Tales of the Unexpected
Sandhu, Sukhdev, New Statesman (1996)
Many of the most intriguing books this year have been concerned with unusual or elusive texts. In Notes From Russia (Fuel), Alexei Plutser-Sarno brings together a small fraction of the handwritten advertisements, graffiti, public notices and beggars' scribblings that he has collected over the past 20 years. Offering a shadow history of a nation in the grip of social and economic turbulence, they are by turns funny, sad and revelatory: "Tough work, minimum wages, but boy is it fun!" reads one. Another suggests "Rules of the Disco": "Boys: when asking a girl to dance, don't grab her by her hand and shout, 'Hey you! Let's dance!'"
In Madonna of the Toast (Mark Batty Publishers), Buzz Poole reproduces images of food that contain unlikely and sometimes divine imagery: Rasputin on the inside of a cat's ear; Jesus on pan-fried pierogi, the word "Allah" on a guppy. The lengths to which people go to decode and interpret these confluent visuals are extraordinary. Potentially a danger to their well-being, too; a man who told the press he had discovered Mother Teresa in a cinnamon roll complains, "One website called me a heathen. I was just trying to have breakfast."
The Dulwich Horror: H P Lovecraft and the Crisis in British Housing (Space Station Sixty-Five) is the catalogue of a show by Dean Kenning in which the artist repurposed those "To Let" signs that litter British streets and produce feelings of social precarity. He uses them as canvases on to which he paints ghastly, squiddish monsters inspired by the creatures in Lovecraft's supernatural tales. …