a little bit more - what? I'm not sure at this point but I figure I'll know it when I see it.
Up Vyner Street then and to Ricky Swallow at Modern Art. The Swallow has been up to some more wood carving. Small pieces on the walls, a couple on the floor. I get particularly taken by one piece, lying on the floor, around which people are standing and looking down at. It's a skull, lying on its side, with what I take to be some sort of fungus growing out of it. I don't why, but I really like this. It seems mysterious and obvious at the same time. I look at it for a bit. The finish on it isn't like his previous stuff, it's a bit rougher, a little less finished. It makes it seem more like a crafted piece.
I'm thinking about the skull and heading off out when I bump into the lovely Francesca Gavin. She is there with a guy called James Lambert. She starts talking about blokes who sleep with lots of girls and get away with it, and metaphorically leans an elbow against a bar to steady herself for what looks like a long tirade. As she continues, and as we near the end of the year, my mind turns, of course, to the all important Russell Herron's - a prizegiving event, honouring achievements in the artworld, very much like the Turner Prize, only done a bit more on the cheap, not on at the Tate, with no media coverage and with nominations provided by a totally subjective panel of myself spread across whatever damn categories I please. Doesn't that sound great? Wouldn't you want a Russell Herron on your mantlepiece?
Anyway, one very important award, and one I think a number of people would be delighted to receive, is The Russell Herron for Most Viewed Photo in This Blog. And currently holding top position, and this is where I hove back into view of the conversation, is the lovely Francesca herself. I had assumed she had simply just been clicking repeatedly, endlessly, on her own photo (you know how people are...), but she swears she only looked at it maybe a handful of times (well, maybe, you know, a few times...). Anyway, whatever, her photo is well popular. Maybe because she looks a bit hot in it and a bit naked??
You can click to see it HERE, and, at the same time, help her win that prize! Go on, show the girl your support!!
I tell her I'm heading up to flaca, and she tells me she's heading down to the VICE party. See you later, I think. When you collect your award...
I get to flaca, duck downstairs, get a beer and immediately see and say hello to the lovely Oona Culley. I don't see her around much but I do like her work. She does some really sensitive and subtle work about perception and memory and absences. Very nice work indeed: click HERE for her website. Oona is also quite a sensitive and subtle person herself and I'm not sure she'll appreciate it if I ask for a photo of her. I ask. She's not sure. Will it go on your website? she asks. Well, yes, I say, pointing out that if I was taking her photo without the intention of publishing it here then that would be a little bit even more weird and creepy...no? She agreeds with this but disagrees about having her photo done. Luckily we can compromise and I get a photo of her hand holding a beer.
John Hayward has been phoning me a couple of times today to try and arrange to meet but it has been such a crazy day I never got back to him to firm things up, but never mind because here he is now with a guy called Neil Taylor who runs Campbell Works. We all talk about wood carving, skulls and barnacles (ah, I think, it wasn't fungus, it was barnacles - so instead of this skull speaking to me of damp forest floors it is actually whispering about the sea, about loss, about the deep blue mysterious ocean...ah, I think, yes, indeed...) and John and Neil aren't convinced about Ricky. Or are they? It's one of the conversations about art where I can't even start to understand what anyone (including myself) is saying...are we agreeing, disagreeing, or about to have a fight? Whatever, we move on eventually. Neil tells me a little about Campbell Works and a magazine/newspaper he produces called 'ArtInit.'
I go to the bar to get a drink. It's being run by a guy called Douglas who I've seen here before. I take his photo. He's an odd one. He works lots of private view bars around London - a lot of the fancy ones.
I get a beer and chat some more to some more people. I see Tom who runs flaca and say hi to him. He is talking to another guy who seems very intense, hunched over in deep conversation. Something's odd, but I can't quite put my finger on it. But hey, he's talking to Tom and Tom seems ok, so he must be ok too. Right?
The guy gives me a big hug, stands holding my arm, stands far too close.
'You're very...er..physical,' I say.
'Just sharin' the love, man,' he grins...
He sees my camera and insists on taking a photo of me and Tom. He's pleased with the shot. For no reason that I can fathom he then starts shouting 'Oi! Oi! Saveloy!' He shouts this some more. Then he's off after someone else.
I go upstairs with Tom. 'Who is that geezer?' I ask.
Tom gives me a look, fixes me with his eyes, trying, in that one look, to communicate much, much more than he could by simply saying what he says:
'Oh, he's a local.'
'Yes,' continues Tom, 'he's been here before, smashed up some of the work.'
Tom disappears into the toilet, maybe for the rest of the night..
Our friendly local is coming up the stairs, reaching for the volume on some kind of music player. I think this might be a work, but I'm not sure.
I take his photo, above. He no longer looks like he wants to share the love with me.
I quickly decide it might be time to leave...
I look around for a press release to take off with and pass by a scrappy piece of paper stuck to the wall on which someone has written 'I once dreamt that someone was offering me a cornetto. I woke up with my right arm outstretched.'
I reckon I know who's work this is, but I figure I can confirm it at some later date...
The next day I email Tom because I didn't find any info to pick up and ask if he can forward a press release.
He replies that there wasn't one for the show. 'Bad Gallerist!' he writes.
Well, whatever, but it's exactly why I like flaca so much. Tom set out there to do what he wanted to do and explore the things he wanted to explore. It's based on his passion and enthusiasm and the sheer damn joy of looking and curating and thinking about art and life and what on earth that all might mean. It's a surprisingly rare set of criteria. It makes flaca very much one of a kind. It's a special place and soon, I think, it will disappear...
I came away from that night feeling like I had just escaped from an imminent fight. I also saw some work that made me think about what art was again. The piece about the cornetto was by Clunie Reid, who is doing some really interesting stuff at the moment, and wants, I think, to try and understand what it is to look at art again - heck, look at anything again - here, now at the end of 2006.
But what do I know?
I went out eastside looking for something.
And I pretty nearly found it.