These works represent a lifelong fascination with the powerful imagery of puppetry in all it’s manifestations. It started when I began working in the theatre at the ripe old age of 22. The puppet shows were, and still are, an international creation, wonderfully rich and varied throughout its long history. Another world.
Puppets can at once be joyful, humorous, dramatic, dark, and even sinister. From shadow puppets to marionettes and a huge variety of other forms, puppets and puppetry dates back thousands of years and across many different countries and cultures.
They also have a place in art history, with puppets created by artists such as Paul Klee and Kurt Schmidt.
In these strange times, restricted, quarantined, we are trapped, full of life and yet unable to move freely. There is also an air of surrealism, not only in the context of this pandemic, but in politics and society as a whole.
Below are some of my recent works, completed during isolation, but they are part of an ongoing body of work featuring puppets and masks, and sharing some commonalities with other bodies of work such as my Victims series and Shrines series.
By now the one- legged seagull (aka Pegleg) had eaten almost all the ‘Beyond Aesthetics’ copy. Yet there was one chunk that remained. Curious, our man (aka Robinson) read this last uneaten fragment. Maybe Pegleg found it totally indigestible?
It read ‘The bogus separation between art and theory is broken down by interventionist uses of quotation which rely on a theoretical understanding of the way ideology informs subjectivity, in order to undermine the culturally- loaded meanings invested in images. Since, as Hal Foster wrote, any truly critical practice must transform rather than merely manipulate signification, (re) construct rather than simply dispense structures of subjectivity’
(At our OAP bingo evenings, we talk of little else. -Ed)
Robinson rolled this into a ball and wondered how far he could throw it, but was distracted by Pegleg . The dear bird was now cross-eyed and looked in extreme discomfort. What followed with his friend was a most violent attack of diarrhoea. This bird had dumped (pro rata) the biggest load of crap Robinson had ever seen. But, of course, he knew that anyway.
Robinson glanced at the offending bottle, a vessel redolent of such hope, a hope that had morphed into a wasteland. There was still a small slip of paper stuck to the base of the bottle. Should he read it? Why not?
It was a note about some recent paintings by an artist that Robinson had never heard of. Didn’t look up to much. Anyway, he reads (by Abi) the following:
‘This series of small paintings from David Armitage, entitled ‘Fragments’ contains elements or sections of other works. In a process of palimpsest the work involved was re-used or altered but potentially still bore visible traces with its earlier form.’
Robinson was fascinated by this ‘palimpsest’ term. It sounds like something that a teenage son or daughter would not talk to their parents about. Or it could be a wee beastie that scuttles around a lot and keeps you awake at night.
Anyway, he stuffed all the remaining bits back into the bottle, climbed to the top of an adjacent cliff, gave it three swings around the head, and let it go.
His anguished cry of despair followed the bottle far out to sea. It could be heard for miles around.
When he awoke from a troubled nights sleep, our man did not feel like breakfasting on another dollop of ‘beyond aesthetics’. Instead, he noticed that several shorter pieces had been appended to this magnum opus ….in effect, slighter ruminations of Artspeak.
These pieces were dignified by their brevity, if not their gravitas or syntax.
He started on this little gem. ‘The significance of an ordinary item…. an inventive and unusual exploration of the cultural history of the button with all it’s metaphorical and lexical suggestiveness’….(true!) or… ‘In a process of palimpsest, the work evolved or was reused or altered but potentially still bore visible traces of its earlier form…. the result is a body of work that reflects themes of female identity, diversity and transition. (Gosh!). or ‘What follows is: impossibility to believe in discussion for imagery…..#towards aphasia, towards immobility, for a progressive identification of consciousness and praxis….
Was our man developing a morbid fascination with this tosh? Rather like watching kitsch soap operas when nobody was around? He was armed with acres of this twaddle that would make the winter nights fly by.
Nights! Nights! His dream hurtled back.
He had invented an ABM machine! (An Art Bollocks Machine) and it had made him a fortune. The punter simply keyed in the show he or she was doing. As a demo he chose a show called ‘An anthology of socks full of cold porridge’ (international of course.) This opened more bollocks doors than a French farce. He asked for 3x A4 pages, double spaced, paid his money, and Bingo! The machine chuntered out the result. Terrific stuff!
This market was huge. Think of anything, as is now academic, call it art, and good old
ABM would do the business. It did a fabulous job on ‘German battle cruisers and the suspender belt’. An international touring show, people now speak of little else.
He had a rude awakening. A one- legged seagull had befriended him and was demanding some breakfast. The bird seemed quite keen on snacking on the recently arrived paperwork. He pecked at it. Wanted more. Was it edible?