20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.
Season 2: PC#13
Previously on Peachy Coochy I had chartered a coach and filled it to capacity with zombies in order that I could attempt to blend them with an equal number of ghosts, phantoms or wraiths. My objective was to determine the proportions of softness and hardness required to make a balanced individual.
We drove at dawn through the suburbs of North London. The zombies seemed fairly content – I had found a skip full of condemned meat outside a shoe shop in Leytonstone and filled the coach with it. All that could be heard was the tearing of flesh and the intermittent but shreddingly violent breaking of wind.
The last time I visited Leytonstone with any particular objective was in 1972 when I went with my girlfriend Carol to see Roxy Music play in a pub. We had seen the band on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2 the previous evening and had been shocked and entranced. I thought I had found the musical answer to everything.
Kari-Ann Muller, the 18 year old model on the first Roxy Music album cover, came from Cornwall. I remember meeting her when I was at the Royal College of Art. She was a speed-freak – allegedly – and her enraptured expression, while entirely apposite in this context, is quite probably comprised of tooth–grinding and free-floating anxiety. She is now a yoga teacher in Highgate.
It could be argued that both Bryan and Kari-Ann look as though they’re having a shit but actually their expressions are ecstatic. This is not to disparage the act of defecation – it is, after all, an act of evacuation associated with purgation and release. My own attraction to Roxy Music, however, stemmed not from its affinity with the transcendent so much as its embrace of artificiality.
Before I went to the Royal College, back in the late 60s, I thought of myself as a beatnik. I was, in fact, a middle class undergraduate reading books about beatniks. Of the many things that could be said about the Beats, one is that they were committed to a search for authenticity. When I went to the RCA I encountered other ways of being.
Being authentic was more complicated than being. It involved a peeling away of artifice in order to reveal – well, what? At my new college were whole departments dedicated to the layering on of artifice as if that was simply what you did. Despite my view of myself as an acid-fuelled outlaw I was both fascinated and disapproving.
Surely these fops, fashion plates and velvet dandies must be vain and hollow creatures? Their outfits seemed to express self-absorption in selves whose only distinguishing feature was ornamentation. After a year or so I changed my mind. My fellow students – not in every department – were conducting an experiment.
They had no problem with designing objects and also designing themselves. Why would you separate these things in the first place? They had stepped away from their bodies then looked back upon them as if they were objects and treated them according to their training. Their bodies were a prosthetic device that facilitated the realisation of their taste.
I had an enormous amount of fun with my new found college friends but also became aware that, among them, were those who felt that only in extreme artificiality was there to be found authentic authenticity. They echoed the thinking of the French Decadent movement of the late 19th Century, particularly that of J-K Huysmans,
in whose novel ‘Against the Grain’ we encounter the dissolute Duc des Esseintes, an aesthete whose view of Nature was that “she had had her day; she has finally and utterly exhausted the patience of sensitive observers by the revolting uniformity of her landscapes and skyscapes. There is not a single one of her inventions, deemed so subtle and sublime, that human ingenuity cannot manufacture.”
The authentic, then, was of no great value. This could cut two ways: you could celebrate it – in the manner of the art school rock band – or you could use it to escape. It could be an amplifier. It could be a mask. As it says in Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Home a Heartache’, an ode to an inflatable doll: “Immortal and life size / My breath is inside you”.
I opened the mouth of the robot girl and blew gently into her. I had to be careful not to burst her. After a few moments she began to stir. Her eyes opened. She said “Please can I be your bride?” As she spoke I looked down her mouth to the back of her throat. There were silent shining machine parts there.
I led her into the street where she befriended a fawn. They wandered off towards Epping Forest where they would live together inside a tree. I could have had her as my sex slave but I believe it is important to give pleasure not just take it. Besides, I had a responsibility to the zombies. Their meat was running out and things could get ugly.
I parked the coach in an abandoned shopping centre on the outskirts of Stansted and locked the zombies in. I got out my compressed air horn and gave three short blasts. The zombies bounced against the coach windows, leaving pieces of their face stuck to the glass. A figure in a business suit walked briskly across the tarmac. It was Roger Harris, Ghostmaster.
“Roger, good morning!” I said.
“David! Bang on time!” exclaimed Roger. He caught sight of the zombies. “Christ! Ugly motherfuckers!”
“No fun being undead, Rog,” I retorted.
“Well, no,” he said, “Bummer, obviously.”
“Anyway,” I went on, “They’re all here, are they?”
They came shuffling across the car park. Disconsolate spirits, plucked out of their lives in an instant, dying slow painful deaths as their anguished families looked on helplessly, summarily executed on trumped up charges, maimed in the night by roaming skagheads, their light snuffed out, their promise cancelled.
I released the zombies. They would unite with the spectres and – joy of joys – become whole again. And I, at long last, would learn the true interplay of softness and hardness. The creatures rushed towards the pitiful phantasms and engulfed them. But something was wrong. The screams, the flying flesh.
An eyeball rolled to a stop against my shoe. A pair of lungs wrapped wetly round my face. “Roger, you fucker! These aren’t ghosts, they’re fucking people, you bastard! They’re fucking transparent people! And they’re all going to die! Give me my fucking money back!” Roger looked extremely uneasy. The colour had drained from his face.
He explained that when a person’s self esteem is drastically low they become less noticeable to those around them. In the current economic climate an intense despair was spreading pandemically and many people had lost the ability to project themselves outwards. They wandered the streets unheeded, broken, hovering at the very edge of visibility. They were ghost-like but they were meat. And the zombies had fucking eaten them.