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Friday, 26 September 2008

Dreams of an Archivist

I saw a fairy today on the concourse of Manchester Piccadilly train station. The fairy was dressed in a bride's attire and she floated along singing the words "Better things are electric", accompanied by a Disney-esque orchestra, which played all but a few bars until the fairy began again. The loop went on for two very surreal minutes and stopped only when the platform was announced for the delayed 1425 to London Euston.

I haven't slept all that well for a few days and after discovering the work of the illustrator Martin O'Neill as part of a birthday card I made two days ago and moreover being submerged within my own archive of ephemera, I have manifested an acute ability to cut and paste in real time.

You'll know who I mean by Martin O'Neill ( His ecclectic montages of surreal and often iconic commercial imagery, are so virtuoso that he has in fact created his very own brand; deployed by the likes of Land Rover, Jaguar and Guinness no less to name just a few. O'Neill moved out of London to Hastings, in order to make way for his monumental, and ever growing, archive of analog imagery. Rifling through car boots sales, magazines, house clearances and flea markets, the man is obsessed, yet it is this meticulous attention to period, to detail, to the original purposes of his images, that make his worlds so compelling.

The fairy of my own reverie, if you're wondering, is actually from an advertisement broadcast during the 1930s to promote an all-electric flat in Hackney. She's the little talisman of the new electrical age if I may take you briefly back to the 1930s. She'll float out of your chimney or your charred gas oven and chant a jolly tune about the toaster, the curling tongues, the electric oven, the drying cupboard, the fridge, the washing machine, the three prong plug socket and you will prance gaily to the merriment of her sing-song and promptly coax your husband into buying not one but the whole range of these novel appliances for your new, all-electric flat. She's a crafty one that fairy. "Better things are electric"...sing along!

Like O'Neill, I'm an obsessive archivist, the difference that I have been collecting objects specific to the brave new world of electricity from the 1920s to 1950s. This ostensibly off-the-wall discourse through which electricity was presented to its consuming public has brought to my library fairies, sprites, spirits of the spark, wizards in the wall. My work invites me to another realm, which is part real, part imaginary; both tangible and sublime, and where past is cut out and glued on to the present. I do see fairies, yes, but I'm confident my enlivened apparitions bring with them an element of credence to my work, especially when I am thinking in terms of live art and performance. I am obsessed oh yes! but past and presence in celebratory alliance, makes for an enchanting world to live and work in.

I just hope to goodness my glue runs out soon because this fairy is starting to piss me off and I really do need to get some sleep.

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