Oh, you look so sweet, I thought, looking indulgently at my two sons. Angelic. Brotherly. Playing the fundamentally low-tech game of Subbuteo on the kitchen table (and being very on-message too, since apparently such old-fashioned games are back in favour).
I reach for my phone, to take a photo. My sons immediately turn away. “You’ll only put it on Twitter,” mopes the youngest. Children do not like being items on display, or at least mine don’t. They love taking selfies, of course, but standing around while I take a photograph of them? Forget it.
Bribery needs to be deployed, and, sometimes, vague notions of utterly gutted grandparents, viz: “Please be in this photograph because Granny would so love to see it.” I am resigned to the fact that my children are now of an age where a fleeting presence is all I am going to get, most of the time.
So how about: “Please walk around this contemporary art fair for a few days and be gawped at by a load of pretentious fashion victims?” Not a hope. “With conjoined hair, too.” Whaat? Yep. If anyone is interested, this is a genuine opportunity from a performance artist who cryptically goes by the name of Tunga.
You see, Tunga, apparently “the greatest living Brazilian artist”, took a series of photographs back in 1984 of two 11-year-old girls whose long hair was either a) very badly plaited or b) drastically lacking conditioner. It was so hopelessly tangled that one child was joined to the other. Or as Tunga’s people put it, “connecting almost umbilically”.
Are these rather voyeuristic photographs for sale? They are not. At Frieze art fair in London, as reported in this paper yesterday, you will be able to buy a “performance” of the subject, snappily entitled Siamese Hair Twins. People, please form an orderly queue.
The idea is this: you part with £20,000 and then the “iconic” Tunga, before laughing all the way to Barclays, gives you a certificate which will allow you to hire a pair of girls with matted hair and watch them walk about the fair.
Frieze clearly thinks the UK is full of wealthy mad people, since it is currently scouting for a pair of twin females, aged around 12, to fulfil this grim vision. Hair condition, irrelevant. Because nobody in the UK has really badly matted hair these days, thanks to the prevalence of Herbal Remedies conditioner in every bathroom across the nation, Frieze will lob in a long “conjoined” wig to achieve the desired Tunga look. Hurrah!
“People who feel art should be paintings on a wall are missing elements that are really exciting,” said the director of Frieze, Victoria Siddall, who (I am guessing here), has perhaps never lived with a 12-year-old, boy or girl. Siamese Hair Twins is part of the “live” section of Frieze, where people can invest in performance art. This is hardly a radically new idea; performance art is a venerable element of contemporary art, and can be utterly mesmerising. And people pay for it.
In pictures: Frieze art fair 2014
In pictures: Frieze art fair 2014
1/18 Art Frieze 2014
A visitor views part of an installation by artist Carsten Holler entitled 'Gartenkinder' at the Frieze Art Festival in London
2/18 Art Frieze 2014
Richard Tuttle’s ‘I Don’t Know, Or the Weave of Textile Material’
3/18 Art Frieze 2014
Christoph Büchel’s ‘Sleeping Guard’, (2009) at Frieze
4/18 Art Frieze 2014
Ramble by Richard Serra (2014)
5/18 Art Frieze 2014
A woman looks at a work of art by US artist Joyce Pensato entitled 'Micky for Micky 2014' displayed at the Frieze Art Fair in London
6/18 Art Frieze 2014
A visitor looks at an artwork by Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno entitled 'NGC 5892, 2013' displayed at the Frieze Art Fair in London
7/18 Art Frieze 2014
A visitor passes artworks by Alexander Calder "La Mezza Luna per un Lunatico" and Agostino Bonalumi's untitled work at the Frieze Masters in London
8/18 Art Frieze 2014
An installation by artist Friedrich Kunath entitled ''RE Vuillard (LAX) at the Frieze Art Festival in London
9/18 Art Frieze 2014
An installation by artist Farhad Moshiri entitled 'Colored Knives on Black' is displayed at the Frieze Art Fesival in London
10/18 Art Frieze 2014
A woman looks at an untitled work of art by US artist Sarah Crowner displayed at the Frieze Art Fair in London
11/18 Art Frieze 2014
A visitor stands next to paintings by artist Rob Pruitt entitled 'Suicide Painting LI' and 'Suicide Painting XLVII' as he views an installation by the same artist titled 'Coffee Table/Coke Table' during the VIP and press day at the Frieze Art Festival in London
12/18 Art Frieze 2014
A visitor views artist Reg Butler's artwork "Bending Girl" at the Frieze Masters in London
13/18 Art Frieze 2014
Sasha Burkhanova reacts to performers of artist James Lee Byers' artwork "Ten in a Hat", a replica of the original 1968 version, at the Frieze Art Fair in London
14/18 Art Frieze 2014
A man looks at an artwork by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson entitled 'Schools of Movement Sphere' displayed at the Frieze Art Fair in London
15/18 Art Frieze 2014
A visitor poses with artist John Stezaker's artwork "Shadow" at the Frieze Art Fair in London
16/18 Art Frieze 2014
Works by artists Slavs and Tatars entitled 'Tongue Twist Her' (R), 'Love Letters (No. 7) and 'Swinging Septum' (L) are displayed at the Frieze Art Festival in London
17/18 Art Frieze 2014
Carsten Höller, who is best known for his work Test Site, a series of giant slides for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, has created a new form of children's playground for Frieze. The installation at the Gagosian Gallery’s Frieze stand, entitled Gartenkinder, has walls and floor in red, green, blue and yellow, and includes all sorts of weird and wonderful play things, such as a large-scale dice that children can crawl inside, a giant mushroom that rocks like a roly-poly toy, a Perplexity Ball, whose bouncing direction cannot be predicted, an uncannily realistic octopus, and other elements. The installation emphasises the importance of play. Children can interact with the different sculptures placed at their disposition and be watched while doing so
18/18 Art Frieze 2014
General views as Serpentine Galleries marks the beginning of Frieze week by unveiling a specially commissioned fountain made from garden hoses by artist Bertrand Lavier at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery from 13 October 2014 through till 4 October 2015 at The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London
I once sat on a staircase in a south London house and watched someone jump over a plastic bag for about an hour. It was amazing. I then watched another artist put small tumblers of water, each containing a single tablet of Anadin, up the same staircase. That was pretty good, too.
I’ve even looked into the legendary Annie Sprinkle with the help of a speculum, in the name of performance art. But this, and other pieces of performance art, from Orlan’s plastic surgery to Franco B’s bloodletting, were creative acts dreamed up and executed by performance artists themselves.
Sometimes a performance artist might recreate a work originally devised by someone else, but again there is a significant level of self-determination going on. To my mind this is totally different from hiring children and having them perform out your own strange vision. I suppose anyone who has a child currently performing in, say, Billy Elliot or Matilda may disagree, but child actors are not performance artists. Furthermore they are trained, protected, chaperoned and, one hopes, physically present by their own volition.
I cannot envisage any child whose ambition in life is to parade mutely around an art fair in a hideous matted wig. The lonely children in the original Siamese Hair Twins photograph look anonymous, featureless, degraded by their follicular horror. Frankly, it is more Victorian freak show than anything else.
Can you imagine the conversation over the dinner table? “Darlings, Mummy’s got a fantastic idea for you both next Saturday.”
Oh, Brian Sewell, how we miss you!Reuse content