Review: Breaking The Law – Amy Huggett
Breaking The Law / Burning Down The House
A recall of the evening, in particular a performance titled Double Dozen by Jack Marder
Written by Amy Huggett, Nov 2014
With a title like Breaking The Law/Burning Down The House, it was slightly unnerving entering Unit 9 of Minerva Works in Digbeth, Birmingham. Minerva works is inhabited by many interesting, contemporary artists. Currently Unit 9 belongs to collaborative group Home For Waifs and Strays. The unit itself still remains a very industrial space; it lacked the privileges of a modern refurbished gallery space. The room was slightly dingy due to the DIY lighting and was filled with a November chill as a result of non-existent heating. All things considered, it seemed the perfect place to break the law.
Outside the front of the space, there was a concrete wall and spray paint; this was the first opportunity for the visitors to do something out of the ordinary, their chance to ‘break the law’. As you entered Unit 9, to the right there was a selection of wine glasses, a destructed washing machine and a sign directing you to through your glass into the machine. Throughout the entire night you would hear crashing sounds of breaking glass as people engaged with the rebellious nature of the evening.
Directly ahead, you were confronted with artist Nadine Paige Riley who sat on the concrete floor against a white beam within the space for the entirety of the evening, performing what she had titled Spinning Bottom (working title). On the wall behind her, there was a projected video piece which showed her spinning through various locations. Nadine repeatedly spun toy spinning tops that lit in red in between her legs that were open, revealing her vagina. Seeing such nudity is a rarity as the female body continues to be censored by the media, it felt as if Nadine was overcoming the prejudices women face in modern society.
To Nadine’s left, there was a video projection piece that had been sent to HFWAS from American artist Constance Humphries, neighbouring this was Glass Wall lll by Nikki Whittingham which consisted of both an audio and video piece, displayed on a Flat screen TV.
After being in the space all of two minutes, I felt a presence behind me. Performance artist Vicky Roden placed her hands on my shoulders and started to whisper/sing into my ear. From what I could gather she was referencing Jimmy Saville, which left me feeling slightly vulnerable. As she finished, she passed me a fudge sweet and left abruptly. She continued to do this as new visitors entered the space. Already I had the feeling that this wasn’t a regular exhibition of works and that the art I would witness this evening was going to challenge me. The sinister aftermath of Vicky’s work was followed by a blast of loud techno music and an unexpected humping from behind from artist Brent Morgan. Brent performed in vibrant, crazy clothing and spoke with an Eastern European accent inviting people to drink tequila and ‘party with him’ in order to drown out the negative things that were happening in his life. He engaged with the audience, even though, some people stood back (myself) in order to avoid participation. Later in the evening, performance pieces by two other artists took place, Laura Parrott who spoke of modern life as a female in the form of poetry, and Victoria Redgrave who performed a spoken word of self-deprecation titled YOU.
To the right of Nadine, Jack Marder was also sat on the floor, leant against the wall. Jack wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, but there was an expectation that something would be happening very shortly. He had four bottles of squirting cream and two Krispy Kreme boxes which both contained 12 donuts. It wasn’t until 20:00 that he started to perform.
Initially, the performance was humorous. As Jack ate both the donuts and the cream, there was a shared envy towards him. The idea of eating a donut was something that spectators found quite appealing. Generally, the two food products would be considered as a ‘treat’ as they are excessively sweet and sugary. As the performance developed, any positive ideas surrounding the two products vanished. Not only did Jack eat the donuts and the cream, but he also began rubbing the food contents onto his face and clothing. The performance became excessive, and it was apparent that Jack was struggling with the immense quantity of donuts placed before him, however, he continued eating. There was an indication that there was a compulsion towards the donuts. The performance took place on Black Friday, an American sales day that the UK has recently adopted, which worked brilliantly with the excessive behaviour of Jack’s performance. Overtime, the performance became disgusting.
At various points, Jack forced together three donuts, forming what resembled a Big Mac burger from fast food chain McDonalds. The excessive gluttony became almost impossible to watch, but at the same time, completely compelling. Most recently, Jack has been working in a digital format, creating video’s in which he adopts a new persona. He references technology and society whilst over-exaggerating his actions and eating continuously. As Jack was wearing his own clothing during the performance, he decreased the overexaggerated element that we have previously seen in his videos. By doing so, this performance had a confessional tone that was both emotive and relatable.
Once the artist had finished one box of Krispy Kreme’s, he started to engage others in the performance. He stood up and approached Nadine. As he sat next to her, he placed a Krispy Kreme hat on her head and started to feed her a donut. In return, Nadine then fed Jack. This was repeated with members of the audience, feeding them in a similar way. It was as if Jack was seducing them into eating the donut, convincing them of how good it tasted.
Once Jack returned to sitting against the wall, the performance intensified. Continuing to eat more donuts, it became obvious that by now he was close to exceeding his body’s limitations. The rejection of the food became a more apparent element of the performance as Jack continuously spat the donuts back into the box and around him on the floor. The artist also did this with the cream, spitting it into his hands and then rubbing this onto himself. At one point, Jack squirted cream over the interiority of his face; he remained still for a few seconds and then started to lick around his mouth, catching the cream as it fell. The majority of the cream however, was rubbed into the artist’s hair as if it was shampoo.
By the end of the performance, Jack’s appearance had morphed into a monstrous character, hardly resembling his previous self. As he left the space, the remains of food, packaging and general mess was left, appearing as some sort of crime scene, as Ed Wakefield quoted, “death by squirty cream”.