I create a work of art, a three-dimensional protest against the British TV licencing Mafia-wannabes, and submit it to the Turner Prize Competition.
I have acquired a boxy, out-dated television set, smashed the screen, arranged the shards to poke out at artistic angles from the frame like half-open windows, and covered every inch of the TV with all the letters I’ve received from the TV licencing bullies.
(In reality their letters of demand have been shoved through my door every few weeks for the past fifty-three months. Each one is addressed to “The Legal Occupier”. They promise visits, but never show. They threaten to take me to court, but they can’t; they don’t know my name, which is unfortunate, since, if they did, I would simply tell the judge that I don’t possess a TV, don’t watch BBC on my laptop or phone. I would say I had chosen not to waste time explaining that to my accusers, since all the letters insult me by clearly stating that they might not believe me).
a vintage towel roller lurks beside the TV, its stained towel printed with my perceived human rights and my complaints against the TV Licencing Company. This declaration is repeated one hundred times. Visitors to the Tate Modern are invited to pull the towel around the roller. The writing covers the whole towel. Since it is written backwards, a mirror faces the towel roller, but the mirror reflects nothing; it is coated with tar.
this is Art, man –
gotta get the punters describing arcs with hands and arms,
stroking chins, discussing
the deeper meaning, chiming in, interrupting, pontificating,
claiming they get
what the artist is saying.
I am both artist and finishing touch; the component which makes the artwork whole. I stroll up to viewers as they intellectualise, a couple of twigs in my hair, sporting a torn brown coat decorated with drips of dried egg yolk and particles of synthesised vomit, swigging a half-drunk bottle of White Lightening while juggling six loaded carrier bags, one of which conceals a few fetid kippers. In my broadest Devon accent, I pipe up:
“You’m all talkin’ bollox. An allegory for the ‘uman condition? A metaphor fer the failure of society? Wot you on about? Looks like the artist was pissed off wi’ them robbin’ TV scumbags, but it ain’t art. Fart, more like.”
I consider giving a demonstration, providing I can summon a respectable quantity of wind, but it’s not really my style, so I scrap the plan. In any case, since I would be repeating the action over and over for the duration of the exhibition, it would require me to eat mountains of beans in order to insure success, and I don’t relish the pain that would accompany digestion.)
I offer them my card, revealing only the side which has my thumbprint on it. It looks filthy, revolting, like I’ve stamped it on with faeces. Most folks hold their hands over their noses, turn away in disgust, shake their heads, refusing it. Only the most shy or polite of visitors to the Tate modern take them, gingerly plucking one from my grubby hand, pinching the outermost corner. When they turn the cards over, they see my signature, written in black ink that has been laced with 24 carat gold. They look up in astonishment, but I’ve gone.
I win the Turner Prize.
Ten years later one of those cards sells at auction for £30,000.
©Jane Paterson Basil