Grayson Perry is an Imperialist Wanker; Art Words
I’m in bed asleep. Suddenly, at the foot of the bed, Grayson Perry appears.
‘Oi! I’m angry with you Grayson Perry! Australia is angry with you Grayson Perry!’ I say.
‘Yes Yes. We know you’re coming to Australia soon for a major retrospective of your work at the MCA, ironically titled My Pretty Little Art Career. We read the Sydney Morning Herald article, the one that starts:
British Turner Prize-winning artist and cultural critic Grayson Perry has questioned whether Australian Aboriginal painting should be classified – or exhibited – as “contemporary art”.
‘What a pile of utter horseshit Grayson!’ I scold, sounding like his mother. ‘You’ve been very lazy with your thinking. An artist is only as good as his word and you’ve been speaking horseshit!’
Grayson fidgets, clinging to his childhood teddy Alan Measles. Alan says: ‘Let’s go on a motorcycle tour now Grayson. I don’t like this shouty lady! She’s righteous and her accent sounds common’
‘Oi Grayson! Your thinking lacks conceptual rigour. It does not stand up to scrutiny. It is imbued with an elitist tone. Rather than being contemporary thought, your work, Grayson Perry, speaks of an Empire of yester-year; an Empire you use your formidable media reach to bolster. I’m not buying your love for the Motherland you fool.’
I hide my favourite whip behind my back. Alan Measles spots it and tugs frantically at Grayson’s sleeve.
‘I’ve won the lottery of life in being born British,’ says Grayson to the camera and all the other Nationalists wave their Union Jacks in unison.
The British public can’t get enough of Grayson; they line up round the street for him. Grayson let’s them feel good about themselves again. He’s a large, brightly coloured decoy from reality. Grayson Perry is a sinister raconteur who denies the truth of Britain’s past.
‘What do you wear to receive a CBE from Prince Charles?’ Grayson cheekily asks the assembled English media pack and we all smirk because we know it could well be a frock! A posh frock. He turns up dressed as Camilla. And we’re all in on the joke.
What a laff. It’s been ages since I enjoyed a good laff says England. I’m feeling great I really am! ‘Let’s have a street party and invade the Falklands again, they were good old times.’
‘I’ll talk you through the complexities of the English Class System, all in a 3 hour TV series for channel 4.
Not an ‘um’ or an ‘ah’ stagger throughout it. Grayson is as charming as Parkinson. Talk under water he could.
‘I’ll hang shit on the aspirant middle classes and their preoccupation with notions of taste, but grovel up to the landed gentry. They inherited such great tapestries. They hang in their castles that they can’t afford to heat. Poor things. Did I tell you I used to be a Punk once?’ says Grayson, direct to camera. Directly to me.
‘I went to Taboo, Leigh Bowery’s club. Everybody was there.’
‘I make valuable tapestries of my own now. The Art Gallery of New South Wales bought one. Top dollar they paid for it too, they did! The suckers! Don’t worry, colonialism is over. These post-colonial times in which we live, are so much better than the bleak old days.’
The problem with celebrity artists is that eventually they start believing their own hype. Then they expect us to believe it too. The media attention gives them a God Complex. Critical Acclaim in the wrong hands can be a deathtrap. If the media goes to visit someone else, to see what they think, then the original celebrity has to say increasingly absurd stuff to get the camera’s attention back.
‘Grayson’ I murmur, ‘I do believe you’re an English Imperialist’
The word Imperialist has resonated through Grayson. He’s shaken. He knows we know.
Alan Measles has put his little motorcycle helmet on.
Grayson looks unsure of where I’m going with this. He’s looking around for his sycophants to step in. They didn’t turn up. Grayson is part of a cultural colonization program that’s been implemented in Australia.
Leni Riefenstahl walks into our dream. I’m surprised to see her, but not as surprised as Grayson Perry is.
She’s looking good. For a Nazi corpse. The highest-ranking Nazi to do no time. Evil does not always look evil.
Leni gazes at Grayson with a mixture of sadness and distain. Then she speaks:
‘Grayson Daaaarling! You are das latest Poster Boy of British Imperialism! You are to the British Museum vot I voz to Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics ja? An artistic pawn selling a bad, old way of thinking. Imperialism. And you are now on das Board of das British Museum? Ach, you are the piece of the work!’
I didn’t mean to make an Aryan supremacy portrait, it just happened naturally,’ exclaims Leni, feeling sorry for herself.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDzX81vACRI Leni Riefenstahl Olympia 1hour 55mins
The British Museum gave Grayson Perry full access to its archive, over 2 long and dusty years. Grayson picked out all the museum’s treasures that reminded him of him: ‘I’ll put this helmet in my show because it reminds me of a piece I made at art school!’
In return for this privilege, Grayson Perry delivered the British Museum a blockbuster. The entire public relations exercise is obnoxiously titled: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman.
The British Museum proudly sponsored by BP were very happy: ‘Gee we like this success lark that Grayson has delivered us,’ say the Board. Grayson is busy customizing a motorbike to ride his childhood teddy bear, Alan Measles round Europe. It’s very important art he is producing.
‘It sure beats defending our non-repatriation of the Elgin Marbles. That is so tiring!’ exclaim the Board.
From 1801 to 1812, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, turned up in Greece and went thieving at two of the World’s greatest cultural monuments, the Parthenon and the Acropolis. He was a man who was used to getting what he wanted.
‘Oh, I like that shape there,’ said Earl Elgin, ’I’ll ‘ave that, and I’ll ‘ave that one too, that’s nice, grab that one boys, careful now, more 19th century bubble wrap please gentlemen, careful, careful. Send a pigeon to Parliament, I’m gunna flog these to the British Museum and make me a pretty penny!’
Some of Elgin’s posh contemporaries weren’t impressed, even back then. Lord Byron took up his mighty pen to express his displeasure with the looting:
Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatch’d thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!
Meanwhile in the 21st century, beautiful humanitarian Amal Alamuddin, her husband George Clooney and their mate Matt Damon all clap for Lord Byron and his words. They’re all on the same team; they all want the Marbles returned to their rightful owners. They use their celebrity powers for good rather than evil Grayson. So There.
Enter Gary Foley from stage left. Gary Foley is a living legend in reflector sunglasses. He fights the good fight. He swings in past Grayson and Leni and tells them to f*** off out of the way.
Provoked by the British Museum’s continued ownership of some 6,000 Indigenous Australian items variously acquired after British contact, invasion and occupation of the continent beginning in 1770, Gary says:
“The British Museum grew out of the era of colonialism. The rest of the world grew out of those ideas 100 years ago. Their position has no credibility in the modern world. It’s really that simple.”
The British Museum’s collection includes the oldest known pieces of rare bark art (created by the Dja Dja Wurrung) that were sold to the museum in the 1850s by Scottish settler John Hunter Kerr. Gary and Aboriginal elder Gary Murray were central to a failed Dja Dja Wurrung attempt to have the barks permanently returned to his people, while they were on loan from the British Museum to the Melbourne Museum in 2004. Murray, supported by many others including Foley (who then worked at the Melbourne Museum) invoked the Federal Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act to seize the barks while they were in Victoria. After a protracted court case brought by the Melbourne Museum (now Victoria Museum) that was fought largely at the behest of the British Museum (not least, to guarantee future loans), the barks were returned to London. The Gillard and Rudd Governments changed the law, introducing new legislation, the shielded by the 2013 Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act. While that legislation covers objects on loan from all countries, it was intentionally drafted to prevent the repatriation of Indigenous artefacts on loan to Australia.
“It taunts us spiritually says Gary Murray of the Dja Dja Wurrung barks. ”Why? “Because it’s our inheritance. They belong to my people. And they have been denied to us. They are a direct link to our ancestors. They are for me and for my children and my grandchildren. And I’m not going to be around for long, so we want them back.”
Encounters, revealing stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects from the British Museum, is on show from 27 November 2015 until 28 March 2016, only at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
The British Museum liked Grayson Perry so good, they made him a Trustee in 2015. Be sceptical of artists that have been chosen to sit on the board of an Institution like the British Museum. They’ve been chosen because they’re team players. The British Museum doesn’t need team players, it needs an artist who can pitch a new game, because the game they’re playing is up. It’s over!
‘Oi Grayson!’ I say from my bed. ‘Supposedly you’re paying homage to the ‘unknown craftsmen’ (OR WOMEN), but you’ve cast yourself as the auteur, the connoisseur of form and substance. The maker’s of the objects you choose remain secondary to you. Your work practice is like a description of colonialism. As a general rule of thumb, if you use words like tribal, folk and shopping together in the one sentence you’re sounding like a colonialist.’
Grayson has let his Imperial Lions out of their cage. To get everyone’s attention.
“I am interested in the tensions that swim around which, of course, go both ways. [While] I am constantly pinching off tribal and folk cultures from around the world, here is a much rarer case of an indigenous, tribal, folk culture borrowing the status of contemporary art.” Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry and The British Museum are a perfect frigging fit. They think the same. They are the same.
India is taking the Queen to Court (haha), to get back their huge diamond. The Queen likes diamonds and doesn’t want to give it back, even if it’s not rightfully hers. She inherited it, it’s in the Crown Jewels for God’s sake, is nothing sacred?
These commoners can be a frightful bore. Don’t think for a moment that the law won’t change to protect the Queen and what’s wrongfully hers. The fix is in.
I’m in a dream still. Against a brick wall (aren’t we all). Before the camera. Quietly self-assured. A zen-like gravitas to my stance. Solemn facial expression, my unwavering gaze confronts the viewer. Through the camera, the ever-present camera.
I’m shooting a triptych. They tell a story in 3 frames. The story has been told before but the way I tell it it’s better.
I’m making important art. It’s black and white. You’ve got to back yourself.
I hold the ceramic vase up and out from my ample, heaving bosom. Shot one.
Next, the middle frame, the vase is dropping. The hands appear animated, exalted. The vase plummets through the air, hopeless. Inevitably, shards of the valuable contemporary artefact lay shattered on the ground. Frame 3.
The art is complete. I am Ai Weiwei, only better. I am a woman. I’ve recreated Ai Weiwei’s 1995 work Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, but substituted a Grayson Perry ceramic vase for Ai’s Han Dynasty urn.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbHRU9k2zNA Ai Weiwei – Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995
‘I must have maxed out my MasterCard to get my punk mitts on a Grayson Perry pot! So I could smash it!’ says my dream voice narration.
Grayson’s urn was highly adorned, embellished to meet the current bourgeois tastes. It must have been worth a lot. Or not.
‘Unfortunately for you Grayson Perry, we’ve reassessed your practice. It’s not art, it is propaganda. It’s not worth more than the clay pulled from this earth.’ Alan Measles looks up at his boyhood chum Grayson Perry with disappointment. Then he looks to me. The well dressed, worn out teddy bear jumps into my arms. Oh. And then I wake up.