One has only to take a brief trip to present day Jerusalem to realize the absurdity and wonderful lunacy of religion. I took that trip once (and therefore forever) and for a few months afterwards I think I went mad. It was a kind of madness the psychologists like to call manic depression (oscillating moods of extreme ups and downs). I’m not so overly happy with that kind of diagnosis: a label that condemns you to a particular kind of illusion, a particular kind of fate that has to be overcome in relation to ‘normal’ moods. Evidently the term ‘manic depression’ like the term ‘religion’ is a ruse.
And this is the connection between these two terms so that when we think of Christ’s final journey through Jerusalem along the Via Dolorosa to his crucifixion at the quarry on the outskirts known as Gologotha or the Place of the Skull, and how this brief caption in time has effected millions of people in the most peculiar ways ever since, surely we can only discern from this well-crafted multi-authored tale that humanity’s religious impulses are a form of severe manic depression. Therefore I conclude along with the ‘deranged’ artists Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson in a kind of clinical but simultaneously rampant diagnosis, that all of mankind is completely potty. Absolutely bonkers. But Amen to that.
Peristroma is an ancient Greek term for a kind of oversized tapestry used functionally like a coverlet to literally smother and wrap itself around everything. Like a holy ghost it can permeate its way through the most resilient line of defence, a kind of unpleasant form of osmosis weaving its wicked way. Doyle and Mallinson accept this metaphysical movement and offer themselves in a ‘mind and arse up in the air’ manner to it. And although this show didn’t feel complete in an affective sort of way it was never the less worth the witnessing.
The relevant parable for this exhibition reads from the Second Gospel: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measurement ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, “Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye”, and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thine brother’s eye’. Good advice for art criticism.
The ‘caravan of love’ at the centre of this life size installation has been transformed into that Golgotha Skull. This skull-like caravan is surrounded by Ku-Klux gnomes jokingly, greedily, threatenly guarding the poverty of this mobile house of religion it seems. Sections of grubby cheap verging on retro carpet-shag span out in a mosaic; like the bold spattered and over kissed Roman paving stones of the Old City of Jerusalem. Sectioned off from this main area of action are two tomb-like dustbins inscribed in relief with Christain and Ku-Klux symbols: the fish, the stylized Masonic cross, etc; forms of obsessive calligraphy, institutionalized tagging.
Oh what is to be done dear Lord? Those sad looking municipal bins are perhaps the depositories of those millions of the forgotten and dead ‘believers’ we talked of earlier, for what is contemporary death but an approach of forgetting like a runway of escape for the over-busy living. The carpets the daily witness of those of us who tread ‘average’ lives. The gnomes a ‘sweet’ territorial stance so better than the imperial and military statues that adorn our royal cities. And the caravan of love to which these apparently drug taking partners in art and madness have thrusted in true Christian parable fashion many wood beans into the eye of its skull. And I guess the endnote of this installation via the hallucinogenic road of magic mushrooms that scatter this show is the leafless tree form as the natural point of congregation for our local winged wildlife indifferently crapping on all this frenzied religion in copious amounts. I only wish this duo had let me in on their strategic delirium in a more delirious way. Like letting me rally smell that bird excrement. And I mean that literally. For maybe there are beams in our long noses as well as our closed eyes.
Olly Beck 2004