Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He's Gobby but Grayson's Revival of Ritual Makes Deeply Touching TV

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He's Gobby but Grayson's Revival of Ritual Makes Deeply Touching TV

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton The Viewer

Rites of Passage Channel 4, 10pm THE continuing evolution of Grayson Perry is one of the marvels of the age. Chelmsford's pride didn't find much success in the art world until middle age but since he won the Turner Prize in 2003 there's been no stopping him.

He's delivered the Reith Lectures, curated exhibitions, published books, sold his work for impressive prices, and successfully launched a career as a public speaker. And he's also made some punchy TV shows about transvestism, class, identity and masculinity.

Now, in Rites of Passage, working with his regular director and producer Neil Crombie, he's taken on the ambitious project of showing how much, in secularised Britain, we are lacking in rituals to help us to cope with the turning-points of life birth, coming of age, marriage and death in comparison with more traditional societies.

The way he has chosen to approach this subject is, like everything he does, challengingly confident or, put another way, incredibly gobby. He himself has created rites of passage for people in the UK, centering them on an art object he has made. The effrontery is remarkable but he carries it off.

"All rituals were invented by somebody! They didn't just come out of the ether from God!" he yells in his mouthy way, waving his hands. Not quite right perhaps. Rituals develop from community of life ("If fleas developed a rite, it would be based on the dog," observed Wittgenstein). But then, you might say Perry is part of our community of life, so why shouldn't he go for it? Heaven knows, he does. Tonight's opener to this four-part series goes straight in on death. He heads off to visit the extraordinary Toraja people of South Sulawesi province in Indonesia, renowned for their funerary rites.

As Perry discovers, meeting an 86-year-old widow mourning her husband of 70 years, it is normal here for a corpse to be kept in the family home for a year or more before a funeral ceremony is held, featuring the slaughter of water buffalo which have been donated in tribute 24 of them in this case. …

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