Mark Leckey: Portikus Im Leinwandhaus

By Mears, Emily Speers | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Mark Leckey: Portikus Im Leinwandhaus


Mears, Emily Speers, Artforum International


Around the same time Mark Leckey's show "Gorgeousness and Gorgeosity" opened in Frankfurt, tabloids in the UK were in a frenzy about the new laws permitting around-the-clock liquor sales and the prospect of an ugly rise in binge drinking in Britain. This made Leckey's fifty-five-minute DVD installation Drunken Bakers, 2005, seem a satisfyingly blunt two fingers up at the ridiculous piety of it all, the hypocritical mourning of a lost innocence that never was: It consists of a series of frames from Barney Farmer and Lee Healey's comic strip Drunken Bakers, to which Leckey and fellow artist Steve Claydon provide the voice-overs, in thick Liverpudlian burrs.

Sake, Drambuie, Pernod, martinis, Frangelico, grenadine--the bakers gorge on a veritable cornucopia of alcohol on the job, and as they do so their intermittent (half-baked?) attempts at pulling something out of the oven go haywire, and their bakery ends up as wrecked as they do. After putting paraffin instead of milk in the muffins, they pass out (the next frame showing them in the same position, in puddles of their own piss and puke), but somehow, with the remarkable fortitude of true career drunks and in a rather sweet depiction of brotherly love, they prop each other up and return, strip after strip, to bake again.

Leckey lifted the bakers almost intact from the magazine Viz, a defiantly anti-PC spoof magazine--toilet reading in every sense of the word (other strips include the self-explanatory Johnny Fartpants and The Fat Slags). By fading the screen to black between episodes, Leckey constructs an elliptical narrative that mirrors the sense of time lost by the drinkers and the viewer. The video plays in a white box with a white carpet; a clock projected onto the outside of the box tells a stuck time, the hour hand slipping back to three each time it manages to reach four. Leckey's earlier works also dealt with hedonistic time-wasting as a means of (temporary) escape from the strictures of capitalism and adult responsibility--but with much younger, sexier protagonists; these stubbly, bleary old fuckups' dependence on each other to keep up a simultaneous pretense and denial of reality is both touching and pathetic. …

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