masks and wings

On Tuesday night, we found ourselves standing in a street in Shoreditch with a hundred or so others, all sporting plastic Alfred Jarry masks. The occasion: a group photo to mark the launch of Alastair Brotchie’s handsome and indispensable tome on the great ‘Pataphysician. Inside The Griffin pub, the pool table had been temporarily transformed into a bookstall for Atlas Press. In an ideal world, every pub would sell ‘extremist and avant-garde prose’ alongside their pints. It would have been rude to leave empty-handed, so as well as the Jarry masks and a few Jarry badges, we came away with a signed biography and a couple of essential pamphlets.

Then, on Friday night, we headed to Tate Britain for performances and interventions on a post-apocalyptic theme (tying in with the Tate’s John Martin exhibition). In a gallery hung with historical paintings (Reynolds, Gainsborough, William Powell Frith’s The Derby Day), Richard Strange had constructed a set for his Cabaret Apocalyptica, with old TV sets showing footage of riot and mayhem, electric tealights flickering, and a mannequin in a camouflage jumpsuit holding up a globe. You couldn’t move for art students and white boiler suits. Gavin Turk impersonated a death metal DJ. But the best intervention (in my book, anyway) was a too rare performance by Rene Eyre, as a dark, despairing angel, complete with magnificent black wings, dancing her agony to the churning wall of Mogwai-esque sound created by two self-effacing guitarists. What would life (post-apocalyptic or otherwise) be without rogue creative spirits such as these?

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