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LET’S JUST CUT HIM OPEN (AND SEE WHAT’S INSIDE): an extract

By Benjamin Robinson.

  

 

Opening ceremony; 23rd August 2011

 On 23rd of August 2011 Let’s just cut him open (and see what’s inside) opens outside number thirty two Windsor Avenue, Fairview, Dublin 3. In a brief opening ceremony the artist raises chest-high his mobile phone to a shopfront window and takes a photograph of his reflection. The window of the former family-run grocery shop is streaked with a dirty white ribbon, which in a reversal of a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony cuts the artist’s reflection in two. Beneath the sundered reflection a chequered floor recedes towards a solitary green light emanating from a small glass-panelled door to the interior’s rear.

 

 

Interior with figure holding the skull of Mickey Mouse; 19th April 2012

A cleaver of light dominates the middle distance of April’s Interior with figure holding the skull of Mickey Mouse. But it is a shadowy bust of the artist, distancing himself from his reflection by his use of the word ‘figure’, which rises with a ring of hollow laughter to the rafters. Along the cleaver’s rearward edge the reflection holds the fictive mouse’s skull, whose creator Walt Disney was rumoured to have had his body cryogenically frozen after he died of cancer in 1966, and stored in a special underground cavern in Disneyland (to be thawed out when his cancer could be cured). In the cavernous well of the artist’s shoulder-blade the glass panel of the rear door contains a smaller, upright cleaver of mixed luminescence. Overall the atmosphere is one of violence extraction, of physical and emotional disintegration. The bone matrix of the skull appears to be melting, with wads of connective tissue stretching up over the artist’s face and cascading down over the cleaver into the checkerboard floor below.

 

 

Short blooming mask of the mayflower; 23rd May 2012

Fortified with fissures of fresh guano Short blooming mask of the mayflower sees a perfidious plume of sea-spray rising from uric depths to test the mettle of the artist’s savoir-faire. With two hundred and twenty-two days remaining until the end of the year—and just hours away from his eclipse in Spring Garland—the artist attempts to give his Windsor Avenue doppelganger the slip. Shielding itself from this nascent rebuff the estranged reflection holds to its face a ghostly Venetian mask, immersing inadvertently itself and the artist in a maze of mutually-assured circumventions. Decked out in a pink Versace T-shirt (€150.00), Dolce and Gabbana olive combat jacket with detachable detached hood (€699), Dolce and Gabbana jeans (€399.00), and Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses (€160) the artist enjoys a brief respite from persecution, as the once drab and dictatorial interior is rendered, in one fell sunlit swoop, invisible. (At the artist’s request all proceeds from Short blooming mask of the mayflower will go to spinal cord injuries research).

 

 

The Great Hunger (Lacrimosa, sotto voce); 8th June 2012

Funereal developments consolidate summer’s already dampened spirits. Referencing the Lacrimosa from a Requièm Mass, a subdued artist stands with umbrella distended under a lachrymose sky. Emerging out of a blighted floor The Great Hunger (Lacrimosa, sotto voce)’s despondent dirge is lowered further by the artist playing an interminable game of ‘one potato two potato three potato four’ with a faceless, gruel-sodden reflection. Interpolating the soup kitchens, workhouses, and coffin ships of The Great Hunger into the privileged ancestry that affords his patron his occluded vantage, the emaciated interloper struggles valiantly to bring the game to an end. A vehicular turquoise and violet contrapuntal background finesses the composition into a contemporary setting where, when played by corporate elites, ‘one potato two potato three potato four’ takes on a strident lethality.

 

 

Summer sprig; 21st July 2012

With a small leaf-bearing stem emerging from between his fine-boned fingers the artist advances with outstanding composure towards his inexorable reflection. With highlights of shimmering perfection the high summer sprig cuts with delightful determination through the humdrum pane of glass. Verdant and glossy the sprig cranes leniently with drooping head as far left as is humanly possible. From behind a luminous theatrical apron the artist prompts priggishly, piling apprehension upon apprehension, pretext upon pretext, and indignation upon dead indignation. Upstanding citizen and vigorous volunteer his reflection is a model of civil obedience. Demonstrating unswerving communal commitment it upholds the moral order, the sprig a paragon of active unfolding.

 

 

Edward & Mrs Simpson; 30th July 2012

In Edward & Mrs Simpson the soon to be Duke and Duchess of Windsor appear beneath the artist’s reflection as shadows case across an illuminated indentation. The outline of the King’s overcoat is clearly visible, while Mrs Simpson’s famous black Elsa Schiaparelli ball gown—which she wore when Cecil Beaton photographed her for Vogue in 1937—has had its baroque detailing reduced to a series of jagged lines cascading across her shadow in a veil of thorny stems. A bituminous smear covers the King’s mouth, while to the left of Mrs Simpson an iridescent white box lies abandoned on the floor. Overall the mood is fractious, with interior and exterior, substance and shadow, intertwined hopelessly in love’s sweet dream. But ultimately it is desiccation and the harsh light of day that predominate, exiling all those who would make a home behind glass. Standing in for the absent couple the artist plays an inscrutable Mrs Simpson to his reflection’s sun-drenched King.

 

 

Windsor defender; 1st August, 2012

Coming at the tail end of the Northern Ireland marching season Windsor Defender brings to the Windsor Avenue shopfront the rigors of proactive protection. Keeping a neighbourly eye on his reflection, the artist stands foursquare against the forces of divided identity. With hands joined in an oath of allegiance he confronts a reflection partitioned by a watery column of whitewash. Along with the horizontal line of vision, this irregular column makes up the crosshairs of a north-south east-west reticle in which the artist stands. Despite his reflection’s placid demeanour, the threat of violence—the blame for which will be lathered liberally over the artist’s feet—remains very real. Aware that the car parked behind him may well be booby trapped, the artist stands his ground nonetheless, making of his Windsor Avenue home a Windsor castle. Begun by William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion of England, the present day Windsor Castle, with its royal apartments, royal library, royal chapel, royal mausoleum and royal parklands, provides a cautionary counterpoint to Let’s just cut him open (and see what’s inside)’s transient war of attrition.

 

 

Intensive care unit; 17th October 2012

Following Portrait of the artist as eidetic reflection’s incautious self-overdose of lucidity the artist enters a period of convalescence, of which Intensive care unit is the definitive record. Hanging from his withered hands an improvised colostomy bag accounts for the ribbon’s depleted demeanour. Emaciated and frail, it mocks the artist’s once burning ambition that the glass foam with rivers of piss. In a reversal of fortune one of the strands of the ribbon enters the artist’s right nasal passageway to provide him with sustenance. Hidden from view by the colostomy bag the umbrella’s shaft has been driven deep into the heart of the mound, its blackened handle emerging out of the vampiric grey light. Along with a mechanical ventilator (on standby), a raft of cardiac monitors forms a clotted vehicular dome to the reflection’s rear. The critical nature of the artist’s condition is evidenced by the comatose poise and leaden facial expression. Situated between The Dear Leader and Intensive care unit, the October clarities (epitomised by Portrait of the artist as eidetic reflection) are cast in a new light—not so much breast-beating plunge into heretical clarity as post-traumatic collapse into hallucinogenic delirium—leading to the possibility that Short blooming mask of the mayflower’s immersion into a maze of mutually-assured circumventions was an attempt to subvert Let’s just cut him open (and see what’s inside)’s advertent submersion into a mutually-reflective maze of certainties Let’s just cut him open (and see what’s inside) doubling back on itself and swallowing its tail.

 

 

Copping a plea (Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (Ceci n’est pas une pipe)); 28th November 2012

Set in a slab of foggy aspic Copping a plea (Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (Ceci n’est pas une pipe)) ends November on a distinctly deviant note. Following a plea of ‘no contest’ to acts of gross indecency—one of which involved the artist singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow while urinating into a plaster cast model of an anthropomorphic animated mouse’s skull—the artist, sucking hard on his hash pipe, reflects upon which of a range of antisocial misappropriations he considers a prerequisite to creative maturation. Hovering over his intact right ear a murky back passage—all that remains of the interior—provides the bandage for a version of Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe. With its bracketed reference to René Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe), Copping a plea (Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (Ceci n’est pas une pipe)) shows the depths to which Let’s just cut him open (and see what’s inside)’s malice aforethought has sunk. In the upper right-hand corner, adding insult to feigned injury, two gouts of freshly squeezed semen cling stoically to the glass, while in the bottom right-hand corner a solitary slop bucket bides its time. Joining the decapitated column animosity indicator, a back passage ear bandage indicator on the extreme right maintains an impressive state of engorgement.

 

 

Lenin Complex; 30th November 2012

Majestic with the pallor of death and balancing a tightrope walker’s pole on his fingertips Lenin Complex’s artist finds his vigilance buffeted by the chill winds of revolt. With his legs extracted from the twin sinkholes of Tracey Emin’s bed and Samuel Beckett’s burial mound, his body achieves its fullest expression since the discredited October clarities. The floor’s opposing squares have dissolved into uniform grey, the emptiness beneath which they prevailed now strewn with the detritus of palliation—paint-splattered trestles, old carpets and mattresses, a plank of wood, a cardboard box, and a flattened roll of felt. Beyond the ubiquitous ribbon the glass is bright and clear, the objects, book-ended by a silver Citroën DS 23 parked conspicuously at the opposing curb, infused with a subdued intensity. Above the flattened felt, a bright red stripe runs across the packaging of a Dimplex Contrast portable convector heater. Like the Father of the Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin—to date still behind glass in Red Square—the artist balances on the edge of an abyss, staring (as do the thousands who stand in line to view Lenin’s body) into a miasma of suspended putrefaction. And just as Lenin’s body, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, was allowed by the new Russian leadership to remain ensconced in its mausoleum, so the artist exhibits his reflective entrails for all those who wish to stand before the protean vacancies of a radicalised nature.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND TEXT

Benjamin Robinson was born in 1964 in Northern Ireland, and attended, briefly, Limerick College of Art & Design in the nineteen eighties. His work has been published in Gorse, Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones, Maintenant 8: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art, Paper Visual Art Journal, CIRCA Online, and 3:AM Magazine. He lives in Dublin. Website.

The above images and text are extracted from a longer forthcoming work, Let’s just cut him open (and see what’s inside).

 

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, June 19th, 2017.