The race to be the first celebrity: Jack The Ripper versus The Elephant Man – Australian Galleries, Sydney 3-22 Sept.
The race to be the first celebrity: Jack The Ripper versus The Elephant Man
The 1880s: Darwin had convinced most people in England that the process of
evolution meant the next generation would make their generation look like monkeys
in comparison. To prove their status and relevance, people in the 1880s were
determined to celebrate regressive rather than progressive character traits. They
wanted to celebrate the aspects of people that they considered backward and
regressive. People wanted to promote qualities in their fellow man that were
humiliating and anti-evolutionary, to inhibit the feeling of being surpassed
The local government replaced all the statues of heroes with statues of toilets, irons,
and vacuum cleaners. Everything inspirational was being replaced with the
acceptance of the debilitating filth of human mediocrity. In the afternoon, people lined
up along the driveway of the mental home to applaud the new patients forcibly being
dragged in, as well as outside the jails to view the violent criminals. They also line 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 have to make their achievements even more
spectacular to keep up with the new fashion of celebrities. Dr. Livingstone tried to
convince his audience that everybody and every animal he met on his adventures
were cannibals. He did this by starving baby animals and then stuffing the mother’s
skins with fresh meat. Soon lying and pantomime replaced discussion and history.
But the more emotionally and physically disabled they were, the more their celebrity status became
invincible. As more and more machines of the industrial age threateningly came torepresent to people that they were becoming evolutionarily obsolete, people became more attracted to those who were previously outcast: prostitutes, the exotic other, mental patients, criminals, and the physically impaired. The greatest celebrities of the age had to involve a combination of crime, mental illness, sin and prostitution: like the crime and mental illness of Jack the Ripper and the physical deformity and “nativeness” (mother squashed by an elephant) of The Elephant Man.
As a child the Elephant man was thought so shockingly grotesque that the only job
he was suited for was selling women’s stockings door to door.
A theme park called “The Elephant Man’s Mother” celebrated how Joseph Merrick
suffered without his mother’s milk (nature): children could buy elephant man masks,
head sacks and trinkets at the gift shop.
Great thinkers and achievers made people feel inadequate like old school friends
who have made it big. People blocked them out by filling their minds with the lives of
the needy and emotionally retarded: Karl Stefanovic, Alan Jones, Kardashians.
Images of great art were replaced by Instagram pics of restaurant meals.
Philosophical proverbs and heroic mottos were replaced by tweets about – well –
other tweets. Prostitutes (then) and skinny models (now) along with sexually ambigous radio hosts are symbols of nonreproduction, and, along with criminals, are celebrated as an affront to the next
generation to the certainty of evolution.
Ugliness becomes the new trend with dog baiting and talkback radio, adults toileting
and fighting in the streets to affirm their human / non-robot status. The ultimate
machine of the age – the clock – torments people by reminding them of an evolved
future of which they will not be part of and obliterating the past which they felt
Darwin’s theory of evolution means babies are the masters of the next generation,
exploiting the adults’ fear that they would have to mutate to survive. Babies are
destroying the old London by driving steam train tracks through old buildings and
replacing trees in the parks with wooden chairs stacked in the shape of trees.
Mothers used long handled prams because they feared the violence of their pumpedup babies. Babies in top hats roam the streets looking to kill regressive human forms
and at the races shooting any non-winning horse.
The London zoo is the only sanctuary for the adults from the oppression of evolution.
The zoo animals in cages were confirmation that the adults weren’t the bottom of the
evolutionary ladder, the skin tight cages they put the animals in demonstrated the
adults’ superior freedom and intelligence, the wheels they put the cages on made it
possible and convenient for the adults to express their anger at the animals rather
than the system. Like Lord Curzon, Captain Cook and Gordon of Khatoum adults felt
it safer to concentrate on the individual not the system.
Time does not beget wisdom. During the Crimean War the Kerch Museum housed one of the world’s best collections of ancient artefacts. The soldiers of the Russian, Turkish, English and French armies did not wait until the battle was over to loot and destroy the contents of the museum. The battlefield became littered with stolen and abandoned priceless ancient vases, statue rubble, marble arms and legs, historic maps, public records and fragile shields and delicate spears.
The average age of a general in the Crimean war was 77. It was the last war in which inexperienced old Englishmen without military talent or intelligence could buy control of an army of young men. Generals directed a battle from a safe distance and insisted on living a civilised lifestyle despite being on a battlefield. They drank and washed from the top of every stream whereas the young soldiers got Cholera and Typhoid from drinking water from the bottom of the stream. The young men were forever soiling their pants and coughing up phlegm. They became deaf from the close range of the canons, and crippled by the activity of battle, appalling sleeping conditions and worst medical services than the older generals.
The old men were relaxed and invigorated by battle, comforted with the knowledge that in war how old you are is measured not by how far you are from birth but by how close you are to death. So in this environment all the young soldiers were in fact much older than they.
During the looting of the Kerch Museum babies traded with ancient coins, and many of the local children have loaded themselves with looted Hellenistic Period coins. They are finding that despite their wealth they are being ignored at the antique auctions, turned away from the all-you-can-eats and the slot machines merely fire back their coins quite hard and at shin level height. Most tragically their money will not buy them the medical attention, which is reserved only for the old generals.
Some old generals have tied strings of babies around the vegetable gardens to protect them from bombs and erected baby scarecrows. Other generals have tied babies to the front of their horses like fluffy dice. A bomb has landed and exploded in the local fortune teller’s shop, sending thousands of fortunes flying into the air. They are chased by giddy old men through the battlefield and across minefields, while a palm reader has set up shop to service distraught wives who collect blown-off hands and arms in search of information about their husbands.
This is about a taxi ride in Mexico. The driver speeds and swerves in the chaotic streets, a contrast to the careful and calm way he has cut the outlines of the porno images he has pasted on his steering wheel and dashboard. Le Merced, the world’s largest market, has the world’s largest porn section. Porn is so abundant that the merchants use it to wrap their sales. Porn litters the entire area. When you look down, you realize you are walking in a sea of erections and shiny vaginas.
Behind the porn section is a “park” where old prostitutes lean against trees, which have been fenced off to stop people from leaning against them. From behind the trees emerge pimps with vicious dogs on a chain.
On the right is Garibaldi Plaza where all the Mariachis wait to be picked for a party on Friday or Saturday evening. Couples drive up to be serenaded, and frantic hosts go to audition Mariachi bands. Most Mariachis go to Garibaldi Plaza to pretend to have a gig or to try to get in on someone else’s gig. They pose, prance, show off their outfits and generally do nothing to make it look like something.
On his birthday Endora gave Darrin a magic mirror which the owner can use to swap lives with anyone he captures in it. When Aunt Clara delivers the mirror she crashes the van and the mirror shatters into thousands of pieces and so everyone in the neighbourhood can swap lives with somebody else with unsatisfying consequences.
Darrin is sick of his life in the suburbs and thinks to himself he is possibly sick of his wife Sam as well. He wishes he could have been a football star instead of being stuck in this life. However, he can not identify any other life which he is certain is a better life than his own; and equally difficult to face is the prospect of abandoning his own unique potentials and “special-ness”. He is doubly thwarted by his own doing, as the successful advertising slogans thought up by himself for the company he works for, McMahon and Tate, have made it more difficult for him to identify a suitable life swap by making everybody feel fat, inadequate, and boring with bad skin.
After many attempts Darrin decides the best way to use his magic mirror is to lean it against his house and run circles around it thus producing thousands of Darrins younger than he is in the present and having the opportunities to improve his own past rather than take another life he is unfamiliar with. In this way Darrin can explore all the possible life choices he didn’t take.
However, this plan is discarded as he becomes obsessed with finding the adult women which were once the young girls he had crushes on before he reached puberty, and uses most of his younger self Darrins for this purpose. He is also desperate to have his younger Darrins re-enact episodes of his childhood where he was personally cruel or allowed cruelty to go unchallenged and victims to go unhelped. Using McMahon and Tate billboards Darrin paints the scenes from his childhood he wants corrected. One important victim of his childhood was a girl with a bowel disorder called Carty Farty, who used to get her clothes from the lost property box and as a child Darrin gave her a grubby old tennis ball for a birthday present as a joke.