Monday, 12 December 2011

The World According to Alan Measles

The second stop on my cultural tour of London was Grayson Perry's 'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' at the British Museum, a mix of Perry's own work in multiple media, and items he's chosen from the Museum's own collection.

If you don't know Perry, he's hard to explain. He's a heterosexual transvestite, whose female avatar is Clare, a hyperreal version of a little girl who appears when Perry wants to explore his feminine side. His oversexed Teddy bear, Alan Measles, is used to reflect Perry's masculine attributes, particularly sex and violence. In one recent exploit, Perry tried to make peace with Germany and amend for his boyhood demonisation of the Jerries by riding this motorbike around Germany, with Alan Measles mounted on the back in a kind of tabernacle.

Perry specialises in ceramics and seems to be designing tapestries too. I particularly liked his 2011 pot: it memorialises the buzz words and events of the year. 'Going forward', a phrase I particularly dislike, is engraved on the neck ('Alan Measles is not impressed by the twenty-first century' reads another inscription).

Another striking piece was a huge tapestry 'The Map of Truths and Beliefs' linking iconic sites of human fascination: Auschwitz, shopping centres, temples, Las Vegas, Glastonbury, a golf course and various other pilgrimage centres.

What persuaded me about Perry's work over much of the Postmodernist output was that Perry's got the craft skills and the intelligence to use humour to make serious points about our cultures. Too much of the Postmodernist work is one-liners (a building with a roofline that looks like a cabinet: OK, it's referencing the past on a huge scale: and?), whereas Perry's offbeat way of looking at our cultural practices genuinely does subvert our general assumption that we're fairly sensible creatures.

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