Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'alls neighborhood
Yes Michael, a tad melodramatic perhaps but he'd obviously seen some bad stuff at some East London private views. First Thursday brings them out in force but they'll turn up at any mid-range art event that they think they'll get into. Shuffling and moaning, it's Return Of the Art Zombies.
You'll see them surrounding green buckets of ice, swirling their decaying limbs through the water, searching for one more label-less bottle of Becks, There they are at a donations please bar, as some poor curator tries to claw back the money they spent on black-out material and paint. At the end of the night, as others head for the pub, see them shaking the cans forgotten in the toilets and pouring red and white wine dregs into one foul pint of rose´.
Recognize them by their glassy stare and blotchy skin, a film of sweat across their faces and yesterday's food in their hair. Arms outstretched they claw at the air, desperate, scrabbling through handfuls of clammy coppers, whining about suggested donations and pushing the pile across the table and lunging for the nearest plastic cup. Then they'll scurry to a dark corner with their plunder, fending off the others that that want a piece of the loot, like a seagull protecting a piece of stolen KFC.
They'll be back though, lacking the intellect to bring their own bottle, any money or any people that like them very much, they'll stumble or crawl back to the source. This time with washers, foreign coins, threats and pleads, The Real Hustle this isn't.
Some say they are drawn to the artworld because of its acceptance of the outsider, other think it is only the alcohol that brings them out of their fetid lairs. Some innocents even believe that they once they had some basic mark-making ability and now some latent echo from when they were alive draws them in, leaving them bewildered and confused when they arrive, their pointlessness driving them to frustration and anger.
A strange sub-section of this wretched mass are the wannabes. Dismal and weak perhaps but not as hopeless and desperate as the true undead. What draws them down to this level? Why do they seek them out and emulate their behavior? Pushing their twenty pound notes deep in to their purses and copying the coin-counting of their idols. Never was there a more literal case of monkey see, monkey do. Is there strength that can be gained by knowing there is nowhere lower to go? Is it some sad desperation to try to befriend that which most scares them or are they so ashamed of their bleak, middle-of-the-road lives that they see this as some kind of twisted noble savage thing, full of vitality, rather than bile and cheap cider?
Many sections of society have their lowest rung, the bottom feeders, viewed with distaste but ignored and tolerated until they get out of hand or their numbers increase to a point where they become a plague. I am informed that at fetish clubs there is a collection of men in raincoats that rush from location to location, rubbing themselves and leering at the action. Back in the olden days the shambling mass would arrive at squat parties and try to move in, because, well, it's a squat innit, and I want this room. Then they'd lurch around, looking for booze before finally shuffling off into the night, stealing something pointless and annoying on the way out - like a cheese grater.
It would be impossible of course for these nonentities to drift round the peripheries of the art world without eventually getting dragged centre stage. Paul McCarthy aside, whose characters often share many similarities with the local low-life and whose films could be documentation of a family party, this is an untapped resource that only now is being remedied. Jennifer Allen produced a video work that was shown in the recent Detox exhibition in Hoxton Square. The work is titled Kiss My Arse and depicts Allen and some slack-jawed creature. Trapped and bound and blindfolded, he sits helpless and pathetic in a chair as Allen gyrates, teasing, a small erection visible in his grubby boxers. She has the power and is in control, while every grimy pore displays his failure as a human being. It is her film, her edit and this plays with our sensibilities, is this first of the Knob-sploitation genre of films?
Back in the real world what's to be done? What can slow this relentless tide of sleazy human locusts? Big Larry G sends them packing with a big bloke on the door and the Mormon, House of Friends gallery stays off the radar by keeping dry, but what are the remainder to do? Money up-front perhaps, proof of age or a good quality mime could slow them down but anything that requires proximity inside a parasite's leap is to be avoided. No, best to set up something that keeps them hooked indefinitely: maybe a bottle hung from the ceiling, better still outside, visible through the window.
There's a lot of new(ish) technology being wasted on fripperies that could be employed here: what about a nice hologram for them to gather round and claw at, or one of those endless mirror tunnels that geek artists like making? Millions of bottles of Magners pear cider stretching into the distance would keep them all busy so everyone else could relax, chat and enjoy themselves. You wait, someone will make one and everyone will need it. Eventually it will just become a piece of equipment that the gallery owns, like a video projector or a Sony Cube telly. Until that day, don't leave your drink, wallet or nostrils unattended.
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
In this issue we articles by Corinna Dean on 'Curating flickr: Interpretation, scale and behaviour' and Phil Harris on 'The Wonderful World of Giclée'. As well as Ed Atkins' Aside 'On Diaries' and Richard Whitby's 'Postcard from Retreat 2010'. We have Franck Bordese interviewing artist Laura Wilson, Corinne Felgate interviewing artist Mark Selby and a conversation between artists Steve Bishop and Jack Vickridge. This issue's artist's page is by Matthew Breen: From an ongoing project on the American writer Buddy J. Finowicz (1944-2009).