Wednesday 11 May 2011

In May (‘Nine completely naked girls’)

May, the best month: all summer to come, and not having to put on layers of clothing when I get up in the early hours. And this afternoon I stumbled across a lovely exhibition in an alleyway in Clerkenwell titled Savage Messiah – which is the title of the Ken Russell film about Gaudier-Brzeska, screenplay by Christopher Logue – and there was a poster poem by Logue titled ‘In May’ which gave me the perfect cue, and I copied the first lines into my notebook.

Then I left my notebook in the adjacent cafe. I was, a little bit, bereft. Then this evening someone calls me, and can recite those lines from memory: ‘Nine completely naked girls / Will dance all afternoon/ On the tomb of the Unknown Conscientious Objector. / In keeping with tradition / Their profitable mounds will be close-shaved; / There will, however, be no posing.’ Some kind of magic is operating here.

The exhibition (at 1 Sutton Lane, London EC1M 5PU, until the end of May) is worth calling by. No queues. This is not official art history but it’s a sly and winning take on it: beginning just pre-1914, time of of mad manifestoes (‘Vortex is the point one and indivisible!’) but a period that’s still wide open, that no one has taken a conclusive measure of, and there’s Bill Woodrow and Paolozzi and contemporary artists in there too and photos of Jane Birkin with nothing on and videos of Logue reading and Ezra Pound stalking about a room and slamming books down on the floor. It’s why London isn’t a bad place to live, especially in May.

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