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Coronabollocks 4: Culture During The Time Of C-19
John Calvert , April 6th, 2020 09:00

C-19 is making John Calvert fear the worst. Luckily Tracey Emin is here with her lifestyle to take his mind off things

Despatches From Quarantine #4: Be Excellent To Each Other/ The Physical Impossibility Of Damien Hirst

The 90s were excellent. Post-Cold War, Pre-9/11 it was as if, for a brief moment in time, the world came up for air.

In Britain all of a sudden we had Pulp and Trainspotting, Underworld and Big Beat. We had IDM and Trance which was about feeling new and happy, and Queer As Folk and hardcore and trip hop and then there was peace in Northern Ireland. Asian Dub Foundation arrived and reinvented punk for the disenfranchised children of the Indian diaspora while in London genius black kids reinvented music itself about once every three weeks. And somewhere in the middle of it all, the son of a Lewisham cab-driver set fire to Paris.

But alongside a regional skirmish in the Balkans, and some very rum business in Rwanda (and also Desert Storm), there was the less than excellent UK art scene.

Lucian did Lucian, Pop Art experienced a logical renaissance, and Chris Ofili came of age, but the headlines went to a clutch of total frauds. You've of course heard of Damien Hirst - a gimmick-artist with a few influential friends and a Banksy-esque talent for abject obviousness. And who could forget ‘the bad boys of British art” - The Chapman Brothers - who did some penetrating work with dioramas but mainly traded in sensationalism, lifeless shock art and the cultural non-sequiturs of unhappy men who never really got over their adolescence (and who were once memorably lampooned in Brass Eye). Oooooh Nazi-Baby with a big cock! Take that John Major!

But worst of all was Tracey Emin, who did a thing with a bed and naturally the tastemakers bought it hook and line, re-selling it as a brazenly confessional statement on the conflation of sex and sexuality in late capitalist Britain and a stunning rejection of old forms. Or something.

Well it seems Emin is up to her old tricks again - namely peddling vapid self-obsession as art to her ever-willing stooges in bourgeoisie Islington.

Commissioned by shit franchise gallery, White Cube, Emin’s new ‘piece’ comprises of seven Instagram posts about Tracey’s lockdown experience - filed once every day alongside a few words from the artist.

The first instalment of ‘Tracey In Porridge’ concerns a short clip of Emin lounging in the tub, a steaming cafetiere, and a batch of sourdough toast propped above a meringue of gorgeous bubbles, while the accompanying description is Tracey talking about how hard her life is and concludes “[but] I’m going to feel warmth and safety and kindness and all that I ever dreamt I could feel. AND I WILL BE LOVED BY YOU.”

The gallery / her PR (same difference) call this (wait for it…)“The art of disclosure”, when really it’s the art of every bollocks since 2007 with a smartphone and a Facebook account.

Emin, meanwhile, says of her work: “People need all kinds of art in these scary times.” All kinds, yeah, so long as it isn’t the stuff she can’t do presumably, like paintings or something requiring a measure of discernible talent. And so long as it necessitates next to no effort from Tracey and it’s all about Tracey.

Personally I can think of no better way to bolster morale amongst the people than watching a shiftless millionaire feeling sorry for herself in a warm bath. That nurse in Hull coming off the back of a 24-hour double-shift, with feet like like a bombed pylon… she’s all over this.

Sincerely, Duchamp is rolling in his grave right now. This is not art. It’s a PR stunt about pathological levels of self-absorption. Full ‘disclosure’: your soul is dogshit.

To end on a lighter note, and speaking of shameless onanism, leading adult cam company ImLive have reported a 15% increase in traffic since the beginning of lockdown, because evidently there’s only so much Tiger King you can watch before the pants come down. In a measure designed to cope with a projected surge in stealth-spanking - on account of overcrowding in the home - the site has introduced a brand new ‘panic button’ feature, enabling the casual peruser to quickly flip to another site should his mum come in with soup. Those guys think of everything.

Despatches From Quarantine #3: Oswald Was A Pussy/ We All Fall Down

The days merge into one. Does morbid self-examination count as exercise?

One day - and perhaps that day will arrive sooner than he thinks - Boris Johnson will be trending for the right reasons. But until then I’m destined to die at the hands of a chubby Oxbridge Utilitarian with a callous disregard for humanity. Life has changed dramatically in the last week.

With each new morning comes yet another harrowing YouTube-missive from the infected: ashen-faced, bedridden men from Leicester nose-panting like Tony Soprano on a treadmill. My hair is staging its own military junta while, down to our last pack of Handie Andies, toilet-time has become a Conradian journey into the self. There are things going on in that room I’ll take to my grave. Friends and family argue in supermarkets over the last gluten-free cracker bread with strange men like Gary the neuromancer from Barking, or a 7ft biker called Bunny who owns his own mini-tank, while I divide my time between Hoovering and planning my funeral. By the way, I'd like Procol Harum for appropriately tragic entrance, ‘In Paradisum’ for quiet reflection time and then to really stick it to the gallery - Bette Midler’s ’Wind Beneath My Wings’. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.

It’s only the tip of the great jobby-berg that is life in lockdown. Speaking of massive turds...

It is amazing that even after Mike Ashley of Sports Direct has offered up his retail staff as nourishment to the rider of the pale horse and the world’s richest man, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, has asked for public donations to support his ailing delivery drivers, Jay Kay of Jamiroquai is still the most punchable person in the West.

Not content with his crimes in the field of millinery, on Saturday he tweeted a Covid-themed cover of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. In a kooky gaff I can only assume is funny to the eternally self-serious, part-way through the video as the camera pans out it’s revealed his legs are bare and he’s wearing red stilettos. It’s funny, you see, because that’s well gay. Like Bowie. The rest of the performance involves Jay pulling that “Hello Sailor!” pout direct from the end of Blackpool pier circa 1960 and in conclusion, it’s probably the best thing he’s done in years. In this boring apocalypse it’s the closest thing we have to entertainment.

Thankfully M.I.A. has assured us everything’s going to be A-OK, so long as we “just breathe”. Humming of that blinkered, art-school version of entitlement unique to the noughties Shoreditch set, the pop star took to Twitter on Friday to instruct her much less financially comfortable fans not to accept a vaccine should one become available, because evidently she’s crazier than a shit-house rat. Maya’s expert advice as an internationally renowned epidemiologist/ person who sings, is that “All the vaccines you’ve already had is enough to see you through.” Right. Nice one.

In this climate of fear and solitude it’s important we remember the macabre fate of one Joyce Carol Vincent. By the time the Londoner's body was discovered three years after she died, sitting in front of a still-turned on TV in a London bedsit, she had to be identified by dental records, so lonely is this city. Folks, we have to keep talking. Ironically the atomised megapolis in which I live feels just a little less so in the age of self-isolation, on account of the apps. Try as I might I just can’t resist the lure of Houseparty. It’s great craic, even when connection issues transform my laughing Mum into a digital triptych of Goya-esque monsters, or I forget I’m on and people overhear that cute little bear-baby voice thing I use when addressing my cohabiter and stoic life-partner, Allison.

Like every Baby-Boomer who can’t shut the fuck up about the 60s, of course Dylan chooses this precise moment in world history to release a 14-minute ballad about the assassination of JFK. It’s like the turkey’s on fire and freaky Uncle Bob’s in the corner all “But did I ever tell you that long and boring story about the time I met Jerry Garcia?” The 60s were bollocks anyway. Shit drugs, shit fashion, shit politics. Take away Zappa, The Doors and the moon landing and what have you got? David Crosby spaffing around Laurel Canyon in a Native American headdress talking about his favourite beaver while in downtown Havana teen counter-revolutionaries car-bomb the local police chief for the right to vote. More than that, the 60s gave us jam bands and therefore by extension, Dave Matthews - that godawful chimera of faux-humble post-grunge earnestness and songwriting that goes absolutely nowhere forever. Oh and relax Bob, it was the mob. Tsk, everyone knows that.

Truman’s great love watches the show wearing a pin badge. On it is written the question ‘How Does It End?’ How, indeed.

Despatches From Quarantine #2: Fear And Looting In West Finchley / They're Coming To Get You, Barbara / War Is Hell, But Lockdown Is Boring

Nah Bruv, this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a lank picture-framer in Shoreditch, buying chrysanthemums for his girlfriend in a packed flower market for people who play the cello. And then she goes home and next Monday her fucking GRAN’S DEAD.

And you grabbed my hand and we fell into it. Like a daydream, or a fever.

I’ve always fantasised about proving my valour in an apocalypse scenario. This is my chance. Unfortunately I was born a part-Jewish Ulsterman - from a niche genepool whose inborn skill-set extends to either shouting and sexual repression or being tense and eating flatbread. We are resolutely without honour and / or courage. For example, next autumn when The United Federation of Neo-Britain commits to a full-scale land war in Indochina for the last remaining ore reserves, I’m very sure I’ll play dead in a mortar crater. Yeah. And when it dies down a bit I’ll probably walk to the barracks, and then eat all the food and maybe have a nap. That self-sacrificial Tom Hanks-type figure, imploring Private Ryan with his dying breath to just “Earn this… Earn it”? Yeah that’s just not us.

But what’s clear to me now, in these most uncertain of times, when all is lost and we only have each other in this terrible forever-war against the enemies of the flesh, is that a funnier ending to the film would be a deflating montage of post-war Private Ryan clearly not earning it. Jim Ryan sleeping at work, or eating a whole packet of Bourbons in one go, or borrowing money off his friend and not paying him back.

The great and the good of music, however, are being very Hanks-y at the moment. Jon Bon Jovi, for example - who 20 years after I last looked now resembles Barry Cryer but also an austere Victorian spinster - is fighting Corona through the medium of song. A one-man syphilis pandemic in the 80s*, today Jon is just a lovely old person, who this week in a gesture of cheer has asked the Twittersphere to help write his next song. If I was being shitty I’d say that the product of base amateurs could only be an improvement over the balls that is every JBJ song since ‘Blaze Of Glory’; but good on Jon. Brian May, meanwhile, taught fans to play Queen songs. Sadly he couldn't fit all his hair into the frame so he looked more like the eccentric owner of an antiques shop squinting at a stain on his cords.

Meanwhile, on the spank-it-like-there’s-literally-no-tomorrow front, Pornhub have offered to host the Cannes Film Festival on the site’s newly designated movie section, after the festival’s cancellation last month. Not ones to shirk a fight, YouPorn (very much the Pepsi to Pornhub’s Coca-Cola in the slap-ham industry) announced it was offering a free month’s prescription to encourage social-distancing. All good stuff this - very funny. But it does the beg the question, when did pornographers get so executive? So media savvy? So…tech start-up, public relations slick? Back in my day porn was just a girl, a camera crew and a California plumber with some bad life-choices and a penis like God’s own Schwerer Gustav.

Over in pop-world, Harry Styles had to postpone his European tour, which I’m loving, cause he’s beautiful and young and I’m reaching an age where I have to be told when there’s a crumb on my mouth. I can gauge how bitter I’m becoming at any given moment by how much I want Harry Styles to go bald. Right now I want to survive Corona purely so I get to see c-2027 Styles, where his face starts at the back of his head and he smells of wee a bit.

[*Jon Bon Jovi was not a one-man syphilis pandemic in the 1980s, Legal Ed]

Day One: Despatches From Quarantine / Postcards From The Edge (Of Barnet)

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with some bollocks sneezing on your eyebrow in Finsbury. And you grabbed my hand and we fell into it. Like a daydream, or a fever.

As of this week I’m getting less fresh air or sunlight than the average Cumbrian Incel. I’m cardiomyopic, I’m asthmatic, and quite possibly I’m emphysemic - I smoke as much as a longshoreman in 1950s Sunderland. My liver looks like rural bathtub meth embedded in rye bread. All told, there were tail-gunners over Schweinfurt with a longer life expectancy than me. I’m prepared to go out like a gentleman but I swear, if I choke it and the chancers who’ve been using the coronacrisis as a platform to peddle their artistic wares live I’m going to be very annoyed.

First thing I see is that Gary Barlow and JC Chavez have teamed up for an online gig. I should think this is the first of many such ‘bedroom concerts’ in the coming months, from artists of all stripes. Barlow’s a Tory turd, and had his Dad never introduced him to Elton John, he’d be an avuncular policeman in Preston right now, but I dig the concept. How about Sunn O)))) from the interior of their all-white marble mausoleum at the gates of hell? Or Alan Vega from his tomb in Graceland, playing the dead flag blues? How about the Outbreak monkey performing from his cage in a secret military base under a Utah mountain range, just chatting random shit about bananas and fucking?

Meanwhile in North America, a lot of people I really did admire once trade verses of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ on Instagram, in quite the most asinine example of fart-smelling Hollywood earnestness since Emma Stone won an Oscar for risible Gap advert La La Land and in her acceptance speech declared it “One for the dreamers.”

Back to London where Bono, the answer to the question nobody is asking right now, writes a song for Coronavirus. It’s generic, it’s blandly universal, it’s fundamentally meaningless. It’s U2. And much like their auto-installed iTunes album it only exists because, these days, evidently we have no choice but to eat shit. Which is because, in 2020, the world is ruled by the wholly un-self-aware, whose blind self-assurance and rank opportunism in the face of existential irrelevance has to become everyone else's problem. It’s like the Titanic’s going down and Bono’s on a nearby tugboat shouting “OOOOOOOH will yee look at me big feckin' Oirish heart?! I’m not an entertainer, I'm an international statesman!” until a member of staff shoots him in the glasses for creating panic. As legend has it, once during a lightning storm on a passenger jet, Bono leaned across the aisle to comfort a concerned nearby passenger. ”Don’t worry kid,” he said, “it’s just God taking pictures.” Yeah well I disagree. I think God saw his chance and he fucked it.

Speaking of rank opportunism and the public having to eat the shit of the newly irrelevant (quite literally, in this case), Jamie Oliver has been commissioned to present his own coronavirus cooking show. It’s to be called Keep Cooking And Carry On (because of fucking course it is) and will feature Oliver wanking around his soon-to-be reclaimed £7million flat in Islington and generally talking like Goldie while teaching people how to cook in a crisis. The only crisis here is his impending insolvency. That and his crisis of identity, as every morning he wakes up a 52-year-old geezer forced to peddle that same FHM-brand of ersatz youthful Britishness, just so that in a month he isn't sleeping in the same room as nineteen Manc ex-cons in a disused Textiles factory in post-apocalyptic Yarm. But, hey, in the end just keep on telling yourself it’s about helping us - the little people, and that's important to remember; like not letting your kids eat breaded turkey. And just keep on telling yourself it's not about Oliver’s bottom line.

This just in: Marcus Mumford piano-dicks ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ for Corona. The hashtag ‘You’ll Never Wank Alone” is trending within the hour, because the Great British Public are fucking amazing.

I can almost see him now, the big melon, sat there in his depression-era braces and frat boy joggers, phoning Ed or other men called Marcus or his mate Jordan Peterson to go on about his weeping heroism, perhaps as a dutiful Carrie bakes her famous jam tarts in preparation for a Tory lovemaking session involving sophisticated pulley systems and medieval-style pegging. Bare dungeon shit. Yeah that’s Marcus - the David Cameron of indie; the caring Conservative covering the LFC anthem with the utmost degree of doe-eyed, indie-sensitive altruism, despite it being almost guaranteed a member of his extended family in the Lords voted against the Hillsborough inquest.

I’ve eaten 13 party rings since noon and all day I stare at my collapsing face in family Skype calls, where conversation topics range from classist genocide to mortgage holidays to “Is mum ok for eggs?” I can’t focus. Or think straight. I try to chat to girls but I keep thinking about World War III. The multi-cellular virus that is Donald Trump, who in recent press conferences looks to be experiencing history's most protracted mini-stroke, still has the launch codes.

Yeah the ship’s going down and we’re still in the kitchen making noodles. I hear stories like my mate's drug delivery guy owns a Hazmat suit now, or that my girlfriend’s accountant bought a baseball bat on Amazon in case martial law is declared in Walthamstow. At tQ we’re forwarded actual real-life PR emails advertising ‘exciting opportunities’ in the sex industry for McDonalds workers on unpaid sick leave. As we speak, even Keith Richards, who of course cannot be killed by conventional weapons, is in Chelsea shitting it, dislodging his last mystical douchebag in preparation for the big one.

The band has stop playing but we’re still dancing. 'The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore'. Hard times ahead. But while the chief plays 'Sunshine On Leith', we’ll fight this together.

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