Julie Cook. A weekend exhibition at the Doomed Gallery 65 Ridley Rd, London E8 2NP
If I told you this would be the last drink of my life, what would you make me? I ask as I sit at the bar stool, beside a towering, bespectacled young bartender. A Negroni, because it is bittersweet, like life itself, he responds without hesitation, as if he gets such strange custom regularly. I have already shed my duvet of a coat, a silly hat with ear flaps, gloves and a scarf that is large enough to cover my entire body. It is a school night, which might explain why I am one of only three punters at Apoteka; the two others sit by the window that overlooks the Vilnius night, slightly muddled by confused snowflakes.
A while back, I ordered something from a well-known online stationery firm. It didn’t arrive. So, of course, I went online to ask why. They had run out of stock, they told me, but they had reordered. So I asked them when it would arrive. ‘In a few days,’ typed Customer Service Representative Julie. A month later, still nothing had appeared. So I asked them again and I got this email answer from Customer Service Representative Harriet:
Let’s be honest with ourselves, romance, seduction, lovemaking, mindless fucking, it’s all better when you’re with someone who knows how to say the right things in the right way. I am talking about love letters, I am talking sensual whispers, I am talking about those savage moments when you throw your partner on the bed and start talking dirty. Whatever it is, it isn’t the same without words.
It’s all the rage at the moment, stirring the halls of power in certain countries, and satisfying some sense of puritanical virtue. Bonking is off the cards for politicians – at least in certain contexts, and some states. In Australia, the issue of the Deputy Prime Minister’s relationship with an ex-staffer whilst married persists in gripping politics with what is now a deadening hand. Not, however, for a certain Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
To pay homage to an inspirational woman such as Josephine Baker was a daunting prospect, and something I put off for a while. Not only because of who she was in terms of the history of dance, show biz, and her relevance in black culture but also the political statement of the piece. Firstly I needed to bring together all the elements of the act. The right music, the correct moves and, of course, the persona. I enlisted the help of a dear friend and the head of the Bees Knees, Aliya Floyd. Her expertise in Charleston and the popular dance moves of the time were perfect in what was needed to make a true salute to Josephine. Naturally, I studied her range of facial expressions as well, which I feel is her signature – and a whole piece of choreography within itself.
London, 9 August, 1967. At the height of his short-lived fame, Joe Orton – anarchic playwright and cause célèbre of the English theatre – is found murdered at 25 Noel Road, Islington, his brains bashed in by his long-term lover and one-time collaborator Kenneth Halliwell. Divided in life by Orton’s hard-won success as a writer, the two are forever united in death when Halliwell savagely bludgeons Orton with a hammer then takes a fatal dose of sedatives.
Righteousness is never pretty, and it tends to often respond after the fact. The fallen hero, or at least the figure shrouded in mystery, is suddenly found to be a creature of ill repute, tarnished, and therefore, in need of emotional and psychic exile. Works, and the man, need to vanish. Such a figure is Donald Friend, advertised on the chat show circuit in Australia as the country’s greatest paedophile artist. (He has been regarded as the finest of figurative draughtsmen.) The title is, in a sense, a typical introduction to what is an old confusion: is the art of an immoral, criminal artist to be treated as its creator?
Now, you want to know how many years in jail your collection of internet pornography is worth. Of course you do. (Your dead-wood porn is quite safe. Nobody has been prosecuted for having feelthy postcards since Pontius was a pilot; it’s all internet stuff these days.) I am here to tell you.