WORD ON THE STREET
Danny DeVito wants to make Triplets and having a swing at bicycle polo
To promote my new show I was asked to appear on the Radio 4 show alongside Jeanette Winterson. Mindful, as I have to be in my line of work, of the animal rights brigade, I painstakingly prepared a list of my sources to read out on air lest I be accused of murder. Since it was me being touted as the ghoulish, fearless one, I was amused to hear Jeanette merrily volunteering her fondness for ‘ dispatching’ squirrels with an air rifle and wringing the necks of chickens, which are ‘so stupid they almost deserve to die’! Killing an animal: that is where I become horribly squeamish. Give me a maggot-ridden bit of roadkill any day.
Talking of which, I took a gang of dead animals from my freezer to a cattery- cum- crematorium in the heart of Epping Forest the other day. For my next show, Endless Plains, I am attempting a series of sketches of living animals from the ashes of dead ones. Drawn blind with a fine glue pen, the images appear only once I scatter the ashes. It’s a messy business and I end up with a dandruff-like coating on my clothes, hair and (mostly) in my lungs. There ain’t no health and safety in my studio – unless you count the inhaler I’ve consequently had to dig out to keep me from keeling over.
I’ve been thinking about the relationship between hosts and pests and the way one death leads to multiple births. This will be realised in the centrepiece of my show, which will be a fallen tree – cast in resin and painted realistically – that is being sapped by suckling pigs. Phallic pink mushrooms sprouting from its recesses will be plucked and eaten by birds. For this I’ve been learning to cast in silicone and plastic, under the tutelage of John Schoonraad at Lifecast. For someone who has spent much of his career casting Hollywood film stars, he greets my dead piglets with unusual enthusiasm. Perhaps they have better manners?
I get tired of the associations between taxidermy and Gothic or Victorian styles. I’m not remotely interested in viewing it in a dusty old antiques shop and why supposedly forwardthinking stylists turn up to photo shoots with lacy, ‘ boho’ outfits to put me in I’ll never know. It’s a cliché, and my least favourite mode of dress. I love Modernist buildings, hi-tech gadgets and contemporary art. It’s this context I want to see taxidermy in, not through the grubby old nostalgic lens it’s usually peered at. So I’ll try to look as space age as I can for my opening, starting with my new silver Acne coat.
A few weeks ago I went to the Islamic Fashion Festival at the Natural History Museum. It was irreverently compered by Rory Bremner and attended by an endless stream of royal Malaysians and our own HRH The Countess of Wessex. We were reminded throughout the evening that the theme was ‘diversity in modesty’ and after I’d recovered from my shock at the dry bar, I amused myself with how very differently our cultures interpret this word. Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of the Malaysian prime minister, took to the stage and I couldn’t help but compare her to poor old SamCam and their different lives. Our first lady can have her naked shoulders and ankles just as long as she holidays in a three-star B& B and cycles to work. Mansor, making up with diamonds for what was lacking in flesh, explained with a saucy smile that she had to dash home in the morning as ‘my husband wants his plane back’.
My sister Emily is a correspondent on ITV News and she occasionally emails to run her script by me as she writes it. Sometimes she’s looking for an alternative word to one she’s already used and credits me with a linguistic dexterity I don’t really have. I do have a thesaurus, though, and usually ping her back some suggestions. Even greater than the thrill I get from seeing her on the telly is the smug satisfaction I get from knowing I’ve co-authored the news. Recently I went to the launch of
at Acne on Dover Street. A photographer asked a complete stranger if he’d like his photograph taken with me. He refused, leaving me to try my best ‘ Isn’t this all fascinating!’ face as I stared at the pictures, really only focusing on the reflections in the glass in the hope I’d spot someone who did know me. I hate having my photograph taken. I was once snapped by Lord Snowdon, who would bark the instruction ‘Friendly!’ at me in an attempt to reach the light beyond my dead- eyed stare. It doesn’t matter how great the photographer; I always come out with about as much vibrancy as my own subjects. (pollymorgan. co.uk; breed london.com)
‘I get satisfaction
I’ve coauthored the news’