A collection of diary entries
Down by the riverside
I met Simon Starling down by the river at Twickenham one spring morning. I was just about to shoot a ferret when I spotted him dismantling what appeared to be an old potting shed. Curious I went for a nose and soon discovered his plan was to reassemble the rotted old wooden slats into a small boat. It seemed perfectly reasonable, so I got stuck in and helped. Despite the lack of yellow-painted oil drums I enhanced my team building skills and we sailed down river towards Kingston whereupon I sketched the multi-storey car park.
Drink and be ill tonight…
I have always been partial to rum and milk before bed; my dentist talks endlessly of gingervitis, bone loss and root canal work, but who needs teeth to drink? I spent hours during dark days of the late 1990s at The Tate Gallery, as it was then, causing mischief and mayhem. Jumping up and down on Tracey’s bed and sniffing her dirty knickers, urinating up against the walls. Security had me pinned down a few times, but it was worth it. Even now, I will occasionally slip on a CD of the best of Horace Andy flick through to my favourite track,Riding for a Fall, and cry late into the night. My heart muscles resonate with a deep grief as I mutter along, “Go ahead and have your fun girl!/Don’t you know I’m still in love with you, girl!”. I can still see Tracey clip-clopping on Margate beach with her hair right down to her horse. I was there when they filmed it; that’s me in the background - Admiral Booth with a bag of chips and a greasy sausage. I still lock myself in the toilets at Tate Britain for a laugh every now and again.
The rice milk of human kindness
There’s something about neon and rice that always gets me riffling through the kitchen draw for the takeaway menus, but like with all the bedsits I’ve ever known, the kitchen draw is always a menace. One usually finds the bottom hanging out of its arse, with the menu I desperately need always having slipped down the back to some scientifically unreachable spot. I recall, however, during Vong Phaophanits installation Neon Rice Field in the early 1990s I never needed those garish bits of paper. In true Johnny Cash style, I stole one scoop at a time and ate like a king. As I used to say to my dinner guests at the time, “anything you like as long as it’s served on a bed of sloppy white rice”
In 2000 I bumped into Tomoko Takahashi in the Morpeth Arms, the local pub, during the time of her installation. I gave her one of my old suits which, along with pot plants, wheelbarrows, traffic cones and office shelving units, she turned into art. I’d left a lottery ticket in the jacket pocket and on the countless occasions that I tried to retrieve it I was forcefully removed from the gallery. It could have been me! I have also met Mike Nelson in the pub and was amazed how many Nelson look-a-likes were sat about. I soon realised that at the bar they were selling American garage pump attendant-style baseball hats with long mullets sewn in the back. I bought one and still wear mine on Sunday afternoons.
The lights go out in Spanish Hounslow…then come back on again…
You will no doubt remember Martin Creed’s light installation. Off, on, off, on… etc. As long term OCD sufferer this was a particular favourite of mine. I used to spend hours slumped against the wall basking in the endless repetitive cycle of light and slightly dim. I used to get myself worked up into such an intense high! During one of my marathon sit-ins a woman lobbed an egg at the wall. She shouted “THIS IS A PROTEST!” as she launched her ovular objection. Any other year she might have had something a physical target, but as the room was empty she had nothing really to aim at. She carried on ranting: “THIS IS A PROTEST AGAINST NICHOLAS SEROTA! I’M ALL FOR ART BUT THIS IS NOTHING ART!” Of course, she had unwittingly participated in the work, but as this was before Relational Aesthetics became popular she was unceremoniously thrown out. She also obviously didn’t have OCD. I went up to her afterwards and asked if she had any spare eggs. I remember having egg fried rice for tea that night.
Back to life
I sit on the South West train. We are just pulling out of Brentford station; my thoughts begin to drift as I catch another sunset. It’s hard to believe these days that my time as a young man in Isleworth could have played such an important part in my artistic career. Since the building of the Mogden sewage treatment plant I tend to rework my sketches indoors, with the windows firmly bolted shut. But the sunsets won’t change for a few 1000 years yet, not at least until we have radically altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere, which means at least I’ll be able to use the shocking day-glow pink I bought at Deptford market last week. Until then, keep on smiling…
All the best,