Friday, June 15, 2007

My improvisation skills are tested

The postgraduate Kennie Pome bought two Belgian beers from the downstairs bar of the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) and invited me to join him in a pre-interview drink. By way of small talk he asked if I had enjoyed the art exhibition currently running upstairs, a series of tartan wheelie-bins filled with garden gnomes painted blue, by the Edinburgh-based artist Farelly Rastapap. Of course, I had not seen any of this work, but I replied in character as Steve M. R. Tubbock and declared the exhibition a triumph. Pome suggested that my verdict vindicated his own, for he too had found the exhibition a resounding success on numerous levels. He claimed to follow the CA (Contemporary Art) scene in D (Dundee) closely and would review this exhibition favourably in the Stoodent Nyoos, Abertay University's student newspaper, of which he is the Arts correspondent.

"Did you get a chance to see the Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show?" he asked.

I should explain to those ignorants amongst you that Duncan of Jordanstone is Dundee's Art College and the Degree Show is the annual exhibition of graduating students' work. You could easily have worked that out from context. You are wasting everyone's time.

My alterego Steve M.R. Tubbock, the talented author of the fictional 'Horton's Folly', would certainly have gone to such an event, so I had to quickly draw upon all my skills of improvisation and rapid adaptability.

"Yes," I said.

"Did you like it?" he asked.

This deviation from the anticipated script forced me to ad lib wildly once again. I felt Tubbock was the sort of person who would enjoy the Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show, so I had to somehow indicate this, completely in-character, to the postgraduate Kennie Pome despite the fact that I, Horton Carew, had not actually been to the Degree Show at all.

"Yes," I said.

"Any favourite pieces?" he probed, infuriatingly.

Readers, when next you find yourselves in a situation where you are pretending to be an author of a fictional electronic diary in order to earn £5.00 and are obliged to present as true the claim that you have been to an exhibition of Contemporary Art (CA) showcasing the work of recent graduates of Art College (AC), when in fact you have not, and you are asked to comment upon your favourite piece, you might like to borrow my catch-all response because I found it worked quite convincingly.

"I forget the artist's name, but I particularly liked that dark series of paintings - the meditations on death. Very effective," I said. I waved my hands and nodded as I said this. I have seen the mentalist Derren Brown use such a technique to bamboozle proles so I thought I should mimic him.

"Oh yes! I agree," replied Pome. "Janet Peevie's work was well received. You're right though - very dark subject matter. Paintings of dismembered corpses are not for everyone! What else did you like?"

I was starting to become uncomfortable. All Degree Show exhibitions are bound to have some sort of thing about death in it, but what else might it include? My knowledge of the Contemporary Art (CA) scene is limited to three art galleries, a handful of exhibitions that I attended in order to procure free wine, and to seeing Tracy Emin once on Have I Got News For You. If Pome continued this line of questioning, I would doubtless be exposed as a fraud before long.

"I also liked that series of collages," I said, "I forget the artist's name I'm afraid, but his collages were a sort of dissection of popular trash culture. He made use of gaudy kitsch images from advertising to great effect."

"Oh yes! You're right," said Pome. "Dexter Sing's pop-culture collages really revel in the mire of tackiness, don't they? Loved his stuff with the retro Creamola Foam graphics. Anything else that you liked?"

Readers, if Pome had asked me to describe another piece of work at the Degree Show, all would have been lost. As it was, he stopped at just three and I was able to bluff my way through. Every Scottish art exhibition I have ever been to has always had a series of paintings or photographs of weather-beaten North East women who look like they've had a rough life of fishing or weaving or some such. The artist or photographer seems invariably to be called Mhairi something. I hoped that the work of such a Mhairi was similarly present at the Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show, because I said to Pome:

"I also liked the series of black and white photographs of aged weather-beaten North Eastern fishwives by Mhairi...someone. I forget her surname. Each photograph had a caption telling us a little about each woman. What rich yet melancholy lives they led, reflected in each portrait."

"Oh yes!" said Pome (thank goodness!) "Mhairi Luthermuir's photos were wonderfully evocative. Each wrinkle on each face told a story. Marvellous! Well, shall we start the interview proper now?"

"Do I still get £5.00?" I asked.

"Of course," he replied.

"Then let us begin," I said.

Readers, I have given too much preamble today, so will leave off my account of the interview with the postgraduate Kennie Pome until a later date.

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