Tag Archives: art

finding Facchinetti

They rose early, having decided to keep that morning clear. They took their tools to the corner of the room and, carefully, with a routine that only an old couple could share without prior planning, began to unscrew the cupboard that, 43 years earlier, Mr M had worked into the wall as a place to store their shoes. A steaming pot of tea cooled above the fireplace; they worked with such focus that they forgot to pour any into the two white mugs waiting on the tray.

When the cupboard eventually came down, it was as she had expected. ‘I told you,’ she said, breaking into laughter, ‘I told you he’d be there.’ Mr M nodded. He couldn’t disagree with her, she was often right about things like this. There he was, Paolo Facchinetti, with a small brush and a pot of black paint at his feet. ‘I was just trying to capture the mould,’ the painter said, ‘before the summer comes and dries it away.’ Mrs M chuckled still more, nudging Mr M with her elbow. ‘I told you,’ she said. ‘I told you.’

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suicidal at the Serpentine

In his high-collar lambs’ wool jersey (navy, of course), he is bellowing into the slender i-Phone in his palm. “We’re at the Chapmans’ show, Ems. Fabulous building. That Muslim woman did it.” He’s standing, legs apart in a capital A (is-for-arse), as if preparing to piss down the side of one of the large glass cases that form the show, left hand wedged into lightly gelled greying hair. “Hold on, Ems, just a mo’ darling.” A child is calling him from behind. “Daddy, Daddy, when can we go? I want to go. Daddy.” The child’s mother is trying to distract it, trying to educate it possibly, trying to stop it upsetting Daddy. “Look, darling, the horsey, darling. Look at the horsey.” She presses the child’s face up against another of the large glass cases, close to a horse, part of the scene of carnage inside, a massacre, a genocide — call it Hell if you like, but I’d rather keep it in the real world, not tucked away in the corner of a faith that bows down to the supernatural — that could be a snapshot from a part of the world in which we all live right now. (Syria, anyone?) Yes, there are Nazis in there. Hitler’s in one peaceful corner, a pet dog, a little garden, the picture of petty-bourgeois desire. Ronald MacDonald is there too — indeed, another mother of another small child offers helpful reminders in Putney tongue: “Corrie, sweetie, have you seen Ronald MacDonald?” She neglects to mention that the clown of obesity is also nailed to a crucifix in some cases, and apparently killing or maiming or torturing in others. Unfortunately for me, she also doesn’t name the blow-up purple figure that reminds me of a 1970s Weeble, but is probably a cartoon creation after my time. Meanwhile, Daddy’s still shouting into his phone to Ems. “Chapmans. Fabulously fucking weird sweets, hah!” They arrange to meet in a cafe in Kensington. They leave.

Show your kids these scenes if you like. I honestly don’t care. I don’t want censorship, or signs up banning the under-12s. So bring them to this show, and laugh at it with little Hugo and nine-year-old Muffy. It’s only art. It’s just a joke. It must be: apparently, Jake and Dinos have been doubled-up in giggles too. If it has no purpose other than to make us laugh — or to allow others to laugh at me (and people like me) when I don’t laugh — then classes of primary school kids should be bussed in and made to stare into the detail so that we can laugh at them when they have nightmares. What bothers me (much more than the kids’ expressions of consternation) are the adults.

Walking through Come and See yesterday was like looking into a huge mirror. I saw not only my reflection, but the reflection of the world, stretching out of Hyde Park, down Oxford Street, all the way to Goma and Homs, San Francisco and Aberystwyth, Grozny and Hong Kong. The presence of the Ku Klux Klansman (which one critic seems to scoff at because they aren’t real) reminded me of the ever-expanding crater between poor and rich, and of the many migrants who have tried to get in to the UK but who end up being held inside private prisons controlled by men in uniform who work for companies run by men in suits who might as well be wearing white cones on their heads. The KKK figures wore striped wool ‘hippie’ socks and Birkenstock sandals, dragging me to thoughts of the intense gentrification of my own neighbourhood of Walthamstow, where property prices are escalating at such speeds it’s starting to seem as if the local estate agents (who invent new rules of play for price bids and who establish glossy magazines that are more popular than the borough’s own dedicated paper) have levels of power our local MP might soon start to envy. Strolling through the show, I felt implicated. Because I am implicated. I am part of this vast hypocritical class that seems to have been chosen to enjoy a good life, for the time being anyway.

But don’t be fooled, not even by Dinos and Jake. There is no ‘if’ in this show (as the Telegraph’s critic also suggests): of course, we are fucked. As I listened in on conversations between couples in their Campers — ‘This is spooky! Ha ha ha!’ — I began to wonder if they, too, were part of the exhibition. The Chapmans are watching me, I thought. They are ramping up their parody to new heights and the joke is on me. The paranoia got worse. Allusions to Auschwitz made me miserable. Thoughts of my own book came to mind, of conversations with Angolans who were held in concentrations camps in the late 1970s, camps that one of them compared with the Sobibor extermination camp in eastern Poland. Funny? Hardly. Kids entertainment? Probably not. But perhaps the ones I saw yesterday won’t have sleepless nights because they’ll end up like their parents — who seem to have had every last drip of empathy hoovered out of them, and every last line of political nouse snorted up the nostril of some unassuming celebrity chef who’s art-dealer-of-a-husband turns out to be a thug — so it won’t matter anyway.

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at the Tate

Through the glass wall they step, one after another, until the six of them are on the other side. One looks back. The young woman. Oozing anxiety, she searches for the shape of her reflection, a need to check her size. She pulls a leather jacket from her shoulder and ties it around her waist, thinking, I need to cover my arse with cloth. She turns again, searches again, and seems slightly less dissatisfied with the image that meets her. It’s a testament to the discipline in her self-loathing that she doesn’t fall to the floor and scream. The young men, all five of them, are enjoying the view. One pulls out a packet of cigarettes, offering them among his friends. Two accept. They huddle together to light up. A rush of smoke appears over their silky heads and they pull back in one choreographed movement, inhaling and exhaling as if they have just completed a particularly taxing task. The woman pulls at the pony tail that follows her spine to the small of her back. She’s searching for an opportunity to look away from the view of the City to glance again (and again) at her shape, her form, this burden of flesh around her hips that is hers that she wishes to carve off now with a knife. What if I don’t have a child? she asks herself. What will be the point of all this? She lines up beside the men and for a few quiet seconds they stare together at St Paul’s. Then a camera comes out. One of the men reverses out of the line, warning his friends to prepare. The men laugh and one pulls out a pair of sunglasses, the sort Hutch used to wear, then undoes his top button, flicking at his fringe and manipulating his collar. He uses the glass wall to check it’s all just right, delighted at the youthful thing before him, within him, springing out of him. He sucks on the cigarette, then launches into a hug with the man beside him, and — snap — the photo is done. His friends laugh. But the young woman is still twitching, eating herself up, hating being here, hating this whole period of her life, wanting desperately to be a man, hating her female self even more than even she is able to recognise. And all the while, the names of the works she’s just seen keep running through her head, over and over. Vision of the Tomb. Self-Portrait of Suffering. Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1. The Last Sound. The words run over her like twists of rope and she stares at the rail upon which her friends are leaning. 

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Shoreditch

Everyone was listening to him. ‘A squirrel dying in your front yard, at that particular moment, may be more important and relevant to your life than people dying in Africa!’ He was a slender man wearing a loose orange jumper that signalled something erotic to B, although she couldn’t quite work out what it was. He was tanned, too, like he spent lots of time outdoors. She imagined him a sculptor working on something important and contemporary in his back yard. She imagined him bronzed and bare-chested, chiselling away at something that mattered. He was quoting Mark Zuckerberg. But as much as B wanted to see the artist naked before her, she couldn’t accept his statement. She disliked the fact he was using an African as the counterpart to a squirrel. Why didn’t he talk about a dying European? Or a dying North American? She wanted to raise her hand and make the point, but she was afraid she’d be hounded out of the gallery. Who wouldn’t care more for an African than a squirrel? She could hear him retaliating already. She felt anxious. She wondered why she’d come and looked at her legs and her hands and then in her bag, as if they might offer her advice. But nothing came to her other than the considered silence of the audience. Then she heard herself laughing, loudly, like a dog barking beside her on the bench. Everybody turned around, and stared. B felt hotter. She felt herself blushing. ‘Africans,’ she whispered. The man sitting beside her looked a bit desperate. He edged up the bench a centimetre or so, towards the younger man beside him. The artist in the orange top stood up, so he could look at her too. He smiled at her and his erotic quality fell away. B stared back. She wanted to stand up too, but she was afraid. She didn’t know how to begin to defend concern for a dying squirrel, even though she knew she was right. She smiled at the artist, terrified, and he continued to smile back. The audience seemed to relax a little. The talk continued.  

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