BY Neil Mulholland in Reviews | 06 JUN 01
Featured in
Issue 60

Dub, I-in TROODer

Transmission, Glasgow, UK

BY Neil Mulholland in Reviews | 06 JUN 01

Curated by John Beagles and Graham Ramsay, Dub‚l-inTROODer brought together collaborative practices loosely connected by a lampooning of critical postmodernism. Work ranged from the photography of Austrian artists Markus Muntean and Adi Rosenblum to the paintings, photography, music and performance of Bob and Bob, a duo active in LA in the late 1970s and early 80s. Muntean and Rosenblum's pictures of bored fast food workers, Untitled (1999), are pervaded with a cool, ironic detachment that contrasts starkly with Bob and Bob's kaleidoscopic painting We're Stoned - What are You? (1979). Bob and Bob's charismatic persona-based aesthetic, which mixes sharp-suited hairspray cocktail gloss with Cheech 'n' Chong stoner philosophy ('If this were real would you buy what you're selling?'), was by far the most convincing in its rejection of 'worthy' art.

Bob and Bob's aesthetic seems to have rubbed off on Beagles and Ramsay who constructed a curiosity cabinet inside a small Nissan hut, which contained 'drone worker clones of the artists and plans to kill all dogs'. Alongside were products from their 'Rope a Dope and New Heads on Block Toy Division', objects which debunk the Scottish penchant for cheap nostalgia. Hamish (1999), a ginger-haired doll of a tartan army football fan, commemorates the events of 1977 when Scotland supporters dug up the pitch at Wembley. The Shit Broons (2001) parodies 'The Broons', a Sunday Post comic strip about the antics of a large matriarchal family stranded in Dundee in the 1950s. Beagles and Ramsay remodel them as über-savages from a housing estate, recalling in turn 'The Greens', a Broons spoof from Electric Soup, the Glaswegian version of the English comic Viz. Reference to current Scots (gastronomic) culture prevailed: the Burger Babe (2001) doll has a hamburger for a head, and homages appear to LiDL, the popular discount German supermarket. As Beagles and Ramsay are well aware, this is just as much part of the populist myth of Scotland's self-decapitating self-image as projected by politicians, the media and comedians. As such, rather than judge and denounce, Beagles and Ramsay contribute to the myths, amicably realizing that there is no alternative.

This much might be said of BANK who exhibited a number of canvases of jumbled superimposed gestures and images which ape appropriation painting. Austrian Painting (2000) is covered with graffiti-ed epitaphs to an inherent distrust of mannerist painting. 'Bad' painting's anti-aesthetic is played against itself (again), an attenuated assault on issues of taste and class in art masquerading as black humour. Such parasitical gestures of indifference and lack of patience with painting have long been both inappropriate and banal.

Equally keen to piss inside the tent are Bob and Roberta Smith and David Burrows who collaborated on Le Ecöle dé Bürrows et Bõb Smïth (2000-01). They are pictured honing their comedy double-act around London's Soho, eating at the Aberdeen Angus Steak House and Yo! Sushi and smoking cigars in blokish camaraderie outside The French House pub. A video documents the duo taking turns to beat each other into submission, one wearing a mortarboard, the other a Joseph Beuys hat. The student valiantly attempts to resist being forced to 'believe' in a number of contemporary artists. The teacher uses increasing corporal punishment, moving from a broom to a plank of five-ply wood. 'I believe in bloody boring Christine Borland' yells Burrows after a prolonged spanking.

The mercenary Ecöle ... offers examination by wealth, height, fatness, sexy looks, fitness, bloodline and, lastly and leastly, talent. Its slogan, 'Over$eas $tudents Welcome'‚ makes clear reference to financial motivations behind the recruitment of increasing numbers non-EU students in the UK. Although Le Ecöle dé Bürrows et Bõb Smïth is largely irreverent, it ultimately leaves us to ask how far the comedy removes us from the pantheon of fatuous institutional critique. This is less obviously true of Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley's video Heidi (1992) which sees the masked duo metamorphose into the dysfunctional young orphan Heidi, grumpy Grandpa and Peter the goatherd.

Tales of madness, perversion and masturbation and images of faux shitting dominate the proceedings, fabricating a transparent juxtaposition with the idyllic naivete of Johanna Spyri's Heidi (1880). The unrestrained moral of rural redemption and self-determination in this children's tale makes it a comfortable choice for deconstruction; numerous folk tales contain elements far darker than McCarthy and Kelly's imaginations. Their theatrical degeneracy is dated by self-consciously postmodern quotations from Adolph Loos' Ornament and Crime (1908) as we see Heidi's buttocks tattooed with a flower and a white cube. Heidi nonetheless remains important, for in masquerading fantasy and refraining from pedagogy, it provided a blueprint for much of the work in this exhibition.