20 December, 2018–6 January, 2019

Piccadilly Circus
Underground Station

TROLL goes to MoMA
by
Gabriella Pounds

TROLL:

Seasons Greetings, WITCH. I thought of you at MoMA today. Nothing could prepare me for the lingering affinity I felt gazing at Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelly’s VHS tape Heidi (1992). There is one moment where an anonymous bum defecates a sausage into a china bowl, flanked by a couple, evocative of Hansel and Gretel—but absolutely twisted. They’re doll-like; super eerie. Hansel looks a bit like me; he’s bald, rubbery and pale with fuzzy grey side burns. Gretel is squeezing a yellow tub of American mustard on the table. She reminds me of that image of Kate Moss, bored as fuck, dressing a McDonald’s cheeseburger from the same decade. Except Gretel’s torso is comprised of fabric and her hair is a thick, wig of ‘Heidi’ plaits: visual clues that she is not of this world. But instead, like us, belongs to the sensuous realm of European folklore. 


Heidi is a sinister enmeshment of children’s fairy tales with conventions of horror movies. Reminiscent of Jonathan Demme’s Silence of The Lambs (1991) characters are assembled from prosaic materials: mannequin bodies and bulging, synthetic masks. In one scene, through the heart-shaped window of a Nordic-style chalet, we see a puppet sexually assault another on a quilted blanket. The result is a creepy mediation on childhood innocence, sexuality and perversion. The hills are alive and you’d be so into it.

In the museum book shop I thumb-licked through a McCarthy monograph. Masses of students with matching backpacks pushed past – my long nose kept knocking the shelf as I read. His early performances adhered to his punk-art ethos and featured anti-slick materials: oil, condiments, wigs and emulsion paint, kind of like you do. Did you know he also loved Christmas? Look up his 2014 sculpture Tree (an 80 foot inflatable Christmas tree that looked remarkably like a butt plug) or Santa Claus from 2001 (referred to as the ‘butt plug gnome’). Anyway—I’m exhausted from shuffling around the Pollocks and the dainty millennials in turtlenecks & wire rimmed glasses that seek those tonal splashes. Talk soon.

WITCH:

Hey TROLL. I appreciate the sentiment—but you’re an idiot. McCarthy is my biggest inspiration. My work utilises plush toys that I’ve collected for years or dolls houses embellished with shells: “Meine Schmuckstücke” (my trinkets). I adore ordinary, unconventional mediums such as Sellotape and really gloopy substances like cream, jam or squeezy cheese. John Waters said of McCarthy “the real naysayers who can’t see the reverse beauty of Mike’s sculptures or paintings should be outraged because they secretly know that his art does hate them and they deserve it.” And I totally agree. I work with a similar DIY intention, except with a different texture. I seek to infuse the mundane with the magical.

Reverse beauty, for me, is as an almost political stance. The so-called art of the ‘dark ages’ deeply resonates throughout my practice. I mean—witches are inseparable from it, aren’t we? If you visited the Metropolitan Museum in NYC or even the National Gallery in London—you’ll find us witches everywhere. Lumpy, imperfect bodies, riding backwards on a broomstick to the Sabbath, rendered in murky, elegant oils. I collide medieval iconography and materials with modern-day saints like Anna Nicole Smith and Lolo Ferrari, sex work and fetish, fleshy models with cellulite and sculptures made from meat or boiled eggs. Resurrecting the spirit of nineties McCarthy with something darker and in my opinion funnier, proposes a necessary antidote to an increasingly elitist, corporate world. “Frohe Weihnachten” (Merry Christmas), TROLL. I’ll see you in the Grotto.

Ami Evelyn Hughes (b.1989) is an artist, writer and editor-in-chief of GUT magazine. The publication as become known for its dark, occult subject matter and wicked cauldron of contributors—who hail from disciplines such as art criticism, silversmithing, photography, filmmaking, fashion journalism and design. It’s witty, caustic and anti-glossy: subversive of the prevailing understanding of beauty and aesthetics today.

Gabriella Pounds is a writer who lives and works in London, UK. She regularly writes for GUT and Frieze magazine, where she recently researched and produced the Frieze x Gucci film series.