Wednesday, 4 July 2012

oof ooof oooof

Honestly, I think I might be growing old.

Another two years and I'll turn into my father. Sat in front of the TV, denying I am deaf while the entire family tuts. I'll interrupt with a constant stream of What's he saying? Should I know him? What's happening now?

Finally, bewildered by the plot complexities of Coronation Street and unable to resolve the character confusions presented by Emily Bishop, I shall emit an exaggerated, exasperated PPFFFFFTT! then grip my hand to my chest to indicate ITV now drove me to that heart attack, and serve-you-all-bloody-well-right.

Having got your attention, I will shuffle myself dramatically off the sofa with a suppressed pain noise of oof ooof oooof, before marching in an undignified huff back to my shed where I will tinker with my train set.

My father's reaction now begins to make sense. Life is calmer when you surround yourself with things you understand.

Don't get me wrong. I am fine with our visit today. To Shakespeare's Globe, for Henry V. He is not my problem. Neither is his story; I accept the jingoism as of the time, speaking something to ours, and I see they downplay the potential for the anti-French jokes, probably in the spirit of European harmony.

If anything, the character of Fluellen, the scene-stealing Welsh Captain, only adds to the narratives I wander about with in my head. He provokes some satisfying discussion afterwards with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. We wonder if showing Wales as producing spirited men who fall short of playing buffoons, but through their humour engage us with their sense of fairness, loyalty and honour, was simply politic of the time - Catherine, Henry V's widow, went on to marry the Welsh Owen Tudor, and thus give rise to the Tudor line and Elizabeth I. So we can all make parts of the play fit comfortably in the whole stories that I can understand.

Here, have a celebratory picture, just as we're about to begin.

But then I make a mistake. After the production, we must kill an hour before our next two appointments (eat at The Pasty Shop; have an argument with London Midland).

I suggest to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger that we visit Tate Modern.

Aged 20? My younger self might disagree with the griblets. I would say that the poly-plastic foam nailed to the wall is tremendous, radical, art.

(Oh, sorry, that last one's the ceiling.)

But now I am aged 52. I have grown a moustache like my father, and I grunt oof ooof oooof sounds when I lever my backside off the sofa.

So I should have foreseen trouble. In two minutes I am swinging punches at the suggestion I might like to give Damien Hirst some of my money. He has never given me any of his. I evade him for floor three. In ten minutes I am making annoying comments in a loud voice in front of the art.

What's he saying? Should I know him? What's happening now? It doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't fit my narratives. I can't see any craft. I can't see the point.

It is just as well there are no explanatory statements. I am likely to be tremendously underwhelmed by artistic visions which suggest now is the right moment to be passionately overwhelmed. Especially by art which splinters across time, space, and being in the enactment of making with resources which includes life itself.

But the Tate then interrupt matters by picking a big fight with me when they try to impose rules to protect the sanctity of art which is, I'm betting, challenging the sanctity of art by reconfiguring our hegemonies.

They asked for it, and they started it.

But I'm not alone, am I? I'm on the down escalator, ear-wigging the conversation of two better-bred ladies than me. One whispered, Well I'm not sure it's my thing. The other conspiratorially replied, I know! And you're not allowed to be rude about it in public, are you?

Ladies, I beg to differ.

On the streets outside, as we walk by the river, we pass the creative ideas of National Theatre's outside/inside: coloured sand (splashed over pavements thanks to kid play), wooden booths for listening (teenagers lolling inside, shoving each other about and chewing gum), and a cafe mocked out as backstage (refuge for adults). All vibrant, in use/abuse, colourful, creative, imaginative. It fits into one narrative I have, and that's for sure. That I'm reaching my father's age, where art on the streets is much more relevant to me than art in the Tate.

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