Mark Leckey

PORTIKUS im Leinwandhaus

Around the same time Mark Leckey’s show “Gorgeousness and Gorgeosity” opened in Frankfurt, tabloids in the UK were in a frenzy about the new laws permitting around-the-clock liquor sales and the prospect of an ugly rise in binge drinking in Britain. This made Leckey’s fifty-five-minute DVD installation Drunken Bakers, 2005, seem a satisfyingly blunt two fingers up at the ridiculous piety of it all, the hypocritical mourning of a lost innocence that never was: It consists of a series of frames from Barney Farmer and Lee Healey’s comic strip Drunken Bakers, to which Leckey and fellow artist Steve Claydon provide the voice-overs, in thick Liverpudlian burrs.

Sake, Drambuie, Pernod, martinis, Frangelico, grenadine—the bakers gorge on a veritable cornucopia of alcohol on the job, and as they do so their intermittent (half-baked?) attempts at pulling something out of the oven go haywire, and their bakery ends up as wrecked as they do. After putting paraffin instead of milk in the muffins, they pass out (the next frame showing them in the same position, in puddles of their own piss and puke), but somehow, with the remarkable fortitude of true career drunks and in a rather sweet depiction of brotherly love, they prop each other up and return, strip after strip, to bake again.

Leckey lifted the bakers almost intact from the magazine Viz, a defiantly anti-PC spoof magazine—toilet reading in every sense of the word (other strips include the self-explanatory Johnny Fartpants and The Fat Slags). By fading the screen to black between episodes, Leckey constructs an elliptical narrative that mirrors the sense of time lost by the drinkers and the viewer. The video plays in a white box with a white carpet; a clock projected onto the outside of the box tells a stuck time, the hour hand slipping back to three each time it manages to reach four. Leckey’s earlier works also dealt with hedonistic time-wasting as a means of (temporary) escape from the strictures of capitalism and adult responsibility—but with much younger, sexier protagonists; these stubbly, bleary old fuckups’ dependence on each other to keep up a simultaneous pretense and denial of reality is both touching and pathetic.

Leckey presented Drunken Bakers alongside the film Made in ’Eaven, 2004, and a “trailer” broadcast outside the Portikus, compiled from images from the two works and other random footage, including some from A Clockwork Orange (1971), with a sound track likewise taken from Beethoven’s Ninth. In Made in ’Eaven, a camera pans Jeff Koons’s Rabbit, 1986, as it sits on a pedestal in Leckey’s apartment, its two alcoves and fireplace reflecting in the bunny’s stainless-steel surfaces to give her eyes and a nose. The gimmick is that the camera doesn’t reflect in the bunny—because there never was one: The film is an entirely digital construction. The bunny becomes a symbol of va-va-voom gorgeousness, an unabashed sex object, as the work’s title, a dropped aitch away from the Koons/Cicciolina porn series, hints. Leckey underlines the potential crudity of his own appropriation of Koons’s sexualized objectification by screening the film in a bordello red, womblike room.

Among the trailer’s images is an Absolut vodka ad featuring the bottle alone—no text, no embellishments, just its distinctive, stubby-necked shape, a bunny for the twenty-first century. It functions as the linchpin that connects the two works, and opens up a vast realm of associations—hetero-love, homo-love, brotherly love, object-love, love of the bottle, and so on. By setting up the drunken bakers against such a different reality—such a sexy bunny—Leckey deftly forces the collapse of their specifically male, artificially innocent paradise.

Emily Speers Mears