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I wrote about midwifery for VICE

I love the NHS. I love midwives. And it was an honour to speak to one about what actually happens on the business side of your cervix. You can read the official edited version online here.

Or an unedited version below…

The miracle of birth is, if not prosaic, then certainly a daily occurrence for the nation’s midwives. As health budgets are tightened and birth rates increase, many of us may forget what the delivery person sees, smells and get soaked in up to four times a day. Some expectant mothers may even worry that they’re going to do something that will shock or disgust this army of birth experts. But the truth is quite the opposite. We spoke to a typical London midwife to find out what work at the coalface of colostrum and cervixes actually looks like. And to reassure you that, honestly, they’ve seen it all before.

Your bumhole

Women should not be embarrassed about pooing in front of their midwife. “We literally don’t give a shit – it doesn’t faze us,” my midwife friend says, smiling. “You just deal with it. You get a pad out, catch it and get rid of it. It’s absolutely fine – and a good sign. It’s our normality.” You see, when the baby’s coming down it presses against the rectum and that may force a shit out.


Lolitics: Thank the police

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On Tuesday I took part in Chris Coltrane’s lovely political comedy club, Lolitics. It was the first time I’d ever been, let alone performed, but it was brilliant. You should all go.

Typically, I wrote my bit for the show in an hour, the night before. And quite a lot of what I said on stage wasn’t written. But, if you want to read some of what I said, you can find it below. Also, it will be released as a podcast, hopefully soon.

Now there is a reason that I’m dressed as one of Big Bird’s condoms. And I will come to it later.

But right now I want to talk about the police. Specifically London Met Police. Because as you probably all saw in the news yesterday – of all the terrible things the Met Police have done in recent years they’ve now achieved the quite stunning feat of making Andrew Mitchell look like a victim. This is Andrew Mitchell we’re talking about here – a man who looks like nothing more than an uncooked frankfurter dipped in fag ash; a shaving brush with an untreated case of gingivitis. A man whose party, under the 2012 Health and Social Care Act effectively turned the National Health Service into a particularly unlucky, watery-eyed fresian cow to get repeatedly fucked and milked, fucked and milked, fucked and milked until it is eventually taken out the back, shot in the face and it’s corpse sold off to the highest bidder. (Continued)

Deux Cheveaux for IdeasTap

Deux Chevaux: Pulling a car through London by horse

I interviewed a lovely artist for IdeasTap the lovely day who pulled a two horsepower car through London with two actual horses. You can read it online here.

Or an unedited version below…

“I was talking to a friend in Dubai, looking to get 325 horses and pull a Ferrari that had been abandoned in one of the airports,” says William Mackrell, on the phone from his studio in London. The project in question became Deux Chevaux: a puntastic live art piece in which William travelled through London sites of historic and cultural interest in a two horsepower car, pulled by two actual horses.

“I’m really interested in how we began with this organic, human language for powering movement,” explains William. “Horsepower is such a funny, curious phrase – I just wondered how that would play out in the street. What it would look like as a physical moving object. I wasn’t even sure if the two horses would do it.” So that’s exactly what he did. Went onto, bought a little French Deux Chevaux from somewhere outside Derby and got planning. (Continued)

I wrote about female drag queens for VICE

A few months ago the brilliant photographer Holly Falconer came to me with an idea for a feature: Female Drag Queens. Of course, I was instantly hooked.

Holly’s images are amazing. So, read it online with the full gallery here.

For a longer version of the text, I’ve pasted my first draft below…

Nine o’clock on a Sunday morning is for the walk of shame or going to church. But for the faux queens of London this is a time that straddles both; the foundation-smeared grotty beauty of a morning creep home, and the towering feminine performance of your Sunday best.

Which is why I find myself in a studio beside the stagnant canal of Dalston watching eight women construct a vision of feminine flamboyance across their simple female faces. Women becoming drag queens. Faux fur, glitter beards, high heels, glossed lips, sprayed wigs, thick powder and blushed on breasts. The atmosphere isn’t decadent; it’s concentrated. The quick, precise flicks of Paks liquid eyeliner aren’t applied in a lambrini-headiness of pre-party hysteria, but slowly built up like the plaster I watched my father smooth onto strangers’ walls. But what does it say about our idea of femininity that women in wigs, corsets, stilettos and seven ounces of make up can sing, strip, get groped and shake to audiences in the name of gender fuck. Who is getting fucked? Is the best way to confront prejudice really humour and confusion? And can we, in fact, learn more about what it is to be women by disguising gender through a constructed, post-sex persona? (Continued)

I wrote about Kickended for The Guardian

Yesterday afternoon my lovely editor at Guardian Arts got in touch asking if I could interview the artist Silvio Lorusso about his project Kickended – an archive of every Kickstarter project that failed to get a single dollar.

You can read the edited version online here.

Or my slightly garbled first draft below….

In the world of crowdfunding, the line between success and failure is cigarette paper thin. Potato salad thin. Christian rap album thin. Conspiracy novel about the possible antichrist Bill Clinton thin. Which is one of the reasons that Italian artist and researcher Silvio Lorusso created Kickended; an online archive of every Kickstarter campaign that failed to gain a single dollar of support. Using KickSpy, the artist’s site trawls the crowdfunding platform to bring those silent, failed projects into the light. Not to mock, but to mark.

“The failure is only a result of that particular context; of the Kickstarter narrative,” says Lorusso on the phone from Italy. “If you took some of those videos out of the Kickstarter box and put them on, say, YouTube, you would think they were really interesting art projects.” And, in the case of the New England Bridges project or the Remote Viewer, Astrotraveler, Obenaut and Paranormalist Michael Tellstar, I can see what he means.

Of course, risking failure is intrinsic to making art; from stagefright to your opening sentence, creativity is all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Or, as the man of a thousand wrinkles Samuel Beckett put it, sometimes all we can really hope is to “Fail again. Fail better.” But could anything have really made the Prosperity fashion bracelet or pocket bra cup fail any better? (Continued)

I wrote about lunch with a cheese dough artist for MUNCHIES

The brilliant new editor at Munchies suggested that, instead of simply writing about the last exhibition at Space in Between, or just interviewing the artist behind Communal Juicing, what would be more fun is if I went for lunch with him and wrote it up, as an experience.

The resulting article can be read online here.

Or the longer, unedited version below…

“So, whose vaginal fluid did you use?”

This is not, on the whole, something I ask over a cup of tea. At least, not on a Wednesday lunchtime, tucked under a side table in one of Shoreditch’s first-wave Italian cockney cafes. Not while eating an omelette across the table from a man wearing a black tracksuit top, with a copy of The Sun nestled against his “Special Breakfast.”

But the 29-year-old, Essex-born artist Matthew de Kersaint Giradeau – a name that summons images of French aristocracy, rather than East London fried bread – is a man who brings together the art object and the abject; philosophy and shit; luxe lifestyle health culture and pube-sprinkled lumps of dough. So where better to talk art and semen, crisps and metaphysics than over three types of potato and a plate of beans four miles east of the White Cube.

Matthew’s most recent exhibition, Communal Juicing, included something called The Cheesedough Series – art objects made of homemade playdough, coloured and salted with broken Cheetos, glazed with extra strong cider, semen and vaginal fluid. They were sometimes funny, sometimes beautiful, but all folded through with intense philosophical ideas and conceptual thinking. Was he ever worried about how people would react?

“This entire project could only exist in a food culture like Britain’s when it was sort of shock and awe from the 1980s onwards,” says Matthew, as I eye up the squeezy bottles of brown and red sauce that stand guard at the edge of our table. “Up until then, garlic would have been something quite crazy. Then suddenly, in a generation and a half, even my mum had eaten most things.” There’s not a lot of garlic hiding in the sticky, laminated breakfast menu between us; but there is a hell of a lot of egg. I, as someone who likes to treat life a long-form training montage from a Sylvester Stallone movie, opt for the cheese omelette. It comes with chips or salad. “Chips and salad is okay madam,” relents the waitress when I beg – the lovelight of salty potato in my eyes. Matthew orders the Special Breakfast with hash browns instead of tea and a can of Fanta. (Continued)

I tried CycloCross for Guardian Do Something

I think I’m what my mother would call ‘a game old bird’. Which is why I found myself, somewhere out among the fields of Essex on a Sunday morning, cycling around an assault course dressed as a stage hand.

You can read the full feature online HERE.

Or an unedited version below….

“Wear lycra”.
These are not, on the whole, words I welcome on a Sunday morning. Neither are “The brakes aren’t great” nor, “If at any point you feel scared, just pick up your bike and run.” And yet, there I found myself, in lycra, looking out over the fields of Essex to Canary Wharf on the horizon, legs quivering, while Bun Spurrier of Vicious Velos attached my pedals to a Condor cyclocross bike.
Cyclocross, for those of you who aren’t Belgian, is a mix of road and off-road cycle racing. In short, you whirl around a pitted, humped, gravel and grass track, thundering over logs, across ditches, up banks and through woods, on the sort of bike most people use to commute to work. It’s a way for keen cyclists to stay race- ready over autumn and winter, and a way for the rest of us to see what life is like as a ball bearing. (Continued)

I wrote about urinals and art fraud for The Guardian

Yesterday the lovely editor at Comment is Free called me up with the most brilliant commission: to write about Duchamp’s fountain and the misattribution of women’s art. And so, in my lunchbreak, that’s exactly what I did. You can read the edited, illustrated and generally better version online HERE.

Or the unedited version below…

Men may fill them, but it takes a woman to take the piss out of a urinal.

Or so Julian Spalding, former director of Glasgow Museums, and academic Glyn Thompson have claimed. The argument, which has been swooshing around the cistern of contemporary art criticism since the 1980s, is that Duchamp’s famous artwork Fountain – a pissoire displayed at an angle only usually seen by someone doing vertical press ups above a urinal cake – was actually the creation of the poet, artist and wearer of tin cans, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

That Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven has been sluiced out of her rightful place is not only a great injustice, it is also a formidable loss to art history. This was a woman, after all, whose idea of getting gussied-up for a private view was to scatter her outfit liberally with flattened tin cans and stuffed ex-parrots. A woman who danced on verandas in little more than a set of stockings, some feathers and enough bangles to shake out the percussion track from Walk Like an Egyptian. A woman who draped her way through several open marriages including to Oscar Wilde’s translator Felix Paul Greve, who faked his own suicide to escape his creditors and flee with her to America. A woman who – despite being met with the sort of response usually reserved for an unflushed turd by Hemingway and Ezra Pound – had her poems published in journals alongside excerpts from Ulysses. In short, she was the sort of woman that female artists working today need as a role model. I’d certainly take a Dadaist jumpsuit-wearing Baroness who worked in a fag factory and slept her way around the East Coast of America over, say, Julian Opie. (Continued)

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle

And yet, as one who seems increasingly cold, to whom eczema has afforded a certain scaliness, who can be found year round, splashing, gulping and flapping about in the frigid waters of river, sea and stream, who gapes, who longs to rush upstream to the quiet pools, who has been single for two years this month and who loves, needs and adores her bike more than anything… I am starting to wonder.

I think I might be a fish, who needs a bicycle.

I interviewed Aleah Chapin for VICE

It Was The Sound Of Their Feet, 2014 © Aleah Chapin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and NewYork.

VICE very kindly asked me to interview the American artist and painter Aleah Chapin about her new exhibition at Flowers Gallery. My god, she was lovely. You can read the published version online HERE.

Or the unedited version below….

Heavy breasts, crepe-like skin, puckered waists and thinning pubes; there is a silence laid across women’s bodies that screams along the corridors and white walls of most galleries. Painters, photographers and sculptors simply will not admit what lies beneath our clothes – the scars and wrinkles, the moles and rolls, the coarse black hairs and blue-veined skin. Which is, of course, one of the reasons that Aleah Chapin’s current exhibition at the Flowers Cork Street Gallery has garnered so much attention.

It is hard to stand beneath the towering figures of nine, naked, aged and ageing women, clasped buttock-to-belly or crawling through each others’ legs, without – in some small way – being shocked. Without thinking that you’ve never seen anything like this before. Which is, of course, shocking. According to the UN the number of older people is expected to more than double, from 841 million people in 2013 to more than 2 billion in 2050. And that age group is predominantly female – 100 women to every 85 men. So, what we’re looking at on the walls of Cork Street isn’t shocking – it’s the future.

We spoke to the artist from New York to find out why she wanted to paint this photorealistic vision of our beautiful female flaws and whether she ever thinks to herself, ‘does this look like a nipple’?

There’s a bit of an invisible woman syndrome in Britain and America; we simply don’t see middle aged or older women. We ignore them in the street and sweep them out of popular culture. Is that a silence you wanted to speak into with these paintings?

If you look in any museum, how many images of middle aged or older women do you see? Let alone naked. You can understand a lot about how a culture sees its people through the art it makes. (Continued)