Friday, 18 December 2009

A Meeting Of Three Partings

Alfred Jarry said, “The work of art is a stuffed crocodile”. At first-sight this seems absurd, yet when you think about (decode) it, there's a profound and serious point: art is not the wild beast we’d like to fool ourselves it is - it's anything but - in fact art's really rather tame and prone to being eaten away by time – has no real bite.

One rare exception - art with teeth - art that still pricks, is ironically, Jarry’s brilliant, The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race”(1896); a report of The Crucifixion written from the point of view of the commentator on a cycle race. J.G. Ballard appropriated Jarry’s Passion to describe modernity’s most famous crucifixion - the Kennedy assassination - in his speculative novel, The Atrocity Exhibition.

Talking of crucifixions: imagine you’re out walking – wandering through a wood  - crossing Wimbledon Common (as I often am) – and all at once in the bracken, suddenly finding Jesus: The Savior, flanked by two thieves, all three leaning-up against trees - hands in their pockets - playing with themselves. “Here they crucified him, and with him two others –one on each side and Jesus in the middle” (John 19:18).

What I found in Jesus (Jacques) was a kinky gaze; it's as if his eyes are undressing me - the ‘king of the Jews’! But as I looked more closely at their heads I saw this tree-hugging trio were unified by their partings: what we’re really looking at here is a meeting of three partings: the triple departure (on the cross) of Jesus and the two thieves, subtly expressed in hair. The Parting of the Red Sea is another biblical example; on that occasion, explicitly expressed in water (Exodus 14).

Jimmy Nail’s best-known hit (and every nail needs hitting) was called Crocodile Shoes (see Crucifying An Album Cover: Nailing A Nail, 13/12/09). In the mid 1980’s, long before Nail released (murdered?) Crocodile Shoes, I had myself photographed naked with a mouthful of nails, a drill on one hand, a stuffed crocodile in the other.

An ant -Adam Ant, inspired the photograph; or more specifically his song, Stand And Deliver. Imagine being held at gunpoint by an ant – robbed by Adam. And even though my body language says Adam, the photograph shouts Eve. I wanted to be depicted handling a serpent; the stuffed crocodile - he was a stand-in (the picture was taken in Dublin).

I didn’t like the way the photograph turned-out –never printed it and since have lost the negatives – only the contact sheets survive. But twenty-five years of close contact with other contact sheets have taken its toll; the emulsion has melted – my skin’s disintegrated. But look: time has been kinder to me (to a stuffed crocodile even) than it has to Adam Ant.

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