London Recap, Part Two: Not dining with Mr Jones

Friday afternoon I hit the Andy Warhol, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” exhibit at the Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre. The guidebook lists its contents as “21 films, 1 clouds installation, 40 screen tests, 6 videos, 42 tv-episodes, 16 drawings…” and on and on. I’d never really thought about the direct link between Warhol and Capote, but it’s impossible to miss here. That shared hunger for absorbing the rich and famous drove them both and, one might predictably say, cost them both a lot, but what’s amazing to see in this jumble of time capsules and ephemera as well as the completed work is just how rich a vein they both mined. Rather than a shallow wallow in pursuit of acceptance (not that it wasn’t that as well) there’s an endless fascination for what fame is and what people will do to achieve it.

The hunger seems to be at an all time high at present, which amazes me. I’d love to be able to make loads of money with my writing, but I’d prefer that people express no interest in the person behind the words (besides, I am incredibly dull, always talking about the blackness of black pudding, for instance — you would be bored). Warhol had a genius for touching that hunger in others and expressing it in often macabre and funny ways. I’m going to probably write about these exhibits elsewhere, so I won’t go into deep detail here, but the surprising things were the tv soap project which was very funny for being little more than bickering, the fun snippets that filled the tv-scape and the simple delight of the Silver Clouds installation — mostly because there was a window so you could watch other people go through the room. They tended to just push the mylar balloons out of the way and walk into the gift shop (the latter surely the capstone of the exhibit). Playing with the giant balloons was a delight, though.

Saturday was Rothko day at the lovely Tate Modern, my favorite museum. The turbine room was filled with bunk beds and monstrous thingees as part of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s TH 2058, but as many reviews had said, it was better in idea than execution. I liked the giant dino skeleton, the big spider, and immense apple core, but it wasn’t quite enough. Scale alone isn’t enough (big is big, though). I’m not sure what was missing, but it never really affected emotionally and that’s a miss.

How was Rothko? Amazing, utterly amazing. Repetition and variation — things that obsess me, too — are keystones of his later work. Immenseness of scale and depth of color — so many of his paintings had been brought together for the first time. I guess I’m still not ready to write coherently about these works. They’re hypnotic. Rothko’s paintings strike directly into my subconscious. I don’t know many painters like that.

Saturday night I had been invited along to the BFI by my pal Hamilton, where Terry Jones was holding a Q&A after a screening of Holy Grail as part of the Time Out 40th anniversary. While waiting for the film to start we saw Anita Pallenberg and James Fox come out of the screening of Performance that preceded it. Waiting in line for Jonesy was Richard “Moss” Ayoade, who is much taller than I imagined and was sheepishly surrounded swooning girls. We were supposed to be joined by John “No Knuckles” Hind (left in photo), but since he is apparently notorious for always being late, we left his ticket at the box office and found our seats.

It was a delight to see MP&tHG on the big screen and with such an enthusiastic crowd. Peter Greenaway’s Dear Phone preceded it and seemed an odd match, but there was a humorous post-modern angle to it, so that’s some kind of link, I suppose. Jones complained that there were too few laughs at the end of the film, but the crowd clearly disagreed and enjoyed quizzing him about the film-making process (surprise, Terry Gilliam was a perfectionist even then) and his thoughts about current comedy (he likes Eddie Izzard). We finally caught up with Hind in the cafe afterward, where he told us regretfully that we had missed the chance to tag along to dinner with T Jones (Hind knows him and has a brief cameo in Meaning of Life). Ah, well — so it goes. Messrs Hind and Hamilton nonetheless made sure that I was adequately entertained until closing time.

Next up: Bacon and Brookses (and back to the National Gallery)…