Coales' Notes: Art, and rumours of art: Gordon Coales fends off the attentions of the media and observes the workings of the law at close quarters

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY: A new fly-sheet arrived today, announcing yet another fictional 'Wormwood-in- Exile' art event. I simply threw it away, unread. If Fiona and crew think I'm falling for that again, they are gravely mistaken.

This evening I told Rowena about how I was being plagued by their plot to disseminate rumours of non-existent art, and how I myself had been mistaken for a living sculpture. She feels that it will come to nothing, because people simply aren't that interested. I trust she is right.

I also mentioned that I had received a gloating phone call from Alan, and that he kept on asking me whether I needed work. But she said, rather worryingly: 'Doesn't it sound as though he might have been offering you a job? What did you say to him?' I replied that I had told him I never wanted to hear his voice again. She said: 'Oh, was that very wise?' I agreed that if he rang again, I would listen to what he had to say. But it is now 10 days ago.

TUESDAY: I was rung up by the West Street Station Manager, 'further to this art you told me to be watching out for last week'. He said he had been spreading the word a little, and had received some news back from the bus depot. There was much excitement there, because they had 'discovered something that might very well be a work of art - and they want to know what to do with it'. I replied that it was probably all a false alarm, but could he describe it anyway.

He said: 'It has been described to me as a figurine, a large figurine, of human form.' I agreed it sounded like a possibility, and asked him where it was. He replied: 'It has apparently been placed on a stone block, immediately opposite the bus depot, in the most blatant way.' I said what he was talking about was surely the statue of Mr Gladstone, erected by public subscription in the 1890s.

He said: 'Ah. Yes. I see your point. One does tend to overlook these things in the normal run of events. But once you start looking, they suddenly turn up, don't they? So - not a work of art then?' I replied that that was disputable, but it was certainly not a new one. He said: 'Well, win some, lose some. We'll keep hunting.' I tried to persuade him to call the search off, but thought that in the circumstances one couldn't be too careful.

WEDNESDAY: Heard nothing more from Alan, and I have no idea how to get hold of him.

THURSDAY: Things are getting out of hand. Today I had Dave Curley from the Herald on to me. He told me that the man who drove his car into the front of the Centre just after Christmas was up for a hearing tomorrow - would he be seeing me there? I said I was sorry to hear he had been demoted to court reporter. He said: 'No, no. This is an arts story. I understand this guy was an outrider, ha ha, for your underground arts festival. It was - what d'you call it - a performance work.' I assured him he was labouring under a huge misapprehension because (a) the motorist had nothing to do with any festival, (b) nor did I, and (c) anyway there was no arts festival, it was a complete phantom. He said: 'Oh really. So who was that living sculpture arsing about in the Gilbert Arcade last Thursday?' I changed the subject, reminding him of his duty to stick to established fact, and the serious risk of being in contempt.

FRIDAY: I thought I had better go to the hearing to keep an eye on things. I noticed Fiona sitting on the other side of the court, trying to wink in my direction. I resolutely ignored her - though it occurred to me that she probably knows Alan's number.

The defendant was a cheerful looking man. His lawyer explained that he was a 'man with a sense of mission', a local artist who had long tried to get his work into the Centre and had resorted to the only course of action left. The story about him taking an axe to the foyer was false; he had simply been trying to install an exhibition of his paintings. The Centre had been empty. No one was hurt. He had already spent several weeks on remand. All in all it didn't seem a bad defence, and I thought, if ever the place reopens we must give this chap a show. Then he requested permission to read out a statement, and from my long experience of artists' statements, I knew this was going to be a suicidal move. Fortunately it was disallowed.

The magistrate took a sympathetic view. The driver was granted bail, on condition that he was not to visit any art gallery in the country, 'nor', as the magistrate put it, 'any other place of art'. And then he added: 'though from what one hears, that would now appear to include everywhere within a five-mile radius of this court]' I saw Fiona concealing a broad smirk. And when even the bench allows itself to become a conduit for utterly groundless rumour-mongering, one may as well just give up.

Where is Alan?