Monday, 28 April 2008


While having a tidy round my room over the weekend I happened upon a couple of back issues of Yuck 'n Yum magazine. The online archive isn't yet on the go, so I've transcribed my 2006 review of Val Norris at the Collective gallery. I sorted out some of the grammar and punctuation and it bears up very well in my view. I urge you to check out some examples of her work.

"Quit Playin' Games With My Heart"
Val Norris at the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh

We're in love, you and I. The first time that I tell you "I love you", I have told you my first lie. I believe I love you and I want you to say that you love me. This serves to give me reassurance and I will feel the agony of my isolation a little less.

We are two little birds perched on an eternal branch in a daffodil idyll, basking in each other's ideas of enchantment and joy. Pink blossoms break out in scrawls of hysteria all around us and I tell myself that this must last forever. I feed the pony you sit astride as a butterfly flutters in your palm. As I play you my Michael Jackson records the King of Pop will sing of our feelings in a primal squeal that transcends his damaged features.

Sometimes you get cross and the sky turns to blood and shattered glass. A cartoon puppy on a sticker gets banished to the doghouse as you cry “YOU BREAK MY NERVES” and I cower in fear and shame. At moments like these I forget our animal bodies, our swollen heads and our big doe eyes. I know the uneasiness that has long been lurking at the back of my mind should never have been dismissed so lightly. I thought back then that you had too many cuddly toys in your bedroom.

On the floor sits an ersatz wooden table with a frill doilly on top. The doilly is home to four toy birds who face each other across the chintzy fabric. A clear Perspex cube provides some respite from an overload of ornamentation, though I know this is as minimal as you ever get. I recall a film about a fighter pilot that was on one Christmas, which someone told me about. I never saw it. A shame, because at least then we could make some small talk. This sculpture has suffered having a plastic flower draped across its face, the stem being painted glittery gold. A kitschy painting of ballerinas completes the tableau. Elsewhere deer gambol and heavily made-up women smoulder in paintings propped up against the wall like so many uneasy wallflowers at the high-school disco. I feel my clothes are dowdy dull when I see the GSA kids with all their nu-German Expressionist panache outside, but the music’s too loud anyhow, and I get the nauseous feeling of exclusion from a party where no-one wanted to stand in the kitchen.

Role-playing notes on camp girly. It’s only as girly as the pink Fraggle Rock T-shirt worn by the girl who spends her weekday evenings drinking Polish polish at a bus stop in Hexham. That girlishness can be worn as lightly as the flower with the glittery stem that rests atop the frame of a woodland scene. That girlishness could seem heavy-handed were it not so viscerally funny and the tone of voice not so disarmingly innocent. That fluttering of eyelashes can seem so beguiling when you’re dazzled by the glitter of cheap jewellery and inhaling the scent of fake flowers. Any girl this full of Babycham is anybody’s anyway. The paper the line is drawn across is scored out and smeared in an outburst of volatile feelings that I’m wary of trying to read. The pattern of the fabric has been carefully rendered with an emotional investment far greater than the toy birds ever asked for. It looks like a yearning for simple pleasures.

Your expressions of devotion seem to want to hide in a corner of the room or sink to the floor. When the little bird sits solitary on her branch the brown rabbit makes a gesture of holding his bleeding heart. It bleeds all over his leg and stains his fur with crimson crayon that is tough to clean. The violence that erupts come on in waves and bursts like weather, like nature, coming and going like the tides of the sea. It’s so romantic the way the scenery seems to reflect our thoughts and feelings, like animals and the weather, the blood and the lightning storms. When things are like this there is no happy medium like an overcast morning or a grey afternoon spent indoors playing cards or doing jigsaw puzzles. When it rains it pours. When it pours the lines get jagged and hastily scribbled down and I keep the kitchen knives where your eyes can’t see them.

I wonder for a moment, how much does the lonely reader of the Manga comic believe in the object of his affections? I bet it’s only as much as I project half-forgotten memories on you like those of a teddy bear or a former favourite cartoon character. Maybe it’s an indication of a confused identity, a scrambled mess of confused feelings that neither one of us can properly address. That’s not to say we can’t have a little fun with our masquerade, because I for one have always taken a great deal of pleasure in dressing up. We’re lucky, you and I, that we find such things fun and we don’t need to worry about our fondness for exaggeration and theatricality. Is this a kind of camp? I suppose it must be, but then you’d deny it and I’m definitely not gay.

Revelling in the decorative like we do is an engaging way of whiling away a sunny day. Don’t you know not to work with children and animals? Their behaviour can be so bi-polar. Oh well never mind, and we find we’re alone. Yours truly

Ben Robinson


elusive sprite said...

Hey Ben, interesting stuff on yr blog... now that i've finallly found it - went to by mistake and was rather surprised - you don't strike me as someone who would be runninng a "Mega site of Bible Studies"

: )

elusive sprite said...

oh, actually try this: Its a typo of yr address : ) S