Corp’rate Day

thoughts on art and fiction

(In)Edible Beauty

We do not begin with a siren singing (that comes later) but with a human passenger in want of his sea-legs.  In the opening scene of Walt Disney’s cartoon version of The Little Mermaid (1989) (amidst a range of nautical-themed pratfalls), the Prince’s comic old retainer balks over the side of a galleon, his face coloured a septic shade of green. Read more →

Return to Oz

My prevailing memory of watching films in childhood is a moment of temporary blindness just after emerging from the cinema as my eyes struggled painfully to adjust to the sudden dramatic change in light levels. For me, this disorientating threshold between fantasy and reality was nearly always characterised by a slight case of post-traumatic-stress-syndrome. This was the age in which filmmakers for children looked to Pasolini and George Orwell for inspiration. In addition to the bunny-rabbit genocide of Watership Down (1978), we were treated to a unicorn holocaust in Legend (1985), the brutal massacre of the “gelflings” by the “skeksis” in The Dark Crystal (1982), the apocalyptic wages of the “nothing” in The Neverending Story (1984), not to mention the prodigious mullets sported by David Bowie in Labyrinth (1986) (which were enough to traumatise even the most hardy infant).

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Pearlescence and Patience: some thoughts on writing for ‘The Flight of O’

I’ll start by introducing the background of my general approach to art-writing, prior to addressing how I dealt with the specific challenge of writing about Zoe Williams’ work. I came to creative and fictional writing from a background of writing criticism, and to critical writing from a background of making visual art, which I continue to do alongside my literary practice. I’m an unusual example of a visual artist who doesn’t mind writing and talking about art.  But whilst this is an advantage in some respects it can also be a challenge. The attraction to language in the context of visual art can, because of it’s association with explanation or interpretation, threaten to circumscribe the autonomous development of the visual outside functional or rational parameters. It can be hard to avoid making work that simply illustrates a preconceived idea or theory. One of the ways that I dealt with this conflict in my own practice was to subject language itself to an irrational transformation, drawing inspiration from literary and concrete poetry, as well as dadaist and surrealist experiments with language.  This approach has also informed my role as an art-writer when responding to other practices. Read more →

Of Mice and Brides

The mind which plunges into surrealism relives, with glowing excitement, the best part of its childhood…From childhood memories, and from a few others, there emanates a sentiment of being unintegrated, and then later of having gone astray, which I hold to be the most fertile that exists. (Breton, 2010: 39-40)

Andre Breton, ‘The Manifesto of Surrealism’, 1924 Read more →

Iain Hetherington

Iain Hetherington’s advance press release for his solo show at the Glasgow Project Room was a tissue of facetious allusions. Describing his latest works as ‘portraits’, he undercut the humanist associations of that category with a punning reference to the language of market research. The works, he insisted ‘are not portraits in the traditional sense of “a good likeness” etc, but are instead misrepresentations of notional audiences, target audiences of the fictional type demanded by official cultural policy.’

The cynical tone is familiar from fanzines that the artist continues to produce in collaboration with Alex Pollard such as Mainstream and Radical Vans and Carriages – lampoons of the art world and New Labour social policies. But Hetherington’s paintings and wall-mounted assemblages could scarcely be described as institutional in style. The use of scrap materials related to studio practice such as nails, canvas, and bare wood stretchers – gives them an acetic somewhat rustic quality, punctuated here and there by zany elements like joke-shop eyes. A visceral absorption in Synthetic Cubism is also very evident. The forms are ostensibly prosaic, with rough-cut edges, and an incidental punk-like ornamentation of staples and hanging fixtures. Their beauty, where it arises, comes from a sense of balance in their compositions (which prove on close inspection to be quite graceful), a delicate manipulation of paint, and an ability to realise multi-layered statements through the most economical of means. Read more →