Not Always Dessert



When asked the question:

If you were going to eat art writing would it be served as;

A starter/appetiser
B main course
C side dish
D dessert

35.7% of art writers said D for Dessert.1

Upstairs in the CCA, the art writers are sat at a large table that might have been round but might have had edges and Francis McKee told us he liked sports writing. Maybe the last true purple prose, he said. I’m more interested in pink poetry but not like drunk-tank pink, I mean decadence. Cheap magenta pink snatched from the pallid cheeks of aristocracy, reproduced with more intensity and in  a deeper hue. Hot pink that refuses to stay in its place, a burlesque dress swirling on a dimly lit basement stage. An erotic descent into anarchy. Baby pink that is infantilising, repulsive and gorgeous, childlike in its sophistication. Bubblegum pink ingested in small squares, chewed up and spat out as a vulgar habit, only to stick to someone else’s shoe. Pepto-bismol poetry that smells like mint, full of synesthesia and disappointment.

[ chew ]

When words are gorgeous (or arranged in a gorgeous manner) reading is like eating jelly. Teeth sink into this liminal substance, not liquid or solid, it is a suspension, content in its transitional state. The jelly is usually pink or red, and I think that’s because of my insides and the notion that what I am biting into is actually flesh or maybe I can’t separate language from the body. I encourage others to eat my flesh-jelly. The substance I serve to them might be transparent or panna-cotta-opaque, depending on how much I’ve decided to give up. I present it to them on a patterned plate dressed up in whipped cream, cherries disguise my flaws as something more appealing. I urge them to feast on my sacrifice, to cannibalise me, to spit out the stone and tie the stem in a knot using only the dexterity of their tongue.

[ spit ]

Downstairs in the CCA, Morwenna Kearsley is thinking about jelly and summoning. This time gelatin photographs and Lee Miller. The exhibition text handed to me on the way in to the gallery is another ingredient to be consumed alongside the jelly-material. It is an integral part of the meal, delicious and haunted and slippery; Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub. Like Morwenna, I don’t mean the jelly-object as metaphor, I mean materiality. The jelly-texture of gorgeous words; art writing is not always dessert. The jelly-object is too clean, too contained, too overly concerned with impressing others, too aspirational, too kitsch, too American Dream, too defined edges, too wholesome, too inoffensive, too moulded, too frivolous, too sure of its place on the table (centrepiece) jelly-as- material like ectoplasm, like mucous, like slime, like thicker than water, like almost flow, like hair

gel, like coagulated, like transitional, like stasis, like blood, like insatiable, like desire, like malleable, like liminal, like saliva collected in your mouth from talking for too long without swallowing—

[ swallow ]

This jelly is not gelatin either, something more like agar, red algae, sweet seaweed congealed. Not the pure pig protein of blood boiled ligaments, tendons and skin, less cruelty more artifice. The animal body is more than throwaway bones, soup flavour (extracted), lip collagen (injected).

Replicate the jelly-texture without violence, ask the sea politely if it can spare the red greenery. Teeth sink. More of a slice than a bite. Slivers divided in saliva glide across the sides of incisors. To  think of flesh as something so synthetic and separate from others and animal bodies, a slug belly, conjunctivitis goo, albino axolotl gills, vodka jelly shots. All the same pink slime.

  1. Results collected from a poll of 14 art writers, January 2021