There is only one president at a time, said Barack Obama, or words very similar. And so the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, unable to get his view on Gaza, interviewed another man – an expert, we were told (of telepathy?) – about what Obama would be saying if he were prepared to say what he thought had he not said that he would not say anything until he is officially president.
Yesterday, we went to the Bacon exhibition at Tate Britain. It was the last day. A long queue had formed by 9.45am with perhaps 150 people lining tidily together. Then a shorter queue was formed, led by a short elderly woman dressed in an expensive coat and dark glasses. She held her membership card infront of her as if that made up for her revolting arrogance. So we took ours out and stuck it in J’s hat and faced her, staring and talking loudly about members and queues. We giggled as we sprinted up the stairs ahead of her ageing legs, and beat her through the doors into the first of 10 rooms. We were the second and third people to enter the galleries; she was the fourth. Indoors, the old bat pretended not to recognise me, my beret pulled off.
Bacon’s bodies and mouths heightened my awareness of my own loathing to many people, especially art-gallery-goers in London. Complete lack of interest or awareness or knowledge perhaps of what the barely helpful booklet called ‘the sense of dread pervading the brutality of everyday life’.
David Cameron said this morning on Today that he’d like to shake Gordon Brown. What of the desire to shoot them both? DC will be quoted throughout the day, though we should be grateful that at least it will be for something he did say – however pathetic and hypocritical – not for something someone else said he would have said were he more willing to speak before the date when he said he would speak.
What of the desire to shoot the Pope?
I wanted to stand in Room 5 and scream and rage and attack. The rooms filled up with yummy mummies, male couples calling out to each other and us to display their superior knowledge of The Painter, bored children dressed like daddy in corduroys and trying to answer his question and show interest, and parents holding up their babies in front of Head VI as if willing their offspring to become famous wealthy artists at some stage – oh, pleeeease! – later in life. It does work, Will! It does! The babies themselves already aware of their role and how to play it: look cute in flowery rural smock dresses and talk about peepee and painting in cutesy squeaky voicey.
His paintings ‘reflected a combination of Cold War anxiety, an air of personal menace emanating from Bacon’s sometimes violent affair with Peter Lacy and the wider pressures associated with the continuing illegality of homosexuality’. Oh, Pope! Oh, Pope! It’s 2009, and still. And still. And still people seem to be more concerned by their own appearance at the Bacon show than the art. If you are a member you get a free copy (without glossy) of the Observer and/or Guardian. The preferred partner. People pack out the members’ café too to read the stuff that attempts to paper over the very cracks Bacon chipped into. Why don’t they stay at home? Read it in bed? Instead of filling up the space so we can’t see the paintings even if we were the second and third through the doors. Some, only slightly less offensive, spent long periods gazing at the Bacon posters in the Tate Shop. I kid not! The real thing just a few feet away, and they were gazing, head cocked, at prints, or bags of prints, of mugs of prints. Instead! Should there be a vetting process for the Tate? For any art? Keep out the trash that seeks only to buy the product. Have they really taken Brown at his word? Are we of the same breed? Even those old enough to have lived through The War? Have they forgotten everything so quick? Is the only worry worth worrying for the need for a woman to be named after a man, still?
We are meat, but masking as intelligence. But we are only meat. Birth, copulate, death. Bacon (what if he’d been called Francis Sausage?) was right, of course. And I felt so sad later, to go see this at the kind invitation of my good folk, and to leave wondering why – HOW? – they included a “native Indian” who was a non-character of cliché who says barely anything and does very little and has no use whatsoever other than to play out the role that Tracy Letts (a he, I presume) was content to limit her character to. 2009. And only here. Is this the real world? This tiny corner of Western Europe, where Annie Lennox says she’s not taking sides on Gaza but’ll sing her heart out for anyone and lecture South African black women about HIV AIDS and how to defend themselves against their evil, dangerous men? Where her friends, like Bono and Bob, are busy tax-evading? Does she lecture them, too? Or do they share financial advisors, whilst telling us about hope? Hope!
Times like this, I long for Luanda. Don’t mistake this for something profound! Know better. The other has gone. We’re all merging together like the form and paint of Bacon’s art. My longing is a failure of memory, a nostalgic longing for an earlier state of ignorance, the state I was in before I saw the war and heard Hain. Perhaps that’s why I spent last night dreaming of Chuck Palahniuk and the lobster’s heart, an alcoholic friend, and the mouse in our wall (which grew and burst out through the plaster and attacked J as we slept).