back to Stuckism
Excerpts from the secret diary of Ella Guru
Wednesday 29 Novemeber: "Send in the clowns" (Stuckist demo at Tate Britain)
"It is so incredibly boring going back to work today," I thought as I walked from the tube, newspapers tucked under my arm. Considering the amount of tv cameras and reporters yesterday we got fairly low coverage. Page 3 of one paper says "Turner winner riles Stuckism". But no picture of us - darn. It's like gambling, this game, opening up papers and turning the channel to catch all the news programmes last night.
I had the day off yesterday for Charles's publicity stunt at Tate Britain. I might not have agreed with all it was about, but it sounded like it would be a laugh. I got up early to do a bit of painting first, taking full advantage of not being at work. Rushed out the door around 11, only just realising I'd forgotten to eat. Stopped for a sandwich en route to the gallery, watching the traffic outside the sandwich shop and wondering if Maragert was going to show up.
Three security guards in orange jackets stood at the steps of the gallery. A few television cameras stood on the far side of a barrier. Only one tv station was allowed into the gallery - Channel 4, who sponsor the Turner Prize. So we stood a good chance of being covered by the other channels, jostling for position to film our 'protest'.
Charles was parading around the steps in a huge yellow clown costume and multicoloured wig. "Hurry up and get changed" he said to me, "reporters are here."
Downstairs near the loos I bumped into Philip Absolon. Like a few others, his 'clown costume' was more the old fashion sort - a bit of tweed, braces, too short trousers - basically, the same thing Philip wears every day. He was waiting for Kingston student, Charlotte Gavin, who was changing into a catwoman costume in the ladies room.
I had borrowed a big red M&M costume from Josh Collins. (M&M as in sweets, not the singer.) It folded up neatly in my bag and took all of 10 seconds to put on. I already had my wig on, so I just added a night-cap and a mask, and headed back out to the front steps. I felt very self conscious walking through the museum foyer in this big red costume. School children laughed and said hello.
The Giggly Girls and Rachel Jordan were all in clown regalia. Frenchie (Elsa Dax) was in a black and gold Moroccan robe, looking like some kind of High Priestess, lustfully eyeing up each man who passed her. The only actual Stuckist members present were Charles, Philip and me. Billy had "gastro-enteritis". (Or maybe the thought of turning up to this event made him sick.)
I spotted Fanny the Tranny trying to get past security at the bottom of the steps. He had on trousers, a black and gold jacket and a scarf with "I love Jesus" all over it, plus his usual one pencilled eyebrow (the real ones are shaved) and a red streak of make-up. The security were telling him that if he showed his bum he'd get thrown out. His trousers were very low slung and kept slipping down to reveal polka dotted underwear.
Fanny is studying Art History at Goldsmith's and said his tutors were horrified when he told them what the was doing today. They had all, of course, heard of Stuckism.
Margaret was indeed there, wearing her fairy godmother outfit. She had on a silver wig, and waved a silver star around. She held a black mask on a stick over her face, especially when she was being interviewed by BBC news. When she took the mask away she had bright pink lipstick on her teeth.
"It's a great look," Fanny exclaimed, "sometimes I wear lipstick on my teeth."
The crowd gathered, about 20 of us in all. Charles was being interviewed by all sorts of people, so the BBC had to settle for Margaret, Fanny and me. For once I didnŐt freeze in front of the camera. But it didn't make the evening news.
There were at least a dozen film cameras and the same amount of still cameras opposite us, behind the barrier, as our group gathered to listen to Charles's speech about art bollocks. The award for "absurdity in the visual arts" went to the Chief Puppeteer, aka Mr Saatchi. His prize was a pie that he was to put in his own face. But we did not have a pie, and he can afford his own pie, Charles explained, announcing that Saatchi would be getting a letter from us instead. (No doubt his secretary would throw it in the bin without the mogul ever seeing it).
We all trouped inside the museum, still in full costume, to have a look at this year's Turner Prize show. It was just as appalling as anticipated. No, I take that back. It was simply boring.
Although the winner had a few good photos, the presentation was awful - celotaped to the wall - and there was no consistency whatsoever to his style. The rubbish installation was rubbish. An elderly American woman asked me in all seriousness if there was going to be a jumble sale after the exhibition was over. The fantasy art plagiarism was exactly that: fantasy art plagiarism. The least annoying was prolly the embroidery paintings. He could have done more with it though.
We all met up again in the gallery's canteen ("you have to win the Turner Prize to afford to eat here," quipped Fanny) for cups of tea. Fanny got along famously with the older women, Margaret and her friend.
People started trickling off around 3 pm. Fanny and i headed off to Soho. We ruled out old Compton Street itself for lunch, and went down a quieter side street for stuffed pumpkin and beetroot veggie burgers at Mildred's. Fanny and I both drank juice and there appeared to be no one smoking in the restaurant so I did not smoke. It felt really good to not be poisoning myself with booze and fags for a change. Fanny was hot and changed from his padded black and gold jacket into a suit jacket with nothing under it. He is obsessed with not having body hair, which I have to admit looks good, though I have memories of the less than pleasant feel of Sexton's stubbly chest when we first met.
We went to pick up some photos at Joe's Basement. "What is that?" Fanny asked as I led him down a damp, narrow alley. I replied that it was a dungeon and he almost believed me as we'd just been discussing my S&M years. In the queue at the photography lab I had a call from a radio presenter from London Live who wanted me back at the gallery. Meanwhile Fanny was trying to get ahold of an aristocratic friend of his who might be able to get him into the evening's dinner event (none of the Stuckists were invited, needless to say).
Fanny tried in vain to find a certain DHR record, I picked up a tube of white paint, and we headed back to Tate Britain.
It took us some time to find Charles and Charlotte in some hall off the main gallery. The interview was over already. Charles and Charlotte were back in civilian clothes. We milled around the radio car for while. Fanny went up to his Fag Hag's place to watch for himself on tv, while Charles, Charlotte and I went to a nearby pub with the radio journalist. I was surprised the journalist was leaving her car with what must have been several hundred thousand pounds worth of equipment in plain sight on the back seat. But who would steal a car with a 30 foot aerial sticking out the top? Anyway, the journalist reassured us, the car could not be started with the antenna up. And the equipment inside could hardly be removed without a blow torch.
The day ended comfortably, if anti-climatically, back at Sexton's in front of the telly, drinking wine, eating pasta and talking about the day's events.
back to top