“Kneel down behind the chair. Now open your mouth really wide. I want you to imagine you’re at the dentist. Over to the left, at that light, he’s got a huge drill. You don’t like the drill. What’s over to your right? It’s the assistant holding something like a huge sharp screwdriver. What the hell is that? Maybe your friend in the camera can help. No. They can’t help. They’re just standing there. Look at the dentist. He’s getting closer. The drill is on. And the assistant? What’s he doing? The screwdriver! He’s turning it. He’s grinning. Something is glistening on the end of it. My God what is it? What are they going to do to you? Look to your friend again. He doesn’t care. You’re on your own. The dentist is laughing. So is the assistant. So is your friend… Hold that. Hold it… Right down the barrel. Ok great and cut. Shall we get one more for safety?”
When you do this shit all the time you forget about how absurd it is. That’s not the weirdest thing I’ve done by far. Normally I wouldn’t have to write about my day so the memory would get quickly packed in the weird-box along with all the other madnesses that come out in dreams. Being gutted by a werewolf, being a spaceman shooting robots alongside someone from Big Brother, talking about my experience with AIDS diagnosis and treatment, being a tampon elephant… There’s so much more but it’s buried so deep I wonder if I’ll ever remember. And I keep coming back for more. It’s been a very very odd couple of decades. It’s almost certainly, sadly, been more interesting and varied doing this stuff as a man. As a woman I get the sense it would’ve been far less diverse: “You’re in your bikini. You’re happy about being in your bikini. No, happier But it’s hot. You like that it’s hot. You’re happy. Oh but you’re also too hot in your bikini. Happy hot. Smiling because you’re so glad to be here in your bikini. But you need to get cooler somehow. Oh, maybe if you take off your bikini! Yes. You want to take off your bikini. Wait, why are you standing up? I didn’t say stand up. I said be happy. You don’t look happy. You’re not in shot anymore. Are you getting something out of your bag? Is it makeup? No it’s… is that a claw hammer? Why do you have a claw hammer in your bag? Now you’re smiling but I don’t like that smile. No! Oh God no! Ow! God! Why???? I’m making art! You’ve broken my wrist! Stop hitting me! Aargh! It hurts!”
I was earning my keep today. Absurd though it was, we got tea and my time wasn’t wasted. I was in and out quickly. The shoot was in one of the many out of commission fire stations in London. It’s a property guardianship, and it’s being taken over by an arts festival in May organised by Southwark council. Closed fire stations are such a frequent site in London these days they look normal. Fire stations that aren’t closed are as rare as black cabs with fares. The changing shape of this city. I explored the interior for a bit before the shoot, and found an abandoned locker room.
There’s so much unused space there. I wanted to make something in it immediately. I had nothing I had to prepare for the shoot which makes a change. Most of it was improvised to camera, and then the ending was that absurd Ed Woodish dentist nightmare I recounted at the top of the blog. It was a fun start to the day. Then I hung out in the evening sun with Anne-May, at Inner Temple. She’s housesitting so we had access to these beautiful, symbolically loaded heraldic gardens in the heart of ancient London. Finally I went up to Catford for noodles with my best friend. There’s nothing like restorative noodles with my best friend. And the shoot was fun. The director didn’t try and get me naked so i could leave the hammer in the bag. And I think the completed project will be joyful and strangely beautiful.