The race to be the first celebrity: Jack The Ripper versus The Elephant Man, 2011
Because in the 1880’s Darwin had convinced most people in England that the process of evolution meant that the next generation (babies) would make their generation look like monkeys in comparison, people in the 1880’s were determined to celebrate regressive rather than progressive character traits. They wanted to celebrate the parts of people that they considered backward and retarded.
The local government replaced all the statues of heroes with statues of toilets, irons, and vacuum cleaners. In the afternoon, people lined up along the driveway of the mental home to applaud the new inmates being dragged in. They also lined up along the hospital driveway to watch those maimed in factory accidents crawl to the hospital door. The trail of blood they left behind started the tradition of the red carpet for celebrity arrivals. Many formerly famous people had to make their achievements even more spectacular to keep up with the new disabled celebrities. Dr. Livingstone tried to convince his audience that everybody and every animal he met on his adventures was a cannibal. He did this by starving baby animals and then stuffing the mother’s skins with fresh meat.
But the more emotionally and physically disabled you were, the more your celebrity became invincible. As more and more machines convinced people that they were becoming evolutionarily obsolete, people became more attracted to the most human of humans: prostitutes, natives, mental patients, criminals, and cripples. The two greatest celebrities of the age combined crime, mental illness and prostitution: crime and mental illness with Jack the Ripper and physical deformity and nativeness (mother squashed by an elephant) with The Elephant Man.
The rats in the monkey’s cage, 2011
At the Mumbai Zoo the star attraction is the rhesus monkeys, and because of this, the zoo management has given them the biggest cage proportionate to their size. They are fed the best by the zoo staff and the visitors who ignore the “Don’t Feed the Animals” sign. The monkeys hang on to the ropes and cling to the car tires tied to the bottom of the ropes.
If you throw some food onto the cage floor, the monkeys will lean down from the rope and stretch for the food. The rats lay in wait for the monkeys to leave their rope prisons and to go for the food. They attack instantly and, all together, chase the hungry monkeys back up the rope or up the cage walls. Then you notice the bloodied bandages around the feet and hands of the monkeys, the faces of the monkeys that never sleep, and their stomachs that never get filled. The rats in India are the meanest in the world, and in the zoos they are the fattest. They bully all the animals in the zoos from the elephants to the lions.
This painting is about the many star attractions in the world which are really miserable and under the control of the rats under the surface.