Thursday, 25 October 2012

TV Experiment Over

The great T.V. experiment of the late twentieth century is over.
That little white dot on your screen
Has finally popped
Will fix it

Last Night's television

Last night my wife left me. She went out and I was thus alone to watch the television. This morning she asked how my evening was “did you watch bottom face”? This I understood was DCI Banks the man who regularly pulls a face like a face that knows that it looks like a bottom. Yes I did after dabbling with a movie on the x-box Love Film ap I plumped for the soothing immersive experience of terrestrial television. I feel connected to my fellow citizens when I watch one of the first five channels. Even on hd. ITV eh? I can never fully shed the feeling that they make the TV programs that are the equivalent of Top of The Pops covers albums from the seventies. Last night the new lady detective played an admirable cover version of the lead actress in The Bridge. We, the viewer, think she is perhaps autistic and unable to bond with colleagues and yet is still remarkabley efficient at her job. In the Bridge this picture is painted slowly and with real depth but in the DCI Banks cover-version it’s all over in ten minutes. Still the line about pornography making your hair fall out was very funny. Last night Detective Chief Inspector Banks played his cover version of a philandering Scandinavian detective when he went all puppy dog over a clarinet player. Her face when she said she played the clarinet was a picture – or was that just me? She left the room to fetch a rare seven-inch of Ella and the Chief Inspector’s face of bottom went into overdrive as it attempted to outwardly manifest such inner turmoil. I can hear the director “Okay Steven maybe tone down the face a bit darling. Oh is that the time okay well done everyone see you in the morning!” Thanks to the sneak trailer which is now part of the episode we know that next week the suspicious looking man with lanky hair gets to say stuff on camera and not just behind a closed door. He was in the entire first episode but on the script it just said suspicious looking lurky man with lanky hair lurks. For lovers of street art detective mash ups (and let's face it who is not!?) we learned that DCI Banks reacts strongly to being called Banksy. Will a mystery that has plagued art students for a decade finally be solved? My magnum moment could finally be at hand.

Electricity comes from other planets

The great T.V. experiment of the late twentieth century is over.
That little white dot on your screen
Has finally popped
Will fix it
Not even a good slap on the side with an open palm
The static is no more
The furthest reaches of the cosmos are on the brink
Of being mapped
Front rooms are all arse about tit
As partners unwind
Furiously masterbating in downstairs bathrooms
Over hard core clips
Civilisation is completely completed
The great television adventure has ended
Roll the credits, cue the music
Prepare not to dance
There is no more darkness
Only blinding light
And retina burning displays
Oh come back Neolithic Marshall
Join me in the forest of the night
And let us go then you and I
Hiding together
Ready to leap out when
Next there is a power cut.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Sickness Benefits

One of the benefits of being sick for a month is that you get to live in a muted hinterland. It's great you too can feel just like one of Virginia Woolf's dissenters. Just now I went to the local hospital for a blood test. The building, a gargantuan Victorian edifice designed by Edward Gorey (I swear), is handily close and is unoccupied apart from a woman inside a tiny reception hatch and the blood testing people about a quarter of a mile away down an airless corridor. Having experienced the performance art comedy of the receptionist yesterday (fork handles, parrots and so on) I glided swiftly to the blood sampling area. This place really has been like they were closing it down for the last five years and could easily provide an extremely convincing set for anyone interested in making a zombie film set in an abandoned hospital where a hypochondriac wanders in believing himself to be in a legitimate National Health institution but then finds his mind filling up with insidious doubts. Dr. Globin will see you now! Well I took my number from the dole/butcher's/euthanasia clinic style dispenser and sat and waited. There was no sign of anything that would display a number come the time that mine was up but this didn't worry me as I was hoping to simply complete the quick crossword and amble home. There was a heated exchange in the low resonant tones of an African sounding female voice speaking to someone who could not be heard. The person who could not be heard turned out to be the female blood samplest, a petite woman in the type of tight headscarf that always puts me in mind of a pretty little caterpillar in a children's book. It was impossible to work out what the heated exchange had been about or if indeed it was a heated exchange and not a common or garden conversation. The man I had mistaken for a loitering vagrant then begins asking myself and the other two samplees what our numbers were. Oh great a David Icke styled nutter who is about to numerologise us all. But no he is the system and an admirably idiosyncratic one at that. A bit like the old man manned railway-crossing gates. Ah you're first except that she can't see you because she can't touch men in the afternoon. Oh. It's a religious thing. The man will be ready and he's good once he gets on a roll. Gulp. Insidious doubts seeps under the door in my head marked do not disturb. The male blood sampler has a radio blaring. A rich full-throated voice with distant musical backing issues forth. I see a bedside radio alarm clock on the windowsill, the flimsy wire aerial tucked into one of the holes of the window latch. I begin to wonder why I am so boxed in that I find using a bedside alarm clock outside the bedroom vaguely, nay flatly wrong. But the voice sounds pained yet optimistic and I wish I could feel some of that instead of thinking I've walked into a low budget zombie film. The synthetic disposable looking blue stiff curtain wafts in the airless breeze. Yes I know a breeze can't be airless but this one was. I swear. I keep my Keith from Nuts in May style fleece firmly on. My sample test sheet is perplexing my samplist. He asks me what some of the letters on it mean. Erm I've no idea. Sorry. Is it my doctor’s signature - I think that's probably it? Yes we decide. I whip my fleece off and he ties the blue nylon tourniquet around my bicep and I try not to give the impression that I am used to tying things around my arm in order to make a vein more prominent. No need to pump your fist any more. In the end his technique is seamless and he tells me frankly that it's going to be all right. It is and I feel we have both performed very efficiently - he for noticing my slight apprehension and me for not making a flap. I exit the booth relaxed and relieved. The non-vagrant system man greets me. Earlier we had compared notes on our hearing aids but he hadn't really listened despite hearing me perfectly well. Well done he says now do you want the bad news. Insidious seeping. It’s still raining. Oh ha ha. You’re going to need to turn your collar up I think he says. I smile and force out a chuckle. You're a bit of a yob intya he laughs. Strangely I feel mildly exhilarated to be labeled a bit of a yob. Yeah I don't care me let the rain go on my neck. Unless of course there was another reason for his observation. My new facial fluff?
I stroll off, my gait taking on a decidedly yobish saunter. The rooms here appear not to have seen life since the virus swept through the suburbs. I glimpse into one room through a half open door and my eye is caught by a poster. It has an Apple style pair of three-dimensional violet quavers and some lyrics that run “you put your left hand in your left hand put you touch the patient and spread the germs about”. I can faintly hear the voices from the blood sampling area but I’ve lost my bearings. My foot steps echo and a sense of panic rises in my chest taking me back the countless times I have gone to the toilet in some kind of institution and forgotten the way I came in. The last time being one minute before I was due on air singing “Bringing Rocks Back from the Moon”. Back then the cleaner had also handily swabbed the floor making my sudden about turn close to life threatening which had the effect of making the prerequisite lump in the throat delivery uncannily effortless. Should I go on I think? I mean no one here seems to mind if I do. A woman approaches making a last minute attempt to stifle a chasm of a yawn when she notices me. Sorry long day she sheepishly informs me. You’re a bit of a yob intya? Did she really just say that? Was she in the waiting room? I look around hoping to jog my memory but the corridors mundane emptiness stares vacuously back. I retrace my steps and find the corridor I cam in by. Back on the street I am ecstatic as the rain spatters my neck.
                                    The End?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Verity - A very grey Matter

The truth is there is something about “Verity” Damien Hirst’s newly installed 65ft seaside saucy statue. That something may well turn out to be truly terrible but that sword held aloft to the elements “by the power of grey skull” prods my old grey matter.  That dank old cavern whence my soul has fled. Like Verity, Hirst stands out on the craggy coastline of British art. There is no missing him. After being lost in the first Freeze show he swore he would never be missed again. I have a suspicion that the "something” that bothers me could be distilled to one word. “Naff”. That Princess Anne endorsed phrase that is in itself… well… naff. There’s a wrong end of the stickness to it. Like that creepy Dr. Hagen Das who freezes people. Oooh look we’re all flesh and blood and will one day die but we stand defiant in the face of everything nature can throw at us. Admirable sentiments. But still a bit embarrassing. But hey that’s good isn’t it? I’m challenged into being embarrassed. Well perhaps I should get angry instead of embarrassed. I mean Hirst is no Paul Day who would seem like to easy a target but there is something of the pomposity of Day’s “Meeting” in Hirst’s “Verity”. Damien Hirst seems to have unwittingly strayed into the arena of Public Art where not even the depth of empathy found in a Henry Moore will keep you safely beyond the withering gaze of Mr. Clean.  Respect is due for Damien’s competition winner's ear for a good punning title though. On my recent visit to his (long over due) retrospective at the Tate Modern I marvelled at the titles alone. The winner is Beautiful, pop, spinning ice creamy, whirling, expanding painting’.
I should explain that all sense of human endeavour does excite me. Ever since my teacher intoned a passage of Milton giving shape Satan's rhetoric on the burning lake. I find myself drawn to any trace of our failings and so such a grand clunky design does entice the humanist in me. The scale of the sheer wrongness is mesmerising. All that would be valiant if there was a hint of self-depreciating humour. Some attempt at hiding the effort of the construction. But no the height (is it 65 or 66ft/) the tonnage (20 tonnes) the amount of separate components (40 individual castings over a central stainless steel frame with an appended glass fibre reinforced polymer arm) is somehow what it is. No more no less. What saves it perhaps is function. This bening that now approaching matelots will find the hitherto evasive harbour much easier to spot. In a recent Daily Mail travel blog Frank Barrett draws a comparison to the outrage that the Eiffel Tower drew from even the most cultured of Parisians and suggests that citizens of Ilfracombe will soon come to love the statue and end up finding it hard to give her up when the 20 year lease comes up. There is an interesting analogy here in that the sole function of the Eiffel tower was to be wind resistant at such great height. This defined the form. Hirst's statue under went rigorous wind tunnel tests to make sure it would withstand the high winds and sea spray. Perhaps this is what led to the streamline “by the power of grey skull”  stylings. In much the same way that classical statuary used the tree stump to give the figure stability.
The classical allusion is no accident and over the years Hirst has flogged the Écorchéd corpse (Hymn) in what seems like a scream for intellectual recognition. Since the high renaissance the understanding of what lies beneath the surface of the human form has been somehow synonymous with intellectual rigour. To draw the surface we must first understand the internal anatomy. Boy oh boy there are still people who teach drawing like this too. This obsession led to the strangest most neurotic strategies in the name of art. I point the reader towards Smugglerius as one such abomination that grew from the belief that classicism provided a backbone of rigorous intellectual stability in the face of impending descent in hackism.
 Verity is pointing up at the soul shaped hole. The pagan void where nothing is sacred. God as man is dead. God as dad is dead. Yes get over it and move on it was your idea to make it a he and give him a beard in the first place, to summarise Feuerbach. My point is that Hirst is of that lineage from Michelangelo of art that uses sheer scale and grand endeavour to escape earthly shackles because is has no access to the appropriate language of metaphor to do otherwise. Humanism led to a species-specific fixation with the material world as it rapidly became laid bare to the expanding intellect of the western mind. Michelangelo’s only escape was to therefore depict himself in the last Judgement as the flayed figure of St. Bartholomew. Escaping his own skin – geddit? Prior to the Renaissance, Art (of the Byzantine nature) had been about an unspoken resonance beyond the surface of the image. There was no struggle between seeing "through" the image and being made aware of the surface of the picture plain – dilemmas I suggest that drove the artist from Eden. However, Michelangelo also happened to escape the earthly shackles by the happy accident of his sublime virtuosity and understanding of materials. Remember he “found” David within the marble. Although the apparent subject of the statue is intellect defeating brawn something far more profound emerges through the miracle of process. that something is just that - miraculous. Damien Hirst was (un)fortunate enough to have become an artist in a time when to "chose" is enough to make something art (with enough conviction/scale). Duchamp was not suggesting for one minute that all artists follow this strategy rigidly but that is what our “success’ based culture has arrived at as a template a century on. Make no mistake this statue is about “art” and mortality. Equals hubris. Duh duh duh. Life, death, flesh and blood, defiance - Underscored with the heady acrid bouquet of imagining what would Gordon Ramsey make if he was a sculptor? Certainly nothing as exquisite as Degas “Little Dancer” upon which “Verity” is said to have been modelled. Degas has made the soul visible in that piece but Hirst seems not to have notice that he has let the posture lose its grace. The sculpture I must conclude is a sixth form essay writ large in 40 separate castings on a stainless steel frame. Sounds good to me. I want to see it but then I am a sucker for seaside novelties.

Monday, 15 October 2012