Exhibition | The Man Don’t Give a Fuck

Joao Morais attended the The Man Don’t Give a Fuck exhibition by various artists at Motorcade/FlashParade, Bristol.

The myth goes like this: in Persia, the rugmakers cannot make their beautiful geometrical designs without inserting a flaw somewhere, as only Allah can achieve perfection. Regardless of the fact that this idea was first thought up in the forties, and even the best rugmakers are likely to make small mistakes in their extremely complex patterns anyway, it is this little ‘factoid’ that drew me to Mit Senoj’s ‘Chaos & Order’ pencil on paper series. Senoj’s intricate and highly detailed patterned drawings are defaced by harsh pencil markings across the entire length. The second, more aggressive of the two pictures has the words ‘U FUCKER’ written across the top. Between the two Chaos & Order drawings is his pencil and ink piece ‘Skin Deep’, which makes an eyecatching triptych when first entering the Motorcade/FlashParade’s main gallery space in Bristol.

The Man Don't Give a Fuck review
The Man Don’t Give a Fuck
Various Artists
Motorcade/FlashParade, Bristol

Neil McNally’s ‘Elephant’ on the nearside wall is also just as eye-catching. In this oil painting, a man looks nonplussed into the distance, even though he’s flying low and has let his nether regions slip out of his jeans. Along with the figure’s manhood being several shades darker than his face, the figure’s pockets have been turned inside out, adding a certain pachydermal quality to the view below his belt. In this one act, we can see not only the reason for the picture’s title but also the reason for the title of the show itself. Disruptive yet playful, all works selected for this show are edgy, with many being darkly comic – it is indeed not only the fact that all nineteen artists are Welsh that links them together.

This idea of disruption and playfulness was not better exemplified in Megan Broadmeadow’s performance piece, ‘Ewe Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’. A humorous take on that most crude of Welsh stereotypes, Broadmeadow dresses as a sheep and performs a striptease in costume. The whole performance (to N.E.R.D’s ‘Lapdance’, as far as I could tell) ends in Broadmeadow’s ewe getting the audience to shear her in the gallery.

Along with Broadmeadow’s piece, there was also a more implicit performance to counterbalance this explicit display. Tiff Oben’s ‘Chavette’ sees her dressed up as a member of the self-prophesying underclass. She skulks the room, looking like she is waiting for someone to turn up, or maybe to blend into the background enough so that she can steal someone’s mobile phone. Please do pardon me for being your stereotypical art-going snob, but this delicate display had me at one point wondering whether this was actually a performance or someone who had got lost on the way to Knowle West. This isn’t to say that Oben was a victim of her own success, but it rather shows the whole point of Oben’s achievement: the underprivileged have indeed become the objects of fear and ridicule in the national psyche, and my attitude towards her only goes to show that her successful piece raises important questions about identity, ignorance and prejudice.

Blending in ignorance and humour is Miranda Whall’s ’11th Day’. Here, the artist/performer sits on the counter of a DIY stall. Every time a customer approaches, she pulls down her trousers and ‘grooms’ herself, amongst doing other private acts which would be considered highly personal, while paying no attention to the stallholder or his customers. The reaction of the customers could not be more different from that of the viewers in the art space – the customers, these big burly men who quite naturally wouldn’t look out of place on a building site, would act as if she wasn’t there; they would try their best not to notice and to get out of her vicinity as soon as possible. On the other hand, the viewers in the art space seemed equally shocked and delighted at this audacity of breaking such social taboos in such an extreme way.

I did notice however that this piece dates from 2004; this makes it the oldest piece of work in the show by far. I never got the chance to meet Miranda Whall so I never had the chance to ask her why it took her so long to put the piece up for exhibition. I also made the mistake of not asking the curators about this decision either – although I’m pretty sure that the title of this show will tell you what they would think of my surmising. And it doesn’t by any means take away from what is a provocative, challenging yet extremely good work of art – it is just something I would have liked to have asked about.

Another piece that got people talking was Tom Goddard’s From ‘Ape to Adam to Apocalypse’. This is a series of hand-drawn posters referencing various cultural highlights and lowlights from individual years; the great thing about these is they could entertain you all night trying to get every single one. This is not to say that they are lowbrow (not that there would be anything wrong with that); the level of detail and the thought that has gone into each picture is impressive. Goddard has made these pictures according to the rules set out in the Golden Ratio – this is an algebraically-proportioned rectangle that gives the most aesthetic pleasure to the eye, and Goddard places figures accordingly around the points of this rectangle. Each picture seems to be a response to the prevalence of information we have at our fingertips, or at least at our computers, and Goddard, as the artist, can decide both aesthetically and ethically what information to put in and to leave out. For instance, in the picture for the year 1954 there is a giant picture of Godzilla – Goddard could have chosen Joseph McCarthy, or Waruhiu Itote, the captured leader of the Mau Mau for the main picture – however, I refer you once again to the title of this show for your answer to this suggestion.

Images from the exhibition