THE I DON’T NEED TO SEE THAT FAIR
Who doesn’t like an origin story? The I Don’t Need To See That Gallery began life as The I Don’t Need To See That Fair. That is the story in a nutshell. But I am incapable of the nutshell school of storytelling. If an origin story cannot accommodate multiple timelines, flashbacks, and, potentially, further prequels, is it even an origin story at all? Summer, 2018: the painter Michael Coppelov invites me to one of the Artist Car Boot Sales. I can’t say I loved the vibe: it was in Granary Square* and showcased manifold Royal Academician squillionaires** BUT I liked to see artists in a buoyant cash-in-hand economy. It made me jealous***. Jealousy is a powerful catalyst: I decided to organise my own fair. But where? 27 September 2018: one of the greatest gigs of my life. The most majestic band Lost Under Heaven at a venue I didn’t know: Grow Tottenham. This place! Improvised, atmospheric, human. A dream of a venue. So unlike other (too slick, too branded) spaces in London. I contacted them about my Grand Plan and they said yes. (The power of positive thinking—the power also of knowing what it is you want.) 24th November 2018: the big day. So many great artists, zinemakers and performers piled into that *crepuscular* room and rough magic was born. The reason I mention this? Because next week’s artist is the first veteran of the fair to show at the gallery. Welcome Max Fedyk!
*diabolical privatised realm where every act is monetised and all behaviour policed. No homeless people here!
**therein lies one of my frustrations with the London art ecosystem: there is so very little “in-between” space. It can seem like it’s either shows in a window or White Cube. We need more platforms for incremental growth of skill/ambitions/money.
***HOW DO PEOPLE MAKE MONEY? Something I’ve never figured out. I’ve fooled myself with a somewhere-over-the-rainbow delusion about the next show, the next book being the one that will deliver me to a moneyed wonderland. But hurtling towards 40, with neither money nor wonder in sight, I understand that the problem might be me.
Monograph *monograph* MONOGRAPH. I always forget that word. I don’t know why because it’s one I use frequently in my Collected Writings, so I end up having to scour the Phaidon webpage for their most expensive and physically heavy object-books until I find it again a la “This comprehensive monograph is an overview of the artist's black-and-white photography of floral still lifes.” I mention this because I just did that because ~parallel reality~ The I Don’t Need To See That Gallery should be publishing a monograph of Max Fedyk’s drawings. That’s the best place for them. They *deserve* no less than a really fat, heavy, wide book with a single drawing on each page. Drawing after drawing. A book to crack open when you want to put your brain in a different gear. To look at an inscrutable drawing and wonder. Is that a musical instrument? If so, what sound would it make? What kind of music would it play? Though Max’s drawings are diminutive, they contain multitudes! And as sketches—speedy scribbles on A4—they would look so good in an everlasting monograph home. But that is a parallel universe: this is our world and this is our time. 1 December 2020. There is no monograph (yet) but there is this drawing. Its title: ANITA EKBERG WITH CURLY HAIR.
I first met Max Fedyk in 2013—how the years stack up!—when we crossed over working front-of-house at the Barbican. I gave him this poem upon the occasion of his leaving that job. I was shocked that he A. should move on and B. not wish to continue working with me. I took it very personally. Since then Max has lived in Japan and studied at the RCA. I still work at the Barbican.
BAD ADVICE FOR MAX
Never move on
Stay where you are
Exactly as you are
Paul Haworth, 2.3.2014
Flyers for taxis, Sunday services, gigs and tarot-card mystics. Flyers on notice boards, toilet walls, discarded on the pavement, slipped into ad frames on the tube. Flyering outside stations, venues, shopping centres. They get around, flyers do. They have legs. Sometimes to find a perch somewhere they can hide out long after their contents become irrelevant. One comes across flyers by chance. How rare that is! Our cookie-accepting cyber-selves are used to being targeted only by that which we *need*. It’s hard (impossible?) to return to pre-Internet forms of communication: to rewire and reconnect our brains to ways we used to disseminate information and discover knowledge. When accidental encounters occur, our tendency is to confirm the matter online. Fact-check a person really is real. Which is why a flyer is so precious. ‘Is it a sign?’ you wonder as you hold this physical object that conjures the human and reachable. You scan the details. You wonder.
07506112429 is the number on this leaflet by Isobel Mei. Have any of you called the number? Do you dare? Let me tell you a story. The day before I met Isobel to collect her artworks, I was watching ‘High Maintenance’: the episode where this group do a runner from a karaoke bar. The owner chases them onto the street and calls the police. At the very moment he put the phone to his ear, my phone rang. Freaked me out, just for a second. It confused me. It was my dad. Next day, I met Isobel in Hilly Fields. We’re having a chat about the work. Talking flyers and phone numbers (honestly, why not just dial the number—live a little) when Isobel gets a call. She doesn’t know the number. She lets it ring out. Immediately, my phone rings. I also didn’t know the number. Worth noting: there is a stone circle in Hilly Fields.
THE BRICK OF MU
What am I spending my $$$ from the 5 paintings I sold? Well, I’ve decided any money from this gallery goes only on ‘Nice Things And Fun Stuff’. You see, due to the harrowing effects of bad life choices, I’ve never been—what’s the word?—flush. Never known financial stability. (For obvious reasons this has lately played on my mind.) I’m inexperienced in *treats* and *extravagances*. I want to change that. Not to feed consumerism, but to rise above the dehumanisation of austerity. A good thing about the gallery dollar is it sits in PayPal: where it is toy money and removed from the slush-fund of barely-getting-by that is a bank account. All of which is to say, with the money made on Monday, I bought a brick.
A Brick of Mu: one of 34,592 bricks containing a small portion of cremated remains that will become The People’s Pyramid in Toxteth, Liverpool. This is a project (is that the word? feels reductive) by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu AKA Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, which I became aware of when they had a recent flurry of activity putting their KLF catalogue online.
It captured my imagination. I don’t think Britain does death very well. Neither emotionally nor seriously. It is gauche. Our ceremonies unfeeling, repressed. Taken sincerely, The People’s Pyramid though...there’s something different. Collective. Something I would like to be a part of in death. And a pyramid of human remains: I can’t see any puritanical local government giving it the green light. Hence, one thing healthy about Drummond and Cauty’s contribution to British culture. What they do is often both profound and pointless. It is ceremonial but not in a way that makes me despair (Royalty). They are at the centre of a venn diagram that has occult, obscure, archaic: everything that is entirely not our braindead-austerity-obsessed-racist plutocracy.
On the webshop where I bought my brick, it says: “RECOMMENDATION: PLACE YOUR BRICK OF MU IN PRIDE OF PLACE E.G. ON YOUR MANTELPIECE. THIS WILL REMIND YOU HOW VITAL EACH PASSING DAY IS. OR HIDE IT UNDER YOUR BED IN AN EFFORT TO DENY THE TRANSIENCE OF LIFE.”
I shall keep mine on my bedside table.
Who are they? What do you think? Top of my head—spitballing—summer 1990, fall of Soviet Union, German reunification, so mainland Europe then, 80s stylings haven’t quite been eschewed, are we on a ferry, is there music biz thing, something is hopeful, it looks to the future but not without unease.
I found these photos in the pages of a second-hand copy of Bill Drummond’s book ‘45’ I bought last summer. As I read his diary-reckoning-memoir of works, I couldn’t help but wonder: were these snaps placed here as a part of one of these pieces?
I wasn’t too interested in Bill Drummond before but you know how it is as you age—artists who didn’t seem relevant move into your line of sight. Previously I’d found it a bit...dour. I remember (though could be misremembering/misattributing) reading an essay of his about eating a meal with his kids at a service station (or was it a seaside town cafe?). Whichever, as a 20-something I found it unspeakably grim. Abject. But now I’m older, I’d like to read more service-station stories.
I watched footage of a Day of the Toxteth Dead Ceremony. It was somewhat shambolic, grey. Wet. Depressed. Inherently British attributes: hopelessness. Nevertheless it felt necessary. An antidote to branded-institutional-establishment-pleasing culture. My theory would be that Kauty and Drummond are liberated by having had their KLF hits: pop success is the highest peak of human accomplishment. Everyone’s ultimate desire. See: Vladimir Putin performing ‘Blueberry Hill’. With that out of their system they are freed up to fail happily into oblivion. Wilful obscurity: takes either courage, cowardice or ambivalence. Cauty & Drummond have a dedicated following who seek out every breadcrumb, follow the trail in search of...?
Wonder, mystery, intrigue: states hard to reach in a post-Internet age. The Internet seeks gratification: it’s not enough to throw a message in the bottle out into the ocean. There must be outcomes. We must know our art is going somewhere.
And so I return to these photos. As great as the book is, it’s the mystery of these 3 figures I keep coming back to.
Does everything replaced become romantic? Or is there just something—something ineffable, vast, something pitched between the human and superhuman—about an A-Z? Let us not talk about what Google Maps lacks and instead address the vastness of those books, those tomes, those gatherings of associations, tributes and aspirations. How they compact a city into their pages. A huuuuuuuuuuuuge and scary pit like London: and not just the middle. The loosening outer reaches. Thamesmead, Romford, Enfield, Surbiton. They’re all there. Each leaf takes a subject—themes recur, like Royals, wars, writers, forests—and so in this delicate and tiny object, an artist book of maps, I was plummeted again into that romance. Pinkham! Sylvester! Hollickwood! The ink is running low. Is there order in the pages? Roads are senselessly chopped off. Much like an A-Z, this artist book feels like an artifact. Interesting fact: when I went to collect the works from Cecelia, her address didn’t exist in my A-Z. There *was* a line where she lives but her home was built after my A-Z was printed. Back then I suppose it was just an anonymous passage?
Work, work, soul-crushing work: WHO NEEDS IT? I'm not talking about art work. I mean the other stuff. But somehow we get by, in spite of the sadism and degradation. I met Cecelia at work. Cecelia writes: “When at work, I pick, I pinch, I use, I borrow, steal. When at work I see things I can use later.” Cecilia is an artist on the Conditions Studio Programme, which is based in Croydon: Croydon’s a good place to make art. An evolving and challenging landscape. Many forces and interests are at work in Croydon. Her contributions to The I Don’t Need To See That Gallery have a degraded quality: like Croydon, they are changing / being changed / moving towards *something*. Like Croydon, the future is unknown. She is from Medway: the magic endpoint of the Thames—ultimate myth carrier that flows from dreaming spires to Millennium dreams...past the barrier to where definitions fray. Medway between land and sea.
From belly to thigh
In stripes and polka dots
In the sand
Water to their waist
What lies beneath
You know those recipes with two, three ingredients. Simple cooking. That’s how I like my collage. A collage of simple intervention: be it crude or sophisticated (more likely, sophisticatedly crude). Issy Hodgkiss’s collages might be just two images: but they are the right two images, cut and combined in such a way that there is spark. New life. Good collage becomes. The source image is hidden, subverted, extended, mystified.
Collage is sampling: it takes another’s moment. A lot of collage doesn’t work for me because of this: it just basks in association, without transformation. Hodgkiss’s samples are transformed and transported. Skateboarders, Americana, fetish imagery: these are recurring imagery, from which Hodgkiss selects unusual cutaways (say, a staircase) overlaid onto another image, the result is hard to read. You lose what is happening.
My first introduction to Jasmine Kahlia’s art was her music. We met...when would it be? I was “working” as a gallery assistant at the V&A and Jasmine was temping on the Alexander McQueen exhibition (herding fashion-hungry masses) so that would have been 2015. As anyone who has ever “worked” with me can attest, I am a *chatterbox*. I consider “work” a huge imposition on my freedoms therefore do all I can to shift the onus from “work” to chat—I’m talking to Jasmine one time and she mentions she makes music. I wrote down her Soundcloud in a notebook and that night, while transcribing the day’s pages, I checked out the link. WOW. Just wow. Her music was soooooooo good.
She puts it out under the name Kaisle Grai—have a poke around the Internet and see what you can find. The thing is, Jasmine does a cool thing whereby she removes her albums and EPs after a few weeks. She limits the lifespan. I like this attitude. Art gets dusty just sitting on platforms. It goes stale. Unloved, unanchored. It loses meaning. Which is to say, there are INCREDIBLE Kaisle Grai tunes in the vault. Jasmine makes such fascinating songs: there is always some sound—a spooky sound, a scratchy beat—that is just unlike anything I’ve heard.
Jasmine Kahlia’s frequent collaborator is JUJU GUYVER. Together they make zines and events. Their magnum opus: DIVINE BEINGS. It’s a theatre piece performed by Jasmine and Juju with support from two musician-performers. All the strands of their work are brought together in a fluid, rolling hour of poetry, music, drama. Densely written and finely choreographed, it is such a powerful way to excavate life, explore youth, the moments that have shaped them. DIVINE BEINGS works as a autobiographical memory pool—facets of moments, stories, reenacted and reflected. When they next revive DO NOT MISS.
Michael Coppelov, son of Ormskirk, lives in London. He is a painter. He is a primary school teacher. Michael recently finished two years at Turps, the painting school based out of the Aylesbury Estate, South London. Michael’s art is feverish and fun, curious, messy and unexpected. Utopian architecture, telly, city planning, the phoneswipe of images: he unites his influences in epic paintings. To achieve the epic he compulsively draws and collages and paints: it’s these raw ingredients that Michael will present in BANGOPPELOV.
I stopped painting in 2010. It wasn’t planned. It just sort of happened, consciously, accidentally, a decision as cumulative as it was inevitable. I painted again in 2020. Due to pandemic? In so much as any action taken in 2020 was due to pandemic, yes. But the itch to paint again had returned long before—there was, however, always that something to stop me.
Painting is all-or-nothing. For me at least. I am incapable of picking it up here and there. And my priority over the last few years was to write a novel. More specifically, to finish it. As novels are wont to do, this became a protracted and unwieldy affair and I didn’t want yet another project distracting me. But once the novel was finished, that was it: no more excuses.
It’s after midnight as I write this so forgive me (and allow me) a moment’s airy and overbearing pomposity as I ask of the #wip aren’t they, we, all, always and forever, works in progress? For where does it end, this progress? Endings are the places we choose to say stop when we don’t trust ourselves to go further. (Yes, this is and isn’t about painting.)
The paintings I dare (pained, grimacing) share are a fraction of those completed. I’m not consistent. This I hate, but love. There is something enticing about the impossibility of painting. Failed paintings are par for the course. I curse myself for creating them but (in retrospect) recognise they are the process. Painting’s therapeutic role interests me—not as stress relief—but as a means to recognise choices and patterns of behaviour.
One thing I find useful and frustrating about painting—and, let’s face it, a lot like life—is that essentially you do it to get better. (So many caveats: ‘get better’ has numerous interpretations, and this is an ego-fuelled assumption.) You want to improve. But instead make the same mistakes over and over. And over and over. And what glacial changes and improvements that do occur come only from learning to recognise those mistakes: to see them coming.