The Cracktown Tour Diaries; Week 12 “The Tale of the Grand Surreal Striding Ruling Class Fetish Monster”

Tuesday 14th April

I ventured over to Cambridge Galleries today, to set up my wares for the 15th April – 5th May tour stint. All staff there were genuinely fantastic. Very kind and accommodating. The unloading of the work from vehicle-to-gallery soon revealed that there was one breakage during the journey there (my first breakage of the tour) and the glass was easily/swiftly replaced by the staff. Its simultaneously an absolute joy, and a slight anxiety, that there are other people willing to wholeheartedly support your work and overall concept of the show. A very fresh experience.

After completing the curating & hanging of the show I put my trusty rubber gloves on and reconstructed my Tattered and Stranded Boy display/installation of found items and photo collage. Quite different from the window installation in the King’s Lynn show, the porcelain figure now has many more dead crickets pouring out of its torso, and loads more of the pesky critters covering the enclosed cow jaw. Even managed to get the mini spotlight to work easily and shine upon the jaw to slightly expose the luminous paint around the teeth (and glowing cricket eyes).

Many outside elements and ideas brought into the gallery space by the staff there are working to an arbitrarily postive effect. More on that later. But for now, the way in which the Grotesque Room aspect of the show came together at Cambridge Galleries is easily the best thing to happen to this year’s tour; a completely segregated room containing the Tattered…Boy display, dead crickets, jaw plinth, and the more ‘extreme’/meaty elements of the photographic work. A corrosive cell of modernity indeed;

Even with the complete show and display installed there are still some blank spaces on the walls (the gallery has a very tall interior), with lots of discussion between the whole crew on how to fill the spaces; blow-ups of the quotations I’ve used throughout the show? Cut up newspapers displaying pop culture at its most tawdry and irrelevant? Old photographs/framed posters from their archive? Hmmm. The staff are happy to take on this particular issue themselves (I can’t grumble with that).

Feeling pensive but positive about the show. In my mind, the whole exhibition here in Cambridge looks the best it has ever done; in such plush surroundings, with such positive attitude of the staff, I don’t think much can go wrong from here on in.

Thursday 15th April

Eventually arrived back at the gallery 60 minutes before the opening of the show (after being side-tracked by a pub or two on the way – and one interminably late train). Staff there were all infectiously relaxed and laid-back by the time I arrived, and gave me permission to have any last-minute flights of fancy or any extreme mood swings that I deem necessary. Waiting for Florian to appear to help serve the drinks, but everything’s working out.

Regarding the remaining blank space on the gallery walls, the staff went with a vintage punk backdrop of posters and memorabilia to complement the in-your-face, grass-roots style of some of the works. By and large, I personally think it worked out ok;

There were, however, at least two moments of genius regarding the decisions made by the staff;

1. The subdued lighting throughout the gallery in general, but particularly the last-minute decision by the staff for a darker light setup in the Grotesque Room, was extremely effective. Hell, I’d go so far to say that it had an astoundingly positive effect on the whole show.

2. In an entirely coincidental, but eerily prophetic, nod to my planned future work regarding the country’s class/underclass system, the staff decided to go with a wall display of a small selection of old photographs featuring landed gentry/ruling classes – with assorted 6”x4” samples of my own work laid on top – sometimes creating a truly bizarre effect;

“The Grand Surreal Striding Ruling Class Fetish Monster”

The gallery was soon open to the public and a steady stream of people strolled through the doors, greeted at odd times by the besuited, gas-masked and absinthed Florian Van Jannel. I think the visitors immediately took to him with good humour, making some extremely positive comments about the work. Time flew by, and I perhaps drank a little too much Absinthe to give an absolutely crystal clear guided tour of the work, but I had good innocent fun nonetheless, and the public seemed to ‘get’ the general concept (if that is ever necessary) without any leading gestures by me.

A chap from the BBC came along and expressed an interest in making a programme about myself. Now, of course, I found that flattering in the extreme – even if nothing ever comes of it – but let’s just wait and see what happens…

I think I’ve learnt a great deal throughout this particular stint of the Cracktown v1.0 tour. The chief lesson I’ve taken on board from Cambs is that arbitrary decisions made by someone else outside of your work/world can complement your show very nicely indeed.

To be more open and receptive to outside influence is what I guess I’m saying to myself.