THE VOICES OF BRITAIN ARE CHANGING:
Jane Gang London Tour May 2000


Left: “Sonic Boom the Art of Sound,” Project Dark

MIddle: Steve McQueen, bear 1993
Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gllery Foundation 1996

Right:Cornelia Parker
cold dark matter: an exploded view 1991
Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1995


Sat 6th May: 1:15pm flight to London. I’m excited and glad to be on my way to some fun. I’m going over for the Inaugural opening of Rhodes + Mann, the gallery which has taken me on, God bless them! And to write about the opening of the Tate Modern amidst the popping London art scene.
Sunday 7th: 9:00 am arrive at brother’s, acclimate. Now that I’m here I want to be back home. Its suddenly all foreign, I have to make a whole new schedule and deal with another set of codes and things. I remind myself that I was looking forward to being here, I stop chattering in my head and listen to birds from the garden. At the very least I’m about to elongate the pleasure of Spring with England’s fine and picture-postcard season. I begin to relax.
Sit on grass. Make calls and read all the papers: (Red) Ken Livingstone is now mayor much to horror of many . . . and Cherie Blair is expecting her fourth child at the age of 45. (The first offspring out of No: 10 since the early nineteenth century). Some will cheer and glow and some will do all they can to bring down the happy house of Blair. Such is life.
Mon 8th: I make my way over to the new gallery and partnership of Rhodes + Mann. Its a large space, at 37 Hackney Rd designed by architect anand zenz. There’s builders and building materials everywhere. I’m greeted by Val Sutton, the Gallery Manager. She gives me a tour round the 2,000 sq ft gallery space on two floors and we weave round builders and visit all the accompanying offices. I hang out till Fred & Benjamin arrive. Fred says that although it might not look like it, they are still on schedule and will be ready for the opening on Friday . . . and they still have to hang! I’m impressed by this hugely handsome space and I puff out a bit at the edges for being so warmly welcomed and involved in this experience. (Check out their website: www.rhodesmann.com). When I leave I go round the corner to Hoxton Square and visit Jay Joplin’s White Cube2, inside there’s a show of gallery artists, mainly all the big yBa names. Mark Quinn is one of my favorites.
I don’t have time to visit the new Sadie Coles gallery, Hoxton HQ or Victoria Miro’s new space on Wharfdale Rd. Some friends used to live down Wharfdale Rd years ago, its a desolate, out of the way place, backing onto a canal. Right next door to their building was a carpark, a regular spot for girls to turn tricks, it remained fairly active during the nite and in the day the flotsam from the trade would brighten up the rubble and weedy pavement. There’s money in carparks and my guess is the girls have moved on, it would be interesting if they’re still there, doinit. Perhaps Beecroft could confront the two institutions here; a site specific piece.
And I wonder if this opening up of multiple spaces by gallerists might be more than money surfacing and egos expanding. Maybe a slightly more ominous global construction is moving into place, a fast-food lovin, nature hatin cellular corporate disguise. Will the next step be franchising?
After an early supper with friends I walk through Battersea Park. Its a beautiful Spring twilight. Walking past the Buddhist Pagoda two monks are performing the evening ritual, we exchange a nod. There’s a new moon and I feel compelled to touch trees, the horse chestnut trees. To breathe deeply the grass smells. To pay attention to bird’s song and the roll of memories. I’m having a patriotic moment, for all things England. This temperate land. I bend down like others before me, to touch and smell the soil I was born on. Its a natural thing, like mother’s homemade pie or the smell of her favorite laundry detergent.
Tues 9th: Up early and away to the press day for the Tate Modern. Its all very fancy, in fact its a stunning space. “Stunning” is the latest word about town. Out of the TV and tumbling from pens of hacks. Janet Street-Porter, commenting on the now flourishing British architecture and Steve Richards’ profile of Arts minister the Rt Hon Chris Smith MP for instance. Its infectious. And did I hear Sir Nicholas Serota come out with it in the press conference? Everyone’s saying it.

While on the topic of speech and language, its taken about a year and a half for approximately 90% of the London population to adopt “talking up”. You know, that Valley-girl mannerism of intoning a question at the end of every other sentence. An author called BobbyAnn Mason wrote character dialogue in this way in her book: In Country first noticed these transatlantic slips among cosmopolitan Brits about three years ago. Next came the odd presenter, or newscaster dropping one and within the last 12 months, most people, in the classless struggle of the United Kingdom have adopted this horrible affectation. Like cell phones, everyone’s got one popping out, scratchin up the conversation. I don’t hear it much in New York now, another successful export to Britain then. Oh yes . . . I’ve fallen for this on occasion, but generally I stick to the morphing into a similar speech pattern and sometimes the mannerisms of the person I’m enjoying the company of at any given time. We are one. We are in this together. Word of mouth. WORD.
What can I add to the comprehensive coverage of the Tate Modern? Well I’m definitely down for the juxtapositions of works spanning the decades over other worn out methods of categorizing, anything to shake up the tired linear past. And I was pleased to see that there’s a more significant inclusion of films being played throughout the galleries and displayed in a clearer, less marginal way. With the screen projected out and flush to the wall, from Ferdinand Leger’s Ballet Mechanique (1924), and Dali’s collaboration with Bunuel; Un Chein Andalou (1929) through to the larger presentations of today’s easily assimilated artforms by the likes of Steve McQueen and Mona Hatoum. I sat on one of Jasper’s chairs and ate my sandwich, enjoying a moment and the art scatter books charmingly chained to the coffee table in one of the well designed grottos off the main drag. Used to the various conveniences concerning packing my own lunch, I totally forgot to go up to the restaurant and enjoy the full Jasper Morrison spread of fine furniture and the “stunning” view up, down, and across the river.
The Tate and anything remotely associated with it has been newsworthy for the past few weeks, crescendoing on Thurs 11th for the massive party. People with tickets start tripping on their exclusivity: “Oh yes, they’re very hard to come by . . . ” and “ . . . apparently tickets are changing hands at 1,000 pounds”. The lengths people will go for the prospect of a bit of social climbing. There were so many people there, well over 2,000 that: One: you could say you were there and no one would be any the wiser. Two; the probability of doing your networking then was Lotto-like. The queen officially opened the building to the public the next day which no one cared about, including the press.
I take a turn before heading off to the new Gagosian space on Heddon St for the inaugural exhibition, suitably publicity orientated and sexy; “VB43” by Vanessa Beecroft. All those lovely, naked girls . . . and outside it was a scene. The art world turned out which doubled the fun. Among them were father & daughter Craig-Martins, David Silvester, Clarrisa Dahlrymple, Christoph Grunenberg the curator of “Landscape/Matter & Environment” at Tate Modern. Experimental Filmmaker, Jean Mathee, artists from New York; Brad Karlhammer and Lisa Ruyter, and the girl from the much enjoyed Magnum ice cream ad campaign which is pasted all over town, titilating the nudge-nudge mindset of the old country. When I saw Spencer Tunick orchestrate one of his nude people landscapes, I became aware that as soon as someone takes off their clothes in a public place, I no longer look at their face, but at their body. Its part of the novelty of seeing more and different flesh in a foreign setting, a taboo broken. With Beecroft’s naked ladies in a room, one has to see (also) beyond our generalized perception of woman as sex object. We know Sex is Power. Here it is in our face. But the main source of power in this event as in her clothed ladies pieces and in “The Silent Service” live performance I witnessed back in New York City on April 21st (made possible by the Public Art Fund & Deitch Projects), comes more from the confrontation of “two worlds”, two dynamics butted up against each other. This is live sculpture brimming with its own vast well of human energy, its exhilarating and silly at the same time, sort of decadent. It’s also entertainment. In fact its hysterical to be a part of the Beecroft experience because its so interactive. Back in New York the crowd broke out and was thrilled by wandering through the ranks of the young sailors standing to attention on the USS Intrepid, you could feel the quiet alarm as the organizers began discreetly herding and bringing back “order”. The crowd clapped the personnel of the Undersea Warfare Community for standing to attention for 15 minutes at a time. Why? The New York art world turned out for “The Silent Service”. Two “worlds” collide. The more I see of Beecroft’s work the more I enjoy its fallout; its complexities, its simplicity. Its very funny and profound at the same time. It has to do with “now”, the present moment. The viewer is forced to face that minute like the surge of adrenaline when confronted by fear, this is its opposite; the delight, the party scene, the people come to see. Art and the Art world. The energy in play between the viewer, the “object” under scrutiny, and the orchestration of the ‘sculpture’ by the artist is powerful. Many asked the question why? But it was fun.

Ate supper at an updated Indian restaurant on Shaftesbury Ave with Millree Hughes, who was also in town and hanging out at the Beecroft. We talked about the business and the bollocks and had a good time discussing the Brits and the Americans in that simultaneously childish and snotty attitude of the expat. The food was remarkably good, and we told the manager he should hurry up and open up in NYC. We Brits like our curries. We head over to Bar Italia for coffee. An x materializes and is all up in my face, bobbing and flashing his phat diamond ring, courtesy of Def Jam. I’m impressed with how far I’ve come in the general quest for finding a suitable mate, as I find myself saying: “Oh . . . hello. Yeah, I’m in town . . . What? . . . That’s nice . . . No. No thanx. Well . . . good to see you, best of luck with that. Bye. Bye then” with only the tiniest, tiniest hint of malice.
Wed 10th: I’m taking advantage of this fine warm English weather to gaze at the shapely, toned, athletic leg of the male. I thought I could see a general distinction between these and their white American counterparts. But my theory of the increase in ankle-less, muscle-less US male legs due to genetics or bad diet and lack of exercise was just gas. Or maybe my neighborhood has changed that fast. Or I’ve opened my eyes wider. Some of our less tolerable summer sights are hard on the eyes and usually by early August I’m looking forward to everyone including myself, who walks the city streets, to covering themselves up with Fall fashion.
At Sadie Coles HQ on Heddon St a fine John Currin show was up. His cross-referenced lively ladies are always a pleasure to see . . . I particularly liked the cuddler with her macabre gloved hands and the big bow all jolly and sensuous. My days so far have been regulating round my brother’s office off Berkeley Sq. We’re sharing one house key. Various disgruntled x girlfriends are clinging onto their keys making it all awkward and difficult for myself, my brother, my brother’s secretary and the builders. It is of course one of those keys which only the owner can get duplicated. I know you couldn’t give a flying fuck about this but the long and the short of it is that I am in and around Bond St for the first five days on this trip and I don’t know what happened but there I was, in Prada. Next thing I know I’m handing over my credit card for these perfect shoes for the opening on Friday and the shop assistant is going: “Stunning . . . they look stunning”. And they do.
Went to the opening of a new spot: Fa1 on Denmark St. Up the regulation cheap carpeted, ricketity stairs to the top floor flat. The show was called: “In Your Dreams”. A tired drawing by Salvador Dali was a line-up novelty and Hadrian Pigott’s short B&W film, Dream made in ‘95 was simple, sexy, and haunting. The focus of which was soaped-up hand action fingering the overflow hole in a porcelain sink. This made the grade for a recall masturbation image. And everywhere I went people had been or were on their way to the nightly Tate parties.
Thurs 11th: There’s a young woman selling the Big Issue (the magazine enterprise to help those in “Dole 22”), outside DKNY on Bond St. I buy a copy from her. Call me sexist if it makes you feel better but I make it a rule that if I give on the street I’ll only give money to female beggars Big Issue sellers. I wish I’d asked her if she sells more standing around in this expensive part of town. Are the people here less likely to give out at that level, spontaneously, face to face? I’m making my way up to Bruton Street. By now I’d started some serious shopping, throwing caution to the wind. Hell, now I had a whole outfit for Friday!
Went to Anne Faggionato on Dering St. Danny Moynihan had curated “Psycho”. A warning on the door about the disturbing contents and a ban on the entry of young children, the theme was Art & Anatomy presented salon style. Work from eighteenth century anatomical drawings through to the Contemporary art of Bourgeois, Hirst, Orlan, Helen Chadwick, and Serrano among others. The huge star casting of artists brought together by this theme was most enjoyable.
White Cube on Duke St presented one recent portrait of a woman by Lucian Freud. Although intrigued by this revered artist and a great admirer of his drawings & etchings I’ve never been much of a fan of the dry, dulled surface he favors: I see the life curdled in his people, as in the thick-set images of Kilburn and Hackney by Leon Kossoff and other Borough Group Artists. My eyes crave to see a flesh-shade purple that proves more depth than that rigid chalkiness. Lucian Freud, like Marianne Faithful, Boy George, and Elton John is a stock celebrity treasure of the current London scene. They make singular public appearances adding their very own white wine spritzer to any event; Elton appearing in Sam Taylor-Wood’s wrap around photo-frieze for Selfridges Department store for instance, or Boy George’s totally non-vocal, smiley appearance under a large hat brightening up the otherwise dowdy (pun intended) sight of the more politically minded panelists on TV discussing the recent appeal against Section 26 (a law laid upon schools some 15 odd years ago forbidding the promotion of homosexuality in the classroom). Place them here and there, mix & match, go for that Martha Stewart effect . . . all “very nice” seems to be the recipe of the day.
Entwhistle continues to show vibrant, exciting artists. Jason Brooks’ new paintings which are photographic and cinematic in style and content include portrait and wreath images as well as the first in a series of landscapes. Downstairs was a dreary film projection: Memory of a Free Festival by Rachel Lowe who has an impressive resume. Maybe her forthcoming solo @ The Showroom next year will knock us out. By then maybe she’ll educate herself in the last 40 year’s worth of experimental film.
Successfully avoided someone slippery in Berwick Street, and ran into Clarrissa Dahlrymple in Bar Italia. We had a lively exchange over our respected coffees and then she left, to get ready for the “Party of the Year”. No doubt.
Fri 12th: 1:00pm; Lunch at Rhodes + Mann for the artists. I meet some of the other gallery artists. The space has been transformed. And the work is hung. The inaugural show: “Fusion”, presents recent work by all 18 gallery artists, including . . . Kate Davis, Ashley Elliott, Nayland Blake, John Greenwood, Oliver Herring, Melanie Manchot, Andrew Grassie, Layla Curtis, and David Godbold.
Everything’s very proper and lovely. We eat lunch on real plates with weighty knives & forks and are provided with linen napkins. At around 3:00pm I go home to chill and change. When I arrive back at Rhodes + Mann the opening was packed and stayed packed well after 9:00pm. It was fun, some friends turned out and everyone was having a good time. At around 9:45pm they were still throwing people out, politely.

After a drink at what was the Blue Note we all piled in cars and drove back to West London. There has been a cultural trend in this city for some years now concerning the state of the insides of Londoners’ cars. The outsides can vary from fresh, new model status through secondhand convenience to beat up and bad. The insides however, are all alike, becoming more a signifier for humanity, a leveler. To put it plainly its more like climbing into someone’s kitchen dustbin than into their motor. Cans and papers, toys and cig packs, food cartons and discarded shopping bags, clothes, tools of their trade, or part of the latest DIY. You’re likely to be sharing a seat or leg room with almost anything imaginable that’s broken, messy, or empty.
Sat 13th: Took the train up to the Lisson Gallery. Anish Kapoor’s new work: “Blood”. “Through the use of elemental materials, including water and air, Kapoor continues his investigations into the material and immaterial, weight and weightlessness, surface and space, the ocular and the aural, as he subtly balances the literal and the illusory to animate the senses . . . Kapoor’s fascination with darkness and light becomes apparent in his sculptures: the translucent quality of the resin works, the absorbent nature of pigment, the radiant glow of alabaster and the fluid reflections of stainless steel and water.” So went the press release, I had no argument with that . . . all I can add is “Brilliant, beautiful, and deeply sublime. He is on my top 20.” I recommend: resin, air, space 11 and untitled (Latex, bellows, electric motor and wood).

Met my good friends Jessica and Julian there and we went off for lunch. They are a model couple, totally belonging to the present; a salute to the twenty-first century and freedom for both sexes. She was 35 and he was 22 when they got married a few years back. And why not? No one, in the past 500+ years ever got their knickers in a twist about a man of 35 marrying a woman of 22. So, Right On!
We ate delicious Middle Eastern food in a new restaurant off Marlebone High Street. The food’s definitely got much better in London.
In the evening I did the whole weekend dinner and a movie ritual with friends. Its immensely comforting. We saw Gladiator. Suburb sound design massive, and so much fucking fun. Complete escapism, sexy as hell and with only one kiss making contact throughout the entire movie. Afterwards, buzzing, went out partyhopping and “making big” again with Francesco.
Sun 14th: Met up with a friend at the Royal Academy, we went in on his press pass for the “Chardin” exhibition. If I had had to pay to see that I would’ve been asking for my money back. What a horrible selection of lackluster and dreary works. Where in the world are his good pieces? And why couldn’t the Royal Academy get a hold of them? We left and sat on the grass in Green Park adding to the motley look and continued conversing. He brought me a Magnum ice cream. Well, actually, I asked for it.
Continued my nite lite with Francesco. Starting with The Buena Vista Social Club playing at The Albert Hall. That’s a whole scene and it was fun but I’m not really down with the cha cha/la Rumba crew, I’m from Staffordshire and its a long time now since I even had blood-pudding coursing through my veins.
Mon 15th: Took advantage of the free Monday morning entrance (10:00am-2:00pm) at the new Courtauld location in Somerset House. (Its important to find ways round having to pay any entrance fees to museums or shows in order to diminish the working artist’s general feeling of underdog and to lessen build up of brooding resentments.) This is a complete transformation from the old Courtauld, where one would tiptoe around grumpy old men in a dismally lit, poky Georgian Terrace house up off Gower St. Its now looking like a provincial museum down on the Strand. Masia came with to see the drawing show “About Time”.
I have a thing about drawings. I love good drawings. The Frick often puts on a mindblowing exhibition of small, masterful drawings. For instance there was; “Watteau and His World: French Drawing from 1700-1750”, at the end of last year and more recently in April “Michelangelo to Picasso: Master Drawings from the Collection of the Albertina, Vienna”. Another great thing about the Frick is the magnifying glasses provided to inspect the drawings, you have got to check that out. I saw in the aforementioned shows every stroke, in rhythm and perfectly placed. Its so exhilarating and bordering on the absurd, I often want to burst out laughing when I’m there. There it is, feel a different world. Its impossible to achieve that type of energy flow now, its power source came from something back then, whenever, and you can see that. You can see so much in drawing. Its the bare, raw energy of the time. I love that shit. There were some fine drawings in “About Time”: Rembrandt’s sakia with her first child (1635-6) in red chalk. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s femme couchée-reveil (1896), Wybrand Simonsz de Geest’s portrait of a young girl in red chalk, sometime before 1661 and Roger Fry’s portrait of the artist’s father (sir edward fry) on his deathbed (1918).
Tues16th: I had plans to go back to the Tate and visit some of the galleries that have sprouted up around the new Bankside: Jerwood, Delfina, the relocated Purdy Hicks.
I used to work in this area. In the early ‘90s it was a depressing dead zone like the stuck energy concept of a room in Feng Shui. (You could apply this principle to the whole city.) I edited and produced a company magazine back then. Head Office was in Borough High St and for one issue I dug up the wealth of local history to retell fabulous facts such as in Shakespeare’s, Ben Johnson’s, and Kit Marlowe’s day (late 1500s, early 1600s), the stretch of river from London Bridge to Southwark Bridge was home to 26 brothels, at least 15 public houses, five theaters (including the Globe) and several bear pits/cock fighting rings. Think about it. That’s some mad shit going down. Three hundred years later this land became Charles Dickens territory; The church on Borough High St where Little Nell got married. Streets named Dorrit, Pickwick, and Marshalsea Rd, home to the notorious Marshalsea Rd prison. The area was also home to at least two other famous prisons, The Clink and the Fleet.
Its good that some fresh air and life are coming back into the area, albeit of a more gentile, aesthetic and pot pourre nature. Soundz like my current neighborhood. Today I made it to the Hayward for the excellent “Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound”, (Blagging on my press credentials) “The largest group exhibition of sound art ever attempted in the UK” . . . “Using equipment from the obsolete to the cutting edge . . . the visitor encounters the mechanical and the organic, the electronic and the acoustic, the sculptural and the intangible . . . offering a soundscape for the imagination” and here’s a debatable statement: “Taking post-techno, post-rave, post-ambient sound art out of a restrictive club context, Sonic Boom liberates it in a gallery environment.” However the spin, there’s some excellent, expansive work in here: artificial light by Disinformation (2000) for instance; an installation with photographic flash under timed/triggered mechanism, oscilloscope and loudspeakers; Go stand in front of the wall facing the line of photo flash bulbs, pose and wait for the flash. Step back out and see your silhouette on the phosphorescent painted background. Christian Marclay’s video piece; Guitar Drag (2000) was 100% American Rock culture. I’ve seen a photograph possibly from the ‘40s of a performance, recently in a show, I thought it was of Marcel Duchamp dragging a violin down a street. After some research I had got the artist wrong but I can’t for the life remember who it was, can you? An outside sound installation by Christina Kubisch, where the visitor dons headphones to flow through various jungle noises. People looked funny while they bobbed and weaved under the canopy of wires, Special K style. Big names included Brian Eno and Mariko Mori. Disappointingly, Scanner produced a sorry-ass, lame piece with Katarina Matiasek with lots of wallpaper butterflies, s‘aiight if you happen to be a 10 year old girl, or with a 10 year old girl mentality. And how about a shout out to all the gallery staff, across the globe, who have to work under a continual barrage, day after day after day.
Wed 17th: Time to leave. I’m up early wrapping presents for nieces, nephews, and godchildren, one of which happens to be the daughter of John Myatt. I hear that there’s now a film going into production starring Micheal Douglas. He’s to play John Drewe, the mind behind all those forgeries rolling out from the gentle hills of Staffordshire. I’m chatting to the builders while waiting for the cab outside my brother’s, the electrician is telling me that when he was in NYC he went to Balthazar . . .
London is a laugh. I feel like I’ve been on vacation. I spent like I was on vacation and I bring home a rash of tiny red spots on my stomach from eating too much dairy ice cream, Eeu! . . . but you know, I’d rather that than Herpes, right?

Jane Gang
New York, New York
2000