‘How Are You Feeling?’ – David Shrigley Exhibition

Posted: December 15, 2012 in Chat
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The venue: The Cornerhouse, Manchester. An exhibition of new works by David Shrigley. The MC was Harry Hill.

Two returned tickets! My son and I zoomed off hands hotly holding tickets turning almost gold in anticipation.

Writer Will Self once said: You can tell if you are to like a person by whether they get David Shrigley or not. I would have said then that he would not like me – I found Shrigley’s books too… whimsical? Thin?

And yet I was excited about the exhibition.

Ok, to continue, all ticket-holders met up on the first floor (of three) of the exhibition, amongst mute exhibits. There was an oddly shaped huge black gong; there was a huge scaled-up rucksack (big enough to carry all our ‘care and woes’?); there was also an animation of a cartoon artist drawing a cartoon life model.  I could go on but then all a sudden Harry Hill was there, in Harry Hill costume.  There was also a  wall chart to record messages on the theme How Are You Feeling?  One or two members ventured a response. In the slightly awkward ‘celebrity amongst us’ atmosphere with Harry Hill’s initial appearance he wrote, hidden, then revealed ‘Terribly exposed’. How can you not empathise! Curator Mike Chavez-Dawson brought in Jan. Jan was great too, a small, perfect and professionally made puppet. As my son noted: three levels of ambiguity – we do not know what David Shrigley looks like (was he there amongst us?), nor was Harry Hill real but an invented character, and then there was Jan cradled in Harry’s arms talking to us (‘Don’t look at me, look at him.’ we kept being told).

Harry had us interact with the objects, questioned us archly about ‘how we were feeling’ about the objects. Beside the animation of the cartoon life drawing Harry had two people act out the scene, one actually drawing the other (clothed). Once again we saw the’ take’ on the ‘take’ on life drawing. And by the way, the gong sounded great. Then we went upstairs.

The middle floor was densely covered on all walls by drawings, doodles, sketches, cartoons: Shrigley-isms. And it was this is that ‘turned’ me: en masse like this, undiluted, I could see the effect he has. Tending towards the dark, at times outright bleak – but here was Shrigley-world writ large. He has striven to remain anonymous (there have been lapses lately); his subject matter is predominantly about outsider male experience, a limited world but relayed with conviction.

There are many constructions in his work, that is, levels of perception in the make up of the pieces: he can parody and self-parody like the best of them – the thing is he lets us see that he is also keenly aware of the position he has to take in doing this. Who has the right to parody another? Shrigley is no holier-than-thou, the ‘David Shrigley’ we are given is also a construct, a parody of his own beliefs and prejudices. That he parodies himself is exactly the point. That we recognise some of ourselves in the parody, is also the point.

The top floor was huge, and in the centre a huge Shrigley sculpture of a naked pissing man. The sculpture’s expression was… baffled? Pensive?

We drew our copies, then paraded them like cat-walk cats. Whilst the real work of drawing was going on Harry Hill and an audience member enacted a Shrigley interview. Hats off to the man, he carried it off very well, with ne’er a fluffed line!

Another Shrigley I find myself enthusing over is WORRIED NOODLES (2007). It’s a CD of his lyrics/musings put to music by a wide variety of bands and musicians. A lot of them really made me sit up and listen. Franz Ferdinand’s in there, as well as David Byrne; but so are Liars. Deerhoof are great. 39 pieces by 30 artists.

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