Friday, 30 October 2009

A Pair of Drainpipes and a Trouser Press

Just received a communiqué from a photographer - a well-known art-photographer, from the 1970’s. He’s all excited about “The Excited Young Caddie(27/10/09). In fact he became so excited about the ‘excitement’ in the young caddie’s trousers, he traced it - look!

As well as physically tracing the “bursting out”, our old art-photographer went a stage further and traced his tracing of the “bursting”, historically, back through his own negative files, back to an image he made in the late 1970’s titled “Pinocchio” (and remember, photographs were starting to be ‘made’ and not merely ‘taken’, back then).

“Pinocchio” is the shadow cast by a neighbour’s drainpipe, photographed through a kitchen window.

The black and white world of late 1970’s, art photography was a world in flux, a tough (yet sensitive) world where photographs not only had to stand-up for themselves, they had to stand in for the ‘soul’ behind the camera - “self-expression” via a machine. Their exposures were ‘made’ towards the reflection of some “personal truth”; photographs that attempted to tell you more about the photographer than what was actually in front of the camera; photography as a vehicle of “self-expression; metaphors, equivalence and personal resonance were mined out of patterns on rocks; transcendence, myth and essence blossomed in the trees – you could even tell whether or not a drainpipe was merely dripping, or really fibbing!

Rather than views of, photographs served as meditations on. Furthermore, these shamans of self-expression often quoted and appropriated Buddhist principles – “the sound of one hand clapping” etc. But not, ironically, this old Buddhist saying: “To the man with no knowledge, rocks are just rocks and trees are just trees. Yet to the man with a little knowledge, rocks are much more than just rocks and a tree is never simply a tree. But to the man with complete knowledge, rocks are just rocks and trees are just trees”.

But as I ponder Pinocchio (as a drainpipe) it’s not noses fibbing (“Lie to me, lie to me Pinocchio” she moaned, as she sat on his face”) or drainpipes dripping (or visa versa), or even the uncanny similarity between my caddie’s excited groin and the drainpipe’s extended nose; it’s Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995) of the Bonzo Dog Dog Doo-Dah Band, and their song: “My Pink Half of the Drainpipe” I sing.

My pink half of the drainpipe
Semidetaches us
My pink half of the drainpipe
Oh, Mama!
Belongs to moi

Hey, neighbour!

My pink half of the drainpipe
I might paint it blue
My pink half of the drainpipe
Keeps me safe from you!

The name of the band came out of a Dadaist word game (sentences were cut up and the juxtaposed fragments were used to form new ones). But the band had to drop the Doo-Dah after becoming tired of explaining what “Dada” meant to audiences with no knowledge of art history. Thus they became “The Bonzo Dog Band” – later “The Bonzos”. “My Pink Half of the Drainpipe” appeared on their 1968 album: “The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse”, side 2, track 9.

But look at the preceding track, “Trouser Press”, track 8. “Trouser Press” beautifully iron's out the creases; the excited young caddie pressing against his own trousers; the 1970’s art-photographer’s more recent pressing/tracing (rubbing?) of the said young caddie’s groin; the 'Pinocchio effect' on the drainpipe. All of these images are sublimely sandwiched together under the "Trouser Press" (not forgetting, Drainpipes were the fashionable style of trouser when "Trouser Press" was penned.

Through the association of drainpipe, trouser, groin and nose, we are driven back onto the golf course where it all started getting exciting, just a couple of days ago. And if all this is not enough, look: one Roger Ruskin-SPEAR wrote “Trouser Press”. What's it coming too? We'll be performing press-ups over golf holes whilst reading (coming down hard-on?) Freud next. But lets not get started on the subject of Freud and noses - enough has written about that already! Finally, Vivian Stanshall often carried a euphonium and wore pink rubber ears...

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