UNTITLED contemporary art, following the path of THE GREAT ILLUMINATOR (LONDON ELECTRICITY BOARD) has decided, after long and deep meditation, that the great success that we enjoy is not enough - it does not represent our (global) ambitions properly and transparently because we want More. If we want to gain a state of permanent NIRVANA we need to do More. How to do it? As always, when we need to decide something, I do a list with two columns. In the first I write the pros in tiny letters, in the second the cons in enormous letters - (I hate surprises). "We cannot go back to the PR company who have done all they possibly can to help us. We need something different… exciting," we wrote. The second column gave us the answer to the question of the first column. Who advises the adviser? Obviously somebody intelligent and who could be more intelligent than a member of MI6? They work 24 hours a day at being intelligent. We looked at each other as if we had seen the light of knowledge knocking at our door or, I should have said, opening our inner soul to a new dimension.
"Who knows an agent?"
"I can go to Cambridge and recruit one for our cause."
"Well, they tend to be here and there. There is no way we want competitors to know our secrets."
"I am sure they would do it for the United Kingdom and Untitled Magazine."
"I believe an MI6 agent might be very busy at the moment."
"That is not a big problem, we'll get someone working for MI3."
"I'm not sure, they are only half as intelligent as an MI6 member." We took the decision. We would get an MI3 agent.
"Easy, they meet at the Spaghetti House in Tufnell Park every Friday."
On Friday, we all went to the restaurant to see if we could approach an MI3 agent. Next to our table were sitting two guys and a girl. We were impressed by their mode of communication. Not a single words in three hours, their faces expressionless to the point where I began to worry that they were dead and simply pretending to drink and eat. This convinced us that they were perfect. Just what we needed: secretive, unassuming, a bit scruffy and half intelligent. Somehow I manage to spill the wine onto one of the men. The other guy jumped to avoid being stained by the cheap wine - I saw his fist flying towards my face but he stopped a centimetre from my nose. He was very lucky not to touch me. After a lot of apologies, we made friends and we invited the trio to help us. The girl had what is called a Mata Hari effect, a deep erotic voice and a bit of an eccentric look. The tall boy was pretentious and the other a desperate, lonely person. We explained our needs and they listened in silence. I calculated that if we considered the fact that one MI3 + MI3 + MI3 = MI9, then the three of them would produce one MI6 and a half. The next day they arrived at our office with a magnificent plan and a few pages with boxes to tick. "Fill them up. We'll see you at the Spaghetti House on Friday." And they disappeared
We analyse the pages in search of some clues. We find out that they use white paper, A4, 90 grammes, made by Motony. There is only one place in London selling it in the vicinity of the Holloway Road. Thus we deduce that the agents are from North London. It has been printed by an Epson, probably R2000 and the programme that they use is definitely Word. We know that they live close to the 'Rancho' (the headquarters of Untitled), that they have a PC computer, an Epson printer...and nothing else. Apologies, they go to the Spaghetti House on Fridays for a weekly meeting.
"Are we going to give away our inner secrets to three guys, well two guys and a girl, who we only met once?"
"Not yet." On the last page, to our surprise, they sign their names, 'John, John and John'.
"She is a he? No way, she is a she and John is just her "nome de guerre"."
At that precise moment we feel that perhaps we have made a mistake.
"John is a very discreet name."
They have kept their real identities to themselves and we need to do the same. We decide to change our names to something exotic, somehow challenging, engaging: Darcy, Tarquin, Hecate, Cyril, Octavia. We settle for a more artistic choice: Tracy, Tracy, Tracy and Tracy. Right, not left. Oh! My mother always said never talk to strangers who offer you sweets.
The questions on the paper have a rare quality, from the trivial to the soul searching. The first is mainly about our education. At what age did you learn to read and write? Followed by three boxes. Under the initial question were the words: 'between 5 and 6 years old'. The next was a bit more imprecise: '25 – 50', and the last one had a big 'NEVER'. A he/Tracy confesses at that moment that he can write but not read. He justifies himself with a post-modern answer:
"I don't know, it is not for me to understand what I write, it is for the readers to decode my code to find the significance of my signs." We look at each other in silence. The following question is: 'remember the first time your mother/father went mad at you?'
"We are not telling you", is the unanimous answer.
'Name ten artists that your magazine has supported and that have subsequently gone on to become famous amongst other UK based magazines, museums, public galleries, curators, dealers, artists Mr and Ms Collector follow your nose???
"Jeremy Deller, Daria Martin, Catherine Sullivan, Pablo Bronstein, Lali Chetwynd, Gerard Byrne, Klaus Weber, Marjetica Potrc, Seb Patane, Jim Lambie, Eva Rothschild, Inventory, Ben Langlands &Nikki Bell, Santiago Sierra, Francis Alys, Jorge Macchi, Pablo Picasso, Daniel Buren…"
At that moment our friend Clermont arrives. We know he is from some backward South American country but he pretends to be French. He looks at us.
"Guai are you so guite", says Clermont.
At the same time he snatches some of the pages from Tracy's hand.
"Oh you inglish never anderstand aniting..." he says looking at the paper.
"What can we do, ah!" We ask defiantly.
"If you guant to get anyting in life firs you need to try with LOVE or guell SEX", he spits at us.
"Oh! James Bond, the Anglo-Saxon style 007 always involves sex, coca cola and ...and...clever tricks." Tracy explains to him what is going on. He is very excited by the prospect of mysterious characters promoting our dear Untitled Magazine.
"We need to know more about John, John and John".
"Clermont, you are right, we need to involve sex to get information about them. You need to seduce John and find out more about the other Johns."
"Guot? John is a man. I don't do men. I am a lesbian", he protests. Tracy convinces him that John is a she. We decide not to answer any more questions until Clermont investigates the trio. We are certain that a Latin-Cartesian brain can help.
On Friday we sit in the Spaghetti House with Clermont and our pages. Waiting for over an hour until a she/John arrives. Her eyes stop on Clermont, ignoring us, she moves like a cat on heat towards our table. We can sense the Latin/Gaelic blood of Clermont exploding with desire. She/John has no time for us. Calling the waiter she asks for rum and coca cola and some clever tricks. At the same time she puts a Marlboro cigarette between her lips and asks the South American French boy for fire. Clermont is chauvinistic about Tobacco and he refuses to give her fire.
"I give fire only to people who smoke Gitanes or Galouse", he says without any grace.
Somehow that stupid answer works wonders in she/John. She was more inviting. Clermont grows a few centimetres taller, his ego radiant as he concedes.
"Guell for you, I guill make an exception" he said, flicking a match under her nose.
I ask for the other Johns AND SHE IGNORES ME, so I ask Again and Again... until she stops looking at Clermont.
"Where are the pages?"
"There are not finished yet, because we want to ask a few questions."
"No questions, we need them for tomorrow morning, 7 o'clock at Arsenal tube station."
She disappears leaving CLERMONT hotter than a cat on Monday.
"Who volunteers to wake up that early?" A he/Tracy asks.
"Not me, not me, not me."
Only Clermont keeps silent. After we have our dinner (Spaghetti Bolognese with a glass of bubbly Italian wine) Clermont says, "I'll do it."
"You need to change your name."
"No way I have nothing to hide and everything to show."
Next Morning, Clermont fills the suitcase with empty papers and a few magazines, goes to the Arsenal Station, where a he/John approaches him and surreptitiously passes an envelope before evaporating. Inside the envelope is a page with a simple order: "go to Cockfosters Station". The timing is good, everybody else goes from Cockfosters to central London. Tubes at that time of the day tend to be disturbing, a mix of last night having a great time people with good morning I go to work types. Both move with lethargy, the first smell of alcohol the second of cheap or very expensive perfume.
"Well well welll wellllll wellll", thinks Clermont with Latin/Gaelic logic. The wagon is nearly empty, just two girls with college uniform, two builders with builder's uniform, two nuns dressed as nuns, a couple of young people sleeping and two uniformed police men who are walking up and down the wagon. Each time Clermont hears their step close to him, guilt eats his heart. He has written on his face, please do not stop me.
His mind is organising excuses, "when they open my suitcase and find blank paper, I shall tell them that I've just bought it and I'm going to Cockfosters to see my cousin John. Yes, he loves new suitcases and it is a family tradition, before you use a new one you need first to show it to at least three members of the family and my cousin John is the last. I can use it afterwards..."
Disappointingly they ignore him. When the tube arrives at Cockfosters Station, the other he/John is waiting for him on the platform. He has a nervous twitch. He is looking over his shoulder in a manic way, first the right one then the left... With the arrogance of the public school boy he says, "Follow me..."
Clermont starts walking towards the station when he feels a hand pressing his arms, "Not that way."
Still nervous about the policemen Clermont is a bit jumpy. Only when he looks at the wagon and sees the two of them going up and down, the doors shutting and the tube moving, does he relax. They start walking in the opposite direction from the station, towards the rails. At first slowly then suddenly both are running.
At about 300 metres from the station he sees two abandoned trains covered in grafitti, "By Basquiat", he thinks???.
"Basquiat graffiti", says Clermont.
"What?" asks John.
Clermont feels that he has just discovered the posthumous work of Basquiat. He starts toying with the idea of selling it, "I need to know if Basquiat was wearing an Armani suit when he did that beautiful work of art? If that is the case I can add another £100000 and, boy, no attic can hold this piece of work, so sod my grandchildren." He wants to be back in London, more precisely in Christies or Sotheby meeting some collectors and selling for £2000000. When they arrive at the train John says, "John is waiting for you inside..."
"She or he?" Clermont asks.
"It", is the answer.
Inside the train wagon Clermont finds himself in the dark. Everything is broken and the glass windows are deprived of their function and now lie in menacing bits on the floor. It is a pity that they are not plastic, he thinks. He can easily recognise Tony Cragg's hand, his shadow follows him persistently. The seats are in a state of gross disrepair showing the springs as twisted phallic symbols exploding between the cracks of the material. Suddenly he sees a few cigarettes stabbed into the seats: Sarah Lucas he shouts, shit there are more art works here than in the entire Tate Modern.
By now his imagination is spiralling towards the job in hand. Walking over all the dirt and chaos, created by the passing of time and the relentless energy of kids, each step needs careful consideration as his mission has become a tad dangerous.
After succesfully walking through the first cabin, he is confused. His expectations of wild sex and confessions suffer a violent shock. He discovers his nose and worse, he discovers the function of it when a deep smell of rotten eggs permeates his five senses.
For a split second he dithers with the idea of going away. The smell is repulsive, he cannot see himself getting into the next cabin. He has a tremendous desire to vomit because the smell is unbearable. At this point he forgets why he is there.
"Hurry up, get in.", a she/John shouts.
Her erotic voice accelerates Clermont's feet. Once in he cannot believe his eyes. The cabin is an immaculate science fiction, high tech room with computers all over the place and a sofa in the middle of the passage. Soon he finds out the origin of the smell: a she / John is sitting on a chair with her skirt hoisted up and her beautiful legs streched and rigid, covered by a 4mm coat of an extrordinary cream. IMAAC IMAAC IMAAC. Three pots loiter on the floor.
"Guau, clever, cool, guot a hideout."
"Sorry I need to be like this for 10 more minutes."
"Can I open the window?"
"No, they are fake."
They look at each other with the Knowledge.
"Guich is the fastest guay to the Tate Modern from Hoxton Square?, asks Clermont.
She looks puzzled but her training allows her to decontextualize and deconstruct any questions and in this way she is able to nullify the sexual tension of the words and obtain a clear picture of his intentions. Futhermore, she is using the other side of her brain. She scratches her leg with one finger nail, the line she draws exacerbating the smell. Looking at him she asks
"Are you a poet?"
"No I am not."
"are you a poet?"
"admit it, you are poet."
"No." he protests.
"Yes you are. You write sonnets."
"No, no, no."
Clermont tries to understand what is going on. She is pretending but what?.
She insists . "Are you a poet?"
Perhaps it is the Anglo-Saxon sense of humour he concludes, deciding to follow the game.
"Yes I am a poet." and opening his suitcase he takes out an AZ of London.
"And this is my latest book of poems, I will read you a poem I wrote for my ex girl friend but I was thinking of you. It is called Page 154. I must confess it is a bit long but I shall read the first 15 lines only."
"Air street.W 1 –7G 61(1 M 145) Airthrie Rd Ilf – 2B 52."
"Stop, I hate concrete poems, they put forward a structuralist framework with postmodern innuendos and are closer to the construction of a bridge than any emotional ..."
"Sorgry, but you are wrong. They are Knowledge poems , this is the way my ex girl friend learnt how to be a taxi driver."
Ignoring him she gets a plastic spatula from her bag and, streching herself to her ankle scrapes it away forming a mass of hair and cream. Visually and tactilely repulsive, Clermont's fantasies evaporate and he becomes more business-like.
"How are you going to help us?"
"I don't know. We only can provide Intelligence and help you analyse it."
"About your readers, the tactics and strategies of the artists to play the game of promoting themselves, about your competitors "axes of devils," Frieze and Art Monthly. For example, Frieze uses Weapons of Mass Advertising and in 45 minutes they organise a wonderful Art Fair. Can you match that?"
"I doubt it."
"Can you compete with the original, exquisite design?"
"Nope, because our's is better, you can read our articles."
"And their highly well written texts?"
She starts cleaning her legs with loo paper. He is feeling that he is wasting time on all accounts. No sex, no help, no nothing.
"The two Davids for example."
"Wojnarowicz and Lamelas."
"That was very interesting 4 years ago when we had one of them on the cover and the other I cannot remember when we wrote an article. We know the genesis of both articles."
"And guot about Art Monthly?"
"They are really dangerous. They are investigating ways of writing able to produce the same effect as sleeping gas and they are very close to achieving it. Can you match that?"
"Impossible..........but not a bad sales tactic"
'I like you' she thinks, whilst moving the left finger of her right hand over a piece of yellow paper for about
45 minutes. Well perhaps Clermont exaggerated a bit when he told us what happened. He's probably telling lies, which is not very Anglo-Saxon, as we keeping telling him.
"In 45 minutes a lot of things can happen… buuuu."
"Oh yes, you can wait for a bus for 45 minutes, in 45 minutes you can send a nuclear bomb from one continent to another and you can see half of a match played by the most brilliant team ever: Arsenal..."
"Ok, I can see you don't have a clue, Untitled needs a hook in order to hold the attention of the readers", she said. "Frieze is great, because the people who buy it never read it. They have no time to waste, so they flick through reading the ads in order to find out about their investments. 'Oh! X has an exhibition in Y, that's great. Oh no, look at this idiot T who is showing in B that is bad bad bad... He is going down and I have a few pieces by him.' On the other hand, Art Monthly is great because it is full of serious impossibilities. Their readership has a lot of time on their hands, so they relax by reading shouting matches. They go like this: 'You said that I said something which I never said. So, because you start from the wrong end of what I said, your conclusion of what I said is not valid, mainly because I never said that. I am the most intelligent human being, even if I am, and my judgment about ART is the only sustainable position after 40 years of deep study and concentration, only comparable to Sherlock Holmes's avid curiosity for solving crime.' Can you see how the mental structure of the text colludes with a labyrinthine mind, creating a strong sense of fascination and attachment similar to that given to Play Station games? It demands 100% attention."
Depressed, Clermont said, "Let's hope that they will eventually become deliciously poetic."
"Untitled is simply brilliant but it needs to focus on personalities and more controversy. This is the English way of seeing things, like, let me think… like the Sun Newspaper… Fantasy Art" she mumbles, "You need to invent an exhibition that never happened, a romance between two or three artists who are discovered naked inside a barrel of cocaine. And so on and on..."
"Guot? You are insane. Imagine a Suntitled cover. The romance of the famous artist having sex with his canvas, the man who lost his right hand in a war and today paints with the left hand… all in four colours. I know an artist who, when he was walking from Andalucia to hell, which apparently is not far away only 30 km or was it 45 km, had a dog bark at him."
Suddenly a she /John became very agitated, looking inside her bag for a mobile phone
"Do you have a mobile phone?"
"Of course not."
"Shit, shit , shit. What century do you live in?" He was disconcerted by her aggressive stand. Ignoring it, he pretended to be worried.
"Sogry, but shit, shit, shit doesn't rhyme with live in."
"Yes it does. Catch", she said throwing her mobile phone with one hand and holding another mobile phone in the other. Clermont of all men was perplexed.
"Guat am I doing here?"
"Lets have phone sex", she said.
"Guat? Untitled needs your help."
Clermont lost his nerve "No I am holy f ...s... do not need anything."
"Come on call me, my phone number is 0789327487."
"Can we be morrr primitive?"
"Call me or go to hell."
"Sogry but I'm not prepared for high tech sex, we don't have sexual education at school in my countgry." She lost her patience and told him to get out. He turned his head towards a she/ John, looked into her deep honey eyes and walked up and down the wagon. He said goodbye with tears in his eyes. Outside the sky was Charlton grey. Kicking the earth, he forgot about Basquiat, about Untitled...
On his way home he decides to lie.
Sogrry this chapter vanished from the computer.
Next day at the Rancho, three Tracies were waiting for Clermont, anxious to know what had happened.
A she/Tracy asked the others:
"Do we need to believe what ever Clermont says?"
"Well, no he is sexually paranoid, deluded, so sometimes he confuses hello with I love you."
"He is very handsome, I am sure some girls say hello to him meaning I love you."
"Bueh, these Latino garlic eaters believe their own propaganda."
"Onion eater you mean."
"Hey garlic, onion and frog eaters."
They were discussing with certain venom the virtues of Clermont when he appeared framed by the door. On seeing him they started to clap and all at once shouted:
"What happened? Tell us what happened."
"Nothing," said Clermont with an exquisite sense of coolness, stroking his lips with a finger a la Jean Paul Belmondo.
"Don't be a bore."
"I am not going to go into any details. I proclaim that my first visit to Cockfosters guas a Delicious experience."
They laughed with pleasure and complicity until they realized that he was prepared to say nothing at all.
A mysterious silence crossed the room for about 45 minutes until this magic moment was broken by Clermont's voice
"Ere gue are."
"I said ere gue are."
"What did the Johns recommend ?"
"Ah that, not much, they are a bunch of out of work people."
"Because of the integnet boys."
"What about them?"
"Before, intelligence guas a guey of knowing little things and producing great results, like what was the rgeal coloug of Cleopatra's gair. At first glance one can see it as infogmation of minimal consequence, a bit stupid yet in rgeality she lost ger kingdom because of that. Now you open the web, copy the vagaries of some American student and that is enough to stargt an invasion to steal oil. Who needs them?"
"What is the Cleopatra story according to you?"
"One morning, she was looking at erself in a brass mirror and discoveged one white air. She ated it, ad a fit and scrgeamed at one of er generals to go to the next village to get some special henna only available in Harrods, a little shop owned by an Anglo-Saxon Egyptian. The rgequest was geard by the boyfriend of the general, an intelligent boy who was a double agent for Rome. He organised the destrguction by fire of the shop, stock and other things argound. When the soldiers arrrived with a little note she had wgritten, they could not find the shop, the indications on the map leading them instead to a pile of ash on the floor.
They came back empty anded, she was furious shouted orrible things to everybody because she found three more white airs. At that moment the bloody Octavio attacked Egypt and when another of er generals asked for an audience to explain to er a plan to destroy the Roman army, she refused to meet him because of the three white airs and in desperation committed suicide not because the Romans were able to defeat the Egyptian argmy but out of pure vanity.
So now you can see how useful an agent was in other times although with cyberspace at our finger tips they arge unemployable." "Crap tell us what they recommend or get out."
"There are two strategies. The first attempt must be to drop in to some institution rgelated to argt and ask them to organise a workshop on 'How to rgun a magazine and get a millon readers.'"
One of the he/Tracies started to laugh. At first it sounded like little burps then, with the tone in crescendo until it reached the pitch of hysterical cries, he held his stomach with his hands and his shoulders fell over his knees. For an instant Clermont thought that he/Tracy was going to vomit or have an epileptic fit. He/Tracy had tears in his eyes, he tried to talk but the emotions surfaced all at once until he recovered his composure and drying his tears said
"Imagine a well-dressed woman in her forties, exuding the confidence of knowing where the tail of a horse is, holding a long stick in her right hand."
"Waait a minute what do you mean by well-dressed?"
"Expensive clothes" he goes on "The lights get dimmer, the room is full of fools in waiting. The well-dressed woman signals with a movement of her lips to the girl behind the projector "lets start."
The guy next to me is biting his nails, the experience developing in front of his eyes is too much for him. After a flood of lights appears on the screen, we can read Good Evening in glowing colours on a black background.
Stretching her arm to point the stick towards the G on the screen, she repeats 'Good Evening' with a perfect posh accent as if she is going to give us a bit of the light that she radiates following with – Please look at the first sentence in the little book we gave you at the entrance.
I look at the photocopy and guess what it said? Good Evening! which made me extremely happy, close to an orgasm of pleasure, three Good Evenings in 3 seconds, these experiences had never happened to me before. Great!!!!
Unfortunately after that everything that followed was multiplied by three, even the Good Bye: first on the screen, then said and lastly read in the book."
"Please Clermont tell us the second?"
"Helloooooo, let me finish." The he/Tracy said.
"I've listened to enough of that."
"Sorrgy but I do not like to be pressurised by anyone. I think you need to try this and if it doesn't work, I'll suggest a new Idea and I cannot tell you about this new idea because it is very new so its difficult to know about until it's become old."
At that point a she /Tracy came to rescue Clermont. She wanted sugar for the coffee and some deodorant for, well you know for what.
"Please lets go together," she said thinking perhaps he'd feel less intimidated and tell her a better story.
They went to one of the most chic shops in the area, 'Dreams Come True' was the name of it.
They looked at each other thinking lets find out about the dreams. She picked up a packet of sugar and some well -known deodorant and was at the till ready to pay when suddenly the she /Tracy said:
"Scuse me, where is the man?"
The man on the till raised his head in slow motion.
"Yes, the man in the TV ad for this deodorant who says take me with you. I want to do that."
"Sorry madam but the man went with another client and it is never clear how long it'll take for him to be back," he said with the satisfaction of a man who has read Freud and knows how to deal with crazy people.
I bet he sees more mad people in a week than Freud saw in his entire life.
"Can I have a chair? I'll wait for him to come back."
"I do not recommend that madam."
"Ok, if you cannot provide us with the man, at least you can sell it at a discount."
The man was losing his patience and shouted
"I am not a Madam."
"What ever you are take it or leave it."
"Excuse me, this place is called 'Dream Come True' and my dream is to take the man in the ad to my house and put him in my bathroom cabinet and every morning elevate first my right arm exposing my armpit while he sprays the deodorant and the same with my left arm. If you cannot do this then change your bloody name to something like 'We Are Liars.'"
The customers were becoming restless and a boy in the queue shouted
"Hurry up you woman."
A woman behind him pressed her middle finger on his shoulder.
"Young man nobody told you to respect a woman."
The young man had the face of a rothweiler and for a fraction of a second a she/Tracy thought he was going to bite her, probably on her neck, when she realized that she had a plastic collar around it so it was going to be difficult for the dog to bite, well the boy to bite. Clermont was fascinated by the scene.
The tension increased until the man on the till started crying. The boy, probably of Italian origin, bit his own hand while the lady behind walked away without paying and Clermont and she/Tracy left the sugar and the deodorant and walked back to the Rancho empty handed like the generals who pushed Cleopatra to commit suicide.
NOT THE END YET.