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someone left a sand-dune in the gallery

Jake + Dinos w/sausagesOne from the archives this week, in recognition of the astounding show by Mike Nelson at Modern Art Oxford. I scripted it on the day while badasstronaut patiently waited, looking at Modern Art Merchandise, pencilled it some time later, but was never happy with the rhythm, and it ended badly. The realisation that the panels were actually in the wrong order came only this week and I finished the inking just last night. That probably makes this weeks strip the longest (time-wise) I've ever drawn! Strangely unimpressive, for all that. No yummy colours, or sly social comment. Still, going to galleries is something I like doing, a lot, and I chose to write about it. Better still when it's free. Since Modern Art Oxford went free, I often go there in my lunch hour.

Like I did on Tuesday. I wasn't expecting much, the posters looked dull and none of the descriptions had impacted on me much (they all started by saying how important the artist was and, really, do I care?), but what the heck. In fact it was... well, the artist had taken the inner skin of a skanky hotel or an abandoned cinema foyer and rammed it in right behind the closed gallery door meaning you were pushed straight into a building you knew didn't exist, a dream transition into a history the glass-steel warehouse of MOA had never known. The paint smelt heavy and institutional, mock-patina-ed, mock-aged. All the doors were barred except one and that spun you stumbling out into the backstage: blank lighting, the foyer's film-set backside. We walked around it, pulling at closed doors. On the stairs we ran into Xan and friend, drifting downstairs like ghost visitors from another planet, briefly glimpsed through an open door; sand had drifted up to the ceiling, sand filling the tall room with white light tumbling down the yellow slope, but we ignored that for then and hit the side room, the one where the Chapman Brothers had exhibited Insult to Injury to an audience of tutting bibliophiles. Nelson had put his studio -- another skanky, Victorian space -- into the middle of it, viewing through two removed walls into a diagram of disoganisation, filth, art equipment and plastic toys. A rambling conspiracy theorist mumbled something at the far wall via a projector lash-up. I felt warned of a terrible future. We found it in the next room, down a tight corridoor almost swamped with sand that had filled the room almost to the ceiling, a spectral desertification which had swept through town and only visited one building. At the far end, another barred door, and an attendant who encouraged us to poke the exhibit, but no view of the main attraction, just a barrier, and more sand.

No, to get to that we had to leave the exhibit and take the exit stairs up into the main hall into the last small viewing space afforded by the encroaching sand. We stumbled out into it; a sign told parents to please stop children from touching the sand. Was it dyed to be that saffron yellow? The windows were blacked out with some sort of plastic, shiny and oil-black, but the light was hard and dry and white on bunkers, oil drums and something that was very hard to avoid calling a Terminal Beach.

It was excessive, elaborate, and memorably weird in a way you don't often see outside films or dreams. Oily, but dry. Too big for the space. Strange. And in stark contrast to a lot of things I've seen/gone to recently it really was unmissably good, and if you're in Oxford at all, you should go see. Really, wow.

The exhibition featured in the strip is of course the one that failed to win Jake and Dinos Chapman the Turner Prize. It's always fun seeing something familiar crawling out of the TV set at you, especially on Channel 4. Still, I shouldn't be so starstruck. After all, I've been on The Money Programme.

In other news, Piney Gir did a strip-tease on stage at the Zodiac last night. It was lovely, but didn't make up for the rest of the evening's entertainment.


21st May, 2004 03:47 (UTC)
Stroff taught me history in the early '90s. True story. He left my school in 1994 to follow his dream of making and selling sausages in oxford's covered market.
21st May, 2004 04:05 (UTC)
do you know how the story ends?
I mean, that's not Stroff there any more, is it? Did he go back to teaching or take his sausages elsewhere?
21st May, 2004 04:15 (UTC)
I haven't seen him in the covered market since they changed the name so I always assumed he moved on somewhere, but I didn't know where. A quick google search seems to indicate the presence of a "Stroff's Speciality Sausages" on Stanley Road, between Iffley & Magdalen Rds in cowley. Seems like a strange place to be - maybe he's gone mail order or something.
21st May, 2004 04:45 (UTC)
Not exactly Cowley -- that's a fairly residential area. Hmm. Must cycle past it at some point and see if there's a sign or anything shop-like... The covered market shop was much better when he was running it and since then I haven't really bothered. M Feller are good but don't have the range; but I find that Tesco's Finest sossies are quite good enough and very easy to get hold of.
21st May, 2004 04:49 (UTC)
too much water.
21st May, 2004 06:10 (UTC)
Mail Order Soss?
Mail order Stroff? I could go for that, I'm still reeling from when I popped into the nearest KwickSave up here and found only pigs trotters, spam and chitterlings on offer in the "fresh meat" section.
Shudder I'd rather have such items in soss form than au naturel.
21st May, 2004 04:17 (UTC)