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The Artwork


Out To Lunch, September 2009

The Artwork haunts my waking hours, burdens my dreams, and emerges in shocking gobbets each time I have sufficient undirected, unmanaged, disposable time to develop a chromograph undominated by directors and managers. It sulks in the corner awaiting anchovy titbits. It dribbles silkworms over the hawkmoths. It stalks cabbage leaves and bores holes in your finest roses. It's in black and white. It wriggles. It's a bit like The Stumbling Block (its Index) by B. Catling, but it hasn't yet been drained of its vital powers, its punch diminished by the advent of Ken Fox's Inventry of Zerox, which took post-industrial vorticism down sweated internal corridors immune to sniggers at the vain Alan Mooresque pomp of the Catling imaginary. The Artwork is vast, certainly, although you're persistently troubled by the idea that the whole thing is a corner of the plastic wrapper of a frozen beef pie blown up on a photocopier to ridiculous proportions, like the monstrous hoover in Graham Greene's Our Man In Havana. Darkness shrouds the most enticing parts of the composition, meat-pie wells of black ink exuding frosty glints. In front, the sparks scatter down like the airbrush option in MSPaint, evoking the gold-dust palm-tree outfall of fireworks. White squares blink over the private parts of the model under investigation. The burlesque swirl of the major compositional thrust includes myriad advent-calendar-style trap-doors, each one a portal to a cheap imagistic universe of rancid jissom with lotus blossoms on. My blotter reeks with greed as the ink surfacts by the kiss'n'tell tree. Make-up and ketchup carry no Morse cods to the market, where everyone meets under the cancerous sun of value. Symptomatically inclined, the rectilinear intrusion paints my retina with a white stripe, panhandles my oyster garden, and references Greek particles stuffed with red pepper and anguish. Angelina puts cream on her vagina as the wheely-bin circles the Hausfrau. In dots. The Artwork includes everything, the splits and spots are "tremenjous", leaching milk spatter over the black velvet of the abyss, where hearing's leash is strummed by powers stationery: the coloured crotchets beloved of banned members. Here's a watering can, an ice-cream cone, a pick-axe. Here's a roll of cellotape, a ballroom mask, a furbelow. The separated world is stitched up with Grip-Fix, and the atomised breath-you-hold expires in an attic window. Expunged with a black flannel. White-painted slats. Face-painted sluts. Henna'ed slits. Black-as-night slots in the Sno-Pake.

The Artwork curls and luxuriates like foliage laminated to a clothes-shop window, but the caterpillars and headlice remain unremoved, the police are not yet massaging your scalp on a welcome retreat from "some die". It's frictive and absorbtive. Leafless trees photographed against the eventless sky scratch-up like pubic hair. The pimple's dimple concaves the flesh surface, flushed with self-consciousness, flushed by critique, tics weeding the flowerbed. The useless recoils in a wet patch, proving the necessity of waste. Ace turns upside down in the ash cart, kingpin as lynch mob, as queendom, as jackfancier in the ten-grow. My tiny feelers hoping to whitespot the grubby doom in the cloven hooftop encounter.

Hope moves with a cutting device. The specified area lifted like skin and grafted back with a greedy "plop". In a new window deliberately angled to the old. My cuts are unnervingly near the mixture which ails you. Those terrible shears you left in the shed, the sherry-you-crave all the way through to the gravy-boat ending. It's snip snip snip to the ludicrous rescue, as I rend your skies like a garment, and read off the biblical warning printed on the underside of the crash helmet. With a crazy-lazy permit-me-to-greet-you appended in legalese, the scroll with its cascade of ribbons and seals. The composition begins with a main thrust, beautiful in its untamed ugliness, rough proud and massive. Its verdant slopes and rocky outcrops give ample opportunity for play and gambol, and before you know it we're up to our kecks in curlicues of cliché, writhing icons sno-coning the beltline. Thus lust turns to mannerism in the black-white sadomasochism of Strawberry Beardsley, or was that Auberon Drawsome on my leg plaster, and forget the stiffness in the stock pot? Each stipple was stubble on the lowered chin, every irksome local detail pushed right up against the perfected machinic lozenge, my crinkled lip on the shiny shoe. Beastsome in the temperance jar, my whelksome fidget breaks up the self-evidence of The Artwork, its greet gestures notwithstanding the drawing-room topiary. All secrets yearn for analysis, the light of day revealing a rosy rim, pulsating with insect scavenger lustitude.

Craggy cosmic randomness busts up the game show, watching my piss cascade into the bowl just the eye-aspirin I need versus the tight entertainment capital of the world. They've shrunken my balls to retinal pods, something on the scale of an ant. Who pants to lick the fringe off of Jimmy Carl Black. In obscure corners of The Artwork, snuck into the key pattern on the edging of the smocks worn by the slaves, you can even hear the blues. On the Elmore James side of the fence - fibres of white optic spangled with star barbs - you hear Jamming With Edward; meanwhile, in a Croatian tavern sketched on the other side of the border, a shack banged together using sheets of plywood, bent nails and a cartoon hammer, you can hear "I'm a King Bee". The rapidfire strokes of the sketch-joker are stoked with genuine political passion, framing the blues in a new way devoid of the fetishism of authenticity, and instead proposing a new way to live and relate to others of our kind. Crumblike despision of the art game trickles through the hatchwork. This is, though, but an incident in the general design, which is grand, polemical and esemplastic.

A rockface escarpment has been supplied with sharkteeth, pointed and dangerous. These stark white triangles are like marks etched into clay by a Sumerian secretary, being both perfunctory and savage. We feel time's residues chew at our gut walls. Everything goes into this artwork because we are omnivores, all is grist to our Moulinex, and anything can happen in the metabolic pool. The funnel is wide-open, we forgot to screw the filter into the gasmask. An inverse cornucopia, everything goes in: Anne Boleyn, Henry the Eighth, Cheese & Onion Crisps, Roger the Dodger, the meal-ticket exploder. Though one thing does stick in the craw of this artwork's feeding mantrap mandible, and that's the suggestion pinned to a Krispy Kreme Do-Not by a certain John Cage: that we leave all this stuff unchanged because we are beyond caring about mere "stuff", that we refuse to lift a saintly finger to alter our conditions. We care about it deeply, Zenmeister Vacuface, so much so that we pulverise and transmutate and crumble down and fumble up and knead and node and nudify the contents of our ever-rippling stomachs, a perpetual peristalsis of ecstatic Stanley Gibbons. We chop and sort and organise, we embellish, fructify and eructate, we mush and mash and mix the ongoing onion stew. Evolution ensures that individuals of the species are equipped with a special muscle on the lower lip: using a section of hardened mucilage, disagreeable ideologies are "flipped" out of the foodstream and end up adorning the walls of the nest, a negative exhibition of rejected ejactamenta. This appears in a dark window at the foot of The Artwork.

We break it ill down to build it oil up, "leaving be" isn't in our rude vocabulary, we're invasive, dentated, pervasive, rotated, corrosive … we're IMBRICATED! The Artwork levels off into an infinite horizon of hipping and skipping and popping and slopping. There isn't a "beyond the pale" that's not used, nor a bucket that's not been plucked up and set down and clotted up with fine-chiselled leavings from the organic chapter. In which we're in, pious men. We won't let John Cage turn us into innocent baby babas, sniffing the napalm and calling it coffee, we send babies into bird cages to invoke Cyril the Red Legged Seriema, where borrowed tongues salute the clean-up woman since the unburrowed and unfurrowed is a desert without shelter. In The Artwork the real jostles side-by-side with fantasy, introducing fantastic discrepancies undreamed of by J.R. R. Tolkien.

The Artwork is also studded with jewels in the shape of R&B tracks recorded in the early 60s: Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band rub shoulders with Cyril Davies, king of London blues-scene harmonica. Harmonica Cyril and the Seriema of the same moniker push sound against the timpanum of the ear so it clangs metallically and violently, providing the kind of blinding light - noonday sun reflected in a sheet of polished zinc - necessary for the construction of our thrilling new Artwork. These eye-piercing shards of brilliant white light arrive in Aztec zigzags, in beringed blobs, in oven gloves, in tortured wigwams, singeing the retina with sinister insignia. It's like passing a thorned cord through a hole in the tongue. But never was the primal so roly-polied up with everyday clutter and recent rubbish, I'm almost embarrassed to tell you about it. Motes of ash float grey on antedeluvial warm-air currents. Take wing with the pterodactyl, a new metre for acheing-arch poetasters.

The Artwork takes the long view, the shortness of its many close-ups is arranged in prickle patterns reminiscent of Persian rugs. Down at the pixel level, you can glean a crude comic strip, with images of skulls, camels, roses, pyramids, nipples, wasps, ice cubes; any motif to pique the interest of the lax gazer or lucky geezer, beating a low-down tattoo on a mean Tarot. There's "eye work" in Chinese characters, there's the official stamp for an imperial measure of beer, there's Thoth brandishing a pencil, a pumpkin in a coffin. But this stream of hallucinated pictographs has been used to picture something altogether less expected: nothing less than a picture of the suffering body from the inside-out, as if Francis Bacon was anything to shout about. Bacon sandwiches made of cartoon crusts and dripping, echoing écorché down the Ewigkeit.

Lurking behind a fallen Ancient Greek capital, chipped acanthus leaves under unforgiving Argive sunlight, is a song Iggy Pop wrote at the same time as "(Now I Wanna) Be Your Dog", but which Iggy and his advisers thought would be "de trop" to include on the first Stooges album. It reminds me of queuing in the Co-Op on Cambridge Market, in front of me an old guy in a tattered suit and spattered tie purchasing a can of Pal - meaty chunks in bone jelly - and a roll of cream crackers: "Dog Food" from Iggy Pop's Soldier album on Arista Records. The Artwork includes sound glyphs carved on minidisc, moments ripped from the Heraclitean stream of everyday life and mounted on panels of brass and basalt. Documents of infants jostle with mouth poems by Out To Lunch recorded at Coram's Fields (stylised teeth filed into points, globular eyeballs like fossilised pickled onions and flared nostril agony form the basic elements of these not infrequent cameos). In The Artwork, unchiselled documents of everyday life are placed next to crafted volutes, like Polaroids mounted in gilded stucco. Occasionally real life imitates art, leading to the glorious mise-en-abîme characteristic of those who put circumflexes on top of "i"s and call it "towering creativity". Disneyesque turrets sprout out of jagged breaks in The Artwork's crust like poisonous snakes from the itching scalp of Medusa, each one hissing a carefully-variegated price. The monitor lurks in its greeness, checking the primroses on the opposite hill. All recognisable imagery in The Artwork is dreamlike, temporary, sexual, like the images on advertisment hoardings which loom over car-clogged streets. Everything - the cardboard roll inside the toilet tissue, the string of camels on the dune, the burlap cuff sticking out of the janitor's jacket, the cardboard fir-tree impregnated with no-smell knock-out drops - was put there on purpose, the ultimate sexual point of the whole place hot-rolled like a pig's curly weenie and bent into a caustic question mark, with frills on. Down in the henhouse, something stirred, but when Lascelles Perkins asked "who's there?", this is what he saw: Squeezed white lines recalled the effect of placing an ear next to a crack in the window of a car speeding up the M1 in the early 60s. The Artwork will admit no governing niche, style, genre or conceptual category. No guiding light, just darkness enveloping the bath-tub. It is anti-Nietzchean, anti-Stylistics, anti-Conceptual: hostile to relegation to the stupid person's pigeonhole, throws tantrums when placed on a pedestal by the intelligent. It feeds pigeons with coloured grains of uncooked rice, and maps the territory via multi-coloured mandalas in guano. It refuses the by-numbers anti-humanism of the sound-art crew in order to throw critical grenades into the audited auditoria of classical reliquary and folk non-movement. It is not happy at the South Bank, and weeps at Cecil Sharpe House. It breathes with pleasure the fumes on Camden High Street, and adores the pop hip-hop they play in the 99p Store. It cuts and copies and pastes in order to make everything its own. It's mobile, handy and super-manipulated, treasuring the abilities of the opposable thumb. It soars over the frozen commodity landscape like a handbill, it sours the milk of kindness, it stars over at the formament and gasps. It's thumbprint is unique, same as everyman's, and it peddles weird exotic perfumes for yer ass. The Artwork brooks no stoppages except mass walk-outs versus threats to double pay on Sunday. It's gladsome and exuberant and won't sit still for cinema, television or stand-up debate. It stops in the street to explain something to you. It gesticulaters like a foreigner, it swears like an Englishman. It's placid and acid and rich and fantastic. It's revved-up and bev'd-up and poor and self-pitying. It rides poverty sideways like chemotherapy on a cancer, gobbling up crab-apples and spitting out special jellies. Organization is allowed in as ingredient, not recipe. The Artwork trusts to the self-organization of materials, but doesn't repress its own Qual because it believes itself to be the prima materia. The Artwork preens like belladonna and pricks like Britney Spears, it has stickle bricks in its belly button, lobsters up and down its forehead, secret Tutti Frutti scattered in genital pockets. It has no truck with billiard balls and foreswears perfection. It has no time for all that phony stuff on sports, but as for your games, count them all into the interstices of its profusion. It prefers a rebus to a Profumo and loves to copy the elegant assymetrical detail of heiroglyphs it isn't equipped to explain away as laundry-lists. It abhors a mystery, but delights in the crooked imprint of sinful nature. Briars tangle up into the grey wash of the sky and boulders tumble down into the picture's limits. Which limit is the starting point of another production, like frank-zappa music, like childbirth, like the cosmos. Actually, It isn't like anything and it doesn't like anything, it licks winksome nuggets out of the furze and the nettlebush. It craves the nineteen different grass seeds found in the stomach of iron age man found in the peat. It has no time for différance, it's in love with Somethin' Else by Cannonball Adderley, not Miles of Azimuth Ballistics. It percolates through an unfurled Iroquois head-dress, pulverises feathers in the seminal vesicle. The Artwork is beautiful, it shouts at ugliness and captures it in its octopod tentacles. It's open to accident because accidents pique it into explaining the universe. It prizes bee stings over bestings and bees wax over honey; it's the best way to spend a holiday and it has no time for leisure pursuits, it's rancidly concerned with its own lissom-jissom and tracks the individual down into its peculiar universality. Camelwise, The Artwork got the thump. It's to be looked at.


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