2013.11.14 Thu, by
Girolamo Marri’s London Safari

Several Shades of Grey Weather

(Chapters 1 to 5 have been lost in the cellar at randian headquarters except for the following fragment).

Undoubtedly what strikes me most at the fair are the VIP toilets which are divided by panels in six groups of three — I guess to allow private diuretic parties. They are luxurious beyond any fair standard; capacious, with glass sinks, a kind attendant, and plenty of moisturizing cream to soften your hands before you go back out and secretly caress art works while the staff is not looking.

Chapter 6. HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS – Do you smoke?

On the evening of Thursday the 17th, a few other art students and I venture north to see some performances at the David Roberts Foundation in Camden Town. It should be very good with participants such as Juliette Blightman, Rodney Graham and Michael Dean. We aim to get there early as spaces are limited, but the London underground is merciless and when we finally arrive there is already a long queue and we’ve predictably lost an exchange student from Kyoto. We manage to grab some beers and see bits of the first performance that features dancers slowly appearing from all directions and moving towards each other. One of them crawls along the walls covered in bristling tin foil and reminds me of a moth. Shortly after, the space, which comprises some five rooms and a courtyard, becomes painfully crowded and we are not able to see what is happening anymore – we only hear loud, distorted screams coming from a courtyard microphone.

My friend buys a pack of cigarettes signed by Juliette Blightman for GBP 20.00

I’m complaining about this and secretly planning to drop everyone else and go home, when a friend who channels his infinite dose of positivity through his beard, makes his way out of the courtyard towards us and says cheerily “How great is art? I mean, where else would you get a man screaming nonsense in a microphone and everyone being happy and applauding and then you’re given free beer?” This simple variation of perspective infuses us all with new energy and we stay on for another half an hour, giving our optimist the time to buy from a half naked cigarette vendor a pack of Marlboro signed by Juliette Blightman for £20. He’s drunk, I bet he must not feel nice when he wakes up in some random converted warehouse the next morning holding in his hands the pack of cigarettes and finds out half of the signature has faded away during the night.

Finally we give up on the performance event and move on to the pub, as you do when you are in the UK. Another thing people do here, especially art students on a limited budget and with an insatiable thirst for the liquid knowledge that comes in pints, is that they forget to have dinner. They seem to be content with a bag of crisps shared by the whole table. Something like this would never happen in Shanghai or anywhere else in the Middle Kingdom, and I bow to the Chinese for they are very similar to my Italian countrymen in these regards (similarities between Italians and Chinese are striking in many other ways; attachment to the family, reliance on guangxi and on the grey areas of the law). When a friend finally puts her famous blue raincoat on and asks me if I want to face the long bus ride south together, I stand up and hear the whisky scratch on the walls of my stomach like the talons of a great grey owl on a blackboard. As we change bus after bus my mood sinks further and further. I want to be on a hammock on an island. Later I imagine the over-structures of the art market — galleries, museums, reviews, critiques, talks, workshops, school trips, catalogues, websites, awards, residencies, as a Hong Kong residential high-rise balanced on the back of a very surprised turtle.


Between psychoanalysis session and consultation with the Delphi oracle, artist Karolina Magnusson-Murray’s intimate performance “The Magic Shop” strikes me as one of the best pieces I’ve seen this week. She asks me to tell her what qualities I lack and would really like to acquire, and which ones instead I do possess and would be willing to offer in exchange. There is immense potential for platitude and I’m secretly skeptical, but there is no pretense, and her friendly tone and acute questions manage to make me open up and, after 15 minutes of very revealing chat, she mixes a potion in a little flask and gives me very detailed instructions on how to consume it when in need of that certain kind of boost. Behind me a gentleman waits in line with his two very excited children who debate what superpower they will ask for.


On Saturday night, about 20 galleries and institutions of London’s East End keep their doors open till late and all of the Frieze people are going on a trip to what many probably still believe to be some wild part of town.

Dog crossing Regent Park on his way from Frieze Art Fair to Frieze Masters

I start at Seventeen Gallery, which was not even on the official list, I see the two video works comprising the show, “Jimmy Merris sings the blues” — both are really good. The one in the front room, an animation, illustrates beautifully, if maybe a little too literally, the limits of verbal communication and the superficiality of much supposed profoundness. The titular work in the basement is composed of various monitors (I always wonder if it’s necessary to use more than one monitor showing the same image — in this case I’d say it didn’t hurt) and with its fragmented narration full of humor and musical citations, it is a pleasure to watch, in a way that shames all the very pretentious Ed Atkins’ lookalikes I’ve seen around recently.

After the good start at Seventeen I’m about to move to my second stop, Hilary Crisp Gallery and see a group show, but on the way out a Mexican and a Dutch friend ask me if I want to go across the street to eat Vietnamese with a German friend. I just can’t resist this globalized call, so I go and as one dish leads to another dish, and another drink, I realize I am not going to go any further with the arts tonight.

Chapter 9. I.C.A. PARTY ROBOT

Eight friends and I, all with no invitations and no credentials to show, try to crash the I.C.A. party. Unsurprisingly we are bounced with a very unconvincing smile. So we go for a Japanese dinner and a drink. Later I return by myself and manage to get in. It’s half past midnight and I’m a little tipsy on sake and half-way through digesting a really dodgy katsudon. It’s a nice party with well-made gin and tonics (Who was paying for this?) and I meet a few old and new friends from London as well as some from China. At some stage I begin to wonder why the floor and the walls in the room I’m dancing on are so weird and colorful and I am told it’s the work of Zhang Enli. It felt really nice to try my robot moves on it.

Zhang Enli’s work at I.C.A. during the Art Review party

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