Beagles & Ramsay

Glasgow Sculpture Studios

John Beagles and Graham Ramsay’s newly commissioned sculptural installation, Good Teeth, 2008, is the result of a three-month residency designed to allow for experimentation with new materials on a bold scale. Timely enough, Good Teeth features a golden and glittering monument to Mammon—a false god of greed, projecting the illusion of perfect happiness. The piece is lit solely by the facing neon sculpture comprising the two loaded words GOOD TEETH.

Beagles & Ramsay have been collaborating in Glasgow since 1996, and their early work crammed the exhibition space with a barrage of items, from posters, videos, and photographs to music, theatrical installations, and performances. Their work satirizes extreme contemporary consumerism and its relation to the body—the chaos and humor in the carnivalesque and burlesque traditions, as well as in the corporatization of the art world. Beagles & Ramsay often occupy the same worlds and environments they parody. In Burgerheaven—True Taste of Stardom, 2001–2002, their twisted humor jumps on the culture
of celebrity worship as they cook up a scenario with hamburgers designed to replicate the flesh of dead superstars (Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana), offering us a chance to get even more intimate with those we idolize. Self-portraiture and the idea of the doppelgänger were recurrent themes, for instance, in life-size dolls like Budget Range Sex Dolls (Double Self-Portrait), 1999. 15th December 2065, 1999, imagines the pair aged and asleep in bed. In Dead of Night/Ventriloquist Figure (Double Self-Portrait), 2003, they appear as ventriloquists, each with a dummy of himself—a dark, witty piece exposing the split or loss of self through repetition, obsession, and even apathy.

Recent works, including Glitter Island, 2006, and the series “Glitter Deserts,” 2007, present more elegant and sparse groupings of photographs, sculptures, and performance videos, centering on landscapes of gold glitter where the artists pose as dandies, condescending and aloof, oblivious to any other world except their golden island. Expanding on ideas in those works, the artists have distilled this exhibition further by removing themselves and including only two pieces. The viewer is no longer asked to roam through cluttered, messy remnants of daily consumerism. There is no sound. Instead, one is brought into an inner sanctum, a strange place of worship where the immediate focus is on the materials. Covered with more than fifty pounds of gold glitter, meticulously applied by hand, centimeter by centimeter, over a period of two months, a figure resembling a giant toy robot from the 1930s sits quietly, with a smile and a notable erection. On the opposite wall, the prominent neon sculpture sheds a cold light on the glittering behemoth. Good Teeth stylishly mocks the pretentious cults of want and loss, of celebrity, beauty, and success. Tongue in cheek, the show’s press release cites a quote from Pasolini’s film Accatone (1961): “The world belongs to those with teeth.” And, perhaps more aptly, from George Bernard Shaw: “The man with a toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound.”

Lauren Dyer Amazeen