Watching the defectives

Vivien Lash is reluctant voyeur of the twenty-first century horrorshow

Just another abnormal day at Lash Mansions.
Fred West wants to come in and “read my meter” so that I will “never” be bothered again. Undaunted that there is no meter inside the apartment, this dead ringer for serial killer Fred West, who used his skills as a builder to cement corpses into his cellar while eating onions the way Adam ate apples, waited outside in his white van.

The serial killer, like presidents and prime ministers, is a cultural signifier. Fred, with his moobs and hair so bad it couldn’t be rebranded as ironic, is no Travis Bickle. The sexy psychos of our imagination mainly existed in the movies back last century when Banality of Evil was just the name of my mom’s nail polish.

Now the Chinese have colonised grab culture and the pushy President is making America great again by shoving his way to the front of the picture.  You wouldn’t want to be within sniffing distance of our vampiric leaders; even in a nightmare. The Potus reality show is played on Twitter while the British PM, who could give Dracula’s grannie a run for her money with her wine lipstick and hungry laugh, chickens out of a pre-election debate with her rival whose idea of a style makeover is wearing a red tie.

The tightrope between security and freedom is the quest of most relationships, personal and political. Fashion is not merely a distraction, it’s a way of creating structure, a seduction of images which dispels that visual of Donald Trump and Theresa May holding hands at the White House in a political landscape that would make Caligula blush.

Did she wash her hand afterwards?  Did she feel safe; knowing that the President doesn’t fancy her?

There are people who vote “wrong”, their choice despised by the liberal elite who sometimes (like me!) don’t vote; apart from on Strictly. And there are psychos like Fred West’s doppelganger who spend their time trying to get into peoples’ apartments.

Never live in a building without a back door. I managed to sneak past Fred’s white van and dodged into the Frith Street Gallery which, just so it’s easy to find, is located in Golden Square.

With my short attention span, I’m not a fan of art installations so I watched pigeons giving tourists a shite shampoo outside in the square until a sound like a vampire having breakfast lured me to the dark back of the gallery.

The necrophagiac faces in the queue for Halloween nightclub stare at me like they want to drink my blood in a martini glass with a lemon twist. The emptiness of the gallery intensifies the experience of being eaten by the eyes of strangers who stalk me from the screen as my footsteps echo on the stone floor moving between the four films of American Gothic 2017 (Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square until 21st June).

I was compelled to pick up the price list. Not because I wanted to buy a vampire; but because I wanted to know the artist’s name. Cornelia Parker, whose installation The Maybe of sleeping Tilda Swinton is – maybe – my all time favourite. Her work is distinctive but each piece is so different it doesn’t scream her identity like an Emin or Hirst.

Parker turns “the ordinary into the extraordinary” or, in this show, she’s turning the sinister into the seductive. The slowed down soundtrack transforms the sirens of New York City into the lust call of ghouls; while the slow-mo film converts these “ordinary” faces into the devil’s wee friends.

“I love urban spaces…I’ve always been an artist. Doesn’t mean my art’s any good!” Parker says.
She shot American Gothic 2017 on impulse on her i-phone while launching PsychoBarn, her installation on the roof garden of the Met that hovered over New York City as Americans prepared to damn themselves with a president who looks like he is wearing a Halloween mask.

A recreation of the house in Psycho, that American masterpiece made by an Englishman which has shaped our terror since last century; it’s an almost romantic emblem in a world where reality feels more threatening than a slasher movie.

Having a face off with Halloween night on the opposite wall of Frith St Gallery is a crowd of Trump supporters who don’t need to be wearing Norman Bates’ mother’s wig to scare me. I’d run if they threatened to sit on me. Parker makes a brief appearance, Hitchcock style, in this film with her distinctive bob somewhere between Louise Brooks and Richard 3rd.

I could have stood there for hours if the gallery hadn’t been shutting.
“Imagine what it’s like…listening to that…mewling…all day,” the gallerist laughed.

But isn’t that what we do? Listen to people whining about this and that on social media, 24 hour news, and at that mythic bus stop where strangers talk to each other.

Can’t wait to see what Cornelia Parker, who has been appointed UK Election Artist, produces from her stint on the hustings with Tessie May and the gang.

As Parker says, “If I want to throw things off cliffs I just throw them myself.”

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