Performance; THE MINT TEA ROOMS; ICA, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Conspiracy theorists among us might deduce that "Live Art" was the polymer industry's response to the revelation that wrapping clingfilm around your cheese sandwiches could prove carcinogenic. How could they offload all that stockpiled shrink-wrap? How could they convince the public: hey this product's so safe you can wrap yourself in it? Endlessly.

Yes, clingfilm has become such a staple of performance artists' repertoire, that it's hard to imagine how those poor boys of the Cabaret Voltaire coped without it back in 1916. The Offset, Matthew Glamorre's eclectic collection of excessive artists responsible for The Mint Tea Rooms evenings at the ICA, were not about to break this particular convention, proceeding to play with prodigious quantities of plastic packaging in its every incarnation.

Round one went to David Freeman's dance of the inflated carriers. Clusters of ballooning bags slowly sprouted legs to cavort gracefully through the mist of dry ice like strands of alien frog spawn floating in some noxious intergalactic ocean. Later, a mummified figure, gaffer-taped from head to foot, is flashed from her cocoon by Alex Binnie, before embarking on a ritual of facial piercing. Four defrosted chickens sewn to Binnie's tattooed body swing painfully from nylon threads, blood now coursing from the wounds. Luckily, a sheet of clingfilm underfoot can catch all bodily fluids plus the tin of white emulsion with which Lezanne has smeared her partner. It's all strangely unshocking, until I think of the sting of the paintstripper backstage.

Marcus and Julie studiously sit down to a game of Monopoly, their otherwise naked bodies shrink-wrapped and Sellotaped over with dozens of bulging fairground bags of darting orange goldfish. Sitting awkwardly in his chair, at one point Marcus comes perilously close to squidging a goldie underseat. This was strong stuff for the tattooed and pierced members of the audience who'd come in hope of onstage self-laceration: I mean, these were poor defenceless animals. "Oi, stop cruelty to goldfish," a bloke objects from the front row, supported by the heartfelt mutterings of a dozen others in a rare piece of audience interaction.

For provoke as they might, none of the Offset's antics could jostle up a reaction from the capacity crowd. The last Mint Tea Rooms at King's Cross's Splash Club had been heaving, sweaty, exciting - undoubtedly one of the best gigs of the year - yet, somehow, the same material here fell disappointigly flat.

Surrounded by giant cut-out hens, America's highest-paid porn star, Aiden Shaw, sang a few songs about necrophilia; club transvestite, Sexton Ming, gave us advice on cross-dressing; Donald Urqhuart recounted a diverting tale involving Queen Victoria and an electro magnet; and Add N To X played analogue sinths so loud that even the coolest members of the audience struggled to look chic and have their fingers in their ears at the same time. Minty, the art pop band formed by Leigh Bowery and now fronted by his naked wife Nicola in her patent, flashing cellophane tent, finished off the night singing: "How can they call it Art?" Away with you. With live animals and clingfilm, of course they can.

n 'The Mint Tea Rooms' ends today. 'Live Art' at the ICA continues with 'Jezebel', performance work from international women artists, until 7 Oct. Booking: 0171-930 3647

Comments