Flesh and George Melly
1970 Shepherds Bush,
The Andy Warhol Factory film “Flesh” directed by Paul Morrissey made a bit of a fuss getting banned from public exhibition, in London in 1970, 2 years after it opened on Broadway. The film did show at The Open Space Theatre, London, before it was raided by the police who confiscated the projector and arrested the audience.
It became a media event but most critics were happy to pan the movie with a few exceptions including George Melly, who supported the film and the campaign to have it set free.
Naturally Mrs Monk and I were keen to have a look at this film and see what all the fuss was about, and I recall seeing it at the Bush Theatre which was a small room over a pub in Shepherds Bush, West London. The theatre was packed to capacity although that is not to say much since the theatre could accommodate an audience of about just fifty, one of whom was George Melly dressed to the nines, grinning from ear to ear and enjoying the hullabaloo.
More Flesh and George Melly
5 March 2006
We made our way to Tate Britain Triennial Show, ostensibly featuring, “New British Art” Mrs Monk walked ahead of me up the steps to the main entrance of Tate Britain, I looked up at her and saw that she was excited and animated about something, soon realising that she had spotted George Melly enjoying a cigarette on a smokers bench besides the main entrance door. Mrs Monk can be embarrassingly excitable about celebrities, but she had observed that everyone that approached the entrance door, broke into a smile when they spotted George; and we had the complete George, resplendent in loud suit, floppy hat, eye patch and cane. I avoided any potential embarrassment by getting into the gallery tout de suite. Mrs Monk told me to go ahead without her and demanded to have my phone which has a camera, her favourite toy. She was in paparazzi mode, sensing a mini scoop.
I made my way through the exhibits. This show claims to represent 35 individual artists, that are ostensibly linked by the notion of “appropriation,” the borrowing or recycling of found objects or the revisiting or old genres. This third Tate Triennial 2006 is curated by Beatrix Ruf, Director of the Kunsthalle in Zurich
As I made my way about the gallery, I was not aware of the curators theme, but I was looking for the “New British Art” also announced in the publicity. I was surprised, but accepting, when I noticed some work by Ian Hamilton Finlay, who has been around since the fifties.
A mixed show can be a problem since one artist can cancel out the work of another. It was not a crowded show, by any means, but it was incoherent.
I walked into one of the small rooms and was surprised and unprepared to find the work of Cosey Fanni Tutti.
Cosey Fanni Tutti was also around in the 70s along with Genesis P Orridge, with whom she shocked London with their performance art at the ICA, and the avant-garde band, Throbbing Gristle.
Cosey’s subject is pornography, and in the current Tate show you will find the work she exhibited at the ICA in 1970, when “she consciously utilised the pornography industry as an apparatus to convey multiple identities,” as the Tate puts it. Cosey’s exposed crotch has been re-appropriated from the seventies in hundreds of images. I set about examining theses images, and I wish I could say it was a pleasure. Around me were a number of attentive gentleman and even more somewhat stunned ladies, who stoically absorbed the gynaecological experience, because, after all, they were in an art gallery. It was at this point that Mrs Monk caught up with me.
“I thought I would find you in here”, she said contentiously.
I grabbed her arm, happy to demonstrate to the young ladies present that I was spoken for.
“Did you get any pictures of George Melly”, I asked as we examined the porn nonchalantly.
“Not really”, she said, “but I did sit next to him”.
George Melly has an academic interest in the surrealists, If Rene Magritte were in town, the BBC would certainly ask George for a comment, but more to the point, his suits are more shocking than Cosey Fanni Tutti’s nether regions. Shoestring Chronicle