Clemency Cooke & Charlotte Jarvis: Have your cake and eat it

Artvehicle 24/Review

27th September 2007 — 24th October 2007

A topless model, styled on 'Lady Thatcher', kneels in stockings and suspenders, a Conservative rosette for a garter, her face buried in the iron lady's autobiography, 'The Downing Street Years'. This is one of twelve images that make up the 2008 calendar for 'Bollocks! Weekly: for Boobs with Balls', a fictional magazine created by Charlotte Jarvis. The rationale behind this fictitious publication is all too simple: 'lads' mags' and tabloids dis women; women become indignant and fight back; resistance, however, is futile as that which establishes itself as counter- or anti- locks itself into a binary framework with that which it tried to oppose; 'Bollocks! Weekly', 2008 Calendar, is the satirical response to this predictable chain of events. The calendar's twelve images successfully imitate the visual style of lads' mags such as 'Nuts' with their impeccably glossy finish, the impressive array of brash colours, embellished typefaces and massive boobs. There is even a suitably appropriate amount of titter-inducing tabloid puns. A brief titter is, however, all that these twelve images warrant with the points they make about exploitation and commercialism being far too facile.

Unfortunately, the same applies for Concept Cakes, a selection of cakes baked, decorated, photographed and displayed according to various concepts. Cooke and Jarvis' try to use their cakes-becoming-art-objects to ridicule the art world and its many pretentious theories, the dominance of the art object and notions of consumption. These terms of engagement, however, are too manifest and too elementary to enable anything more than the briefest of wry smiles. The cakes produced reflect this simplicity, as they are disappointingly lacklustre. Determinism is a cake with funnel-piped icing spelling the word EATEN. Where other cakes are positioned like traditional art objects on conventional stands or hung on the gallery wall, the Avant-Gardism [sic] cake is mounted to a discrete over-hang of the gallery's ceiling. The saving grace within the collection is 'Et in Arcadia Ego', a photograph of a cake covered in pristine white icing and delicate icing-flowers unceremoniously pulled apart to reveal a maggot-filled centre. At least here is a cake capable of producing a visceral response.

In the lower gallery, the same tedious lines are repeated about women, exploitation, consumption and commercialism with idyllic landscapes made up of female breasts and a comical video of a couple dousing themselves in water-based paints so as to take on the semblance of blow-up dolls. Dubbed a 'rich, cathartic feminist uprising' by the gallery, this exhibition should really be recognised as a simplistic representation of the issues at hand but one that the viewer can giggle at all the same.


Madder 139
137-139 Whitecross Street
London EC1Y 8J

Wednesday-Friday, 12pm-6pm
Saturday, 12pm-5pm

Clemency Cooke & Charlotte Jarvis: Have your cake and eat it —