The Cathartic Realisation of Womanhood: Proudick.


Last Wednesday night, in the setting of Lindsey Mendick & Paloma Proudfoot’s collaborative exhibition, ‘Proudick’, I experienced the first art performance I’ve ever laughed at, (unprompted by white dude’s esoteric nonsense) maybe laughed with is more accurate. The duo came together with a host of their hilarious friends and presented a fat slice of shameless millennial friendship and a cathartic exorcism of shame.

Figure 1: PROUDICK, installation view. Photography by Damian Griffiths. Courtesy of Hannah Barry Gallery.

For the exhibition, the bright cube of the Hannah Barry Gallery has been transformed into Proudick’s shared bedroom, where cockroach-patterned, wonky walls surround the set of a surrealist noughties rom-com. Two anthropomorphic single beds sit adjacent, entitled ‘Our Bed (Double Trouble)’, an ode to Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ (1998) and the space is littered with shimmering trophies of mythic and millennial womanhood. My first encounter was a wobbly glazed mug, holding ceramic anal beads entitled ‘Hug in a Mug, (intermediate)’. Moments of coming of age are juxtaposed in a nostalgic, humorous representation of twenty-something life; ‘Little Chicken Bone Plate’ sees a cardboard painted plate leaning beside a small blue goblet, a bird’s foot...a bust of Leo DiCaprio that looks oddly like someone’s mum.

On one of the beds a tray of ‘reduced’ labelled groceries is transformed into a gleaming ceramic ornament. Stacked plates litter the floor, the oozing, rotting victims of Proudick’s lair. Two Queen Anne stools offer up decapitated heads; a bust that looks as though it’s made of worms and a stuffed pig-man’s head, covered in a tar-like glaze and served on a platter with all the trimmings. These things combine humour and playfulness with violent, mythic gluttony in brilliant proportions. Snakes, eels, worms and writhing creatures are woven throughout, with eroticism and the sins of women a recurring theme in the exhibition. A coiled cardboard serpent twists into heeled kinky boots, spread eagle at the headboard of one of the beds with the other as the gaping arms of the bunny boiler; rabbit and butcher knife in tow. My favourite of the works is probably ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ (2018) by Mendick, a set of three black glazed stoneware “self portraits”, or discarded pants - canonised as an iconic object of youth. Proudick subvert materials of craft, domesticity and decoration and use them to create objects turned protagonists in this sumptuous, trashy dream.

Figure 2: PROUDICK, installation view. Photography by Damian Griffiths. Courtesy of Hannah Barry Gallery.

The work pays homage to The Shop, a collaborative project between Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas in the early 90s. It was a space of mutual support and creative freedom that transcended the studio, a history brought to life by the performances of ‘Proudickock’. Jakob Rowlinson started the performances with ‘New Starts’, a piece on rejection, friendship and Dominos pizza. Perhaps the bravest and most sincere of the evening was Proudfoot’s acoustic remake of Hannah Wilke’s 1982 song Stand Up. Joined by her father on guitar, her new text work explored the struggles of millennial life, asking us to “stand up and be [our] own cliché”. Mendick, in a swift turn back to humour, gave a genuinely hilarious retelling of a teenage period horror story (period as in menstrual), followed by a triumphant bedroom performance of Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’.

Her performance deeply tickled me on a personal level, I never thought I’d witness another human acting out my teenage years so accurately. Both Proudfoot and Mendick’s pieces were honest, whip-smart and two of the most cathartic things I’ve witnessed in a long time. Self Esteem, a London based artist then joined the bedroom to recount a list of random confessions of youth while scoffing Mcnuggets (a flawless performance). In a chaotic and liberating final display, Teddy May de Kock, re-enacted moments of shame, the best of which stemmed from a story of her auditioning for the part of Medea and the humiliation of being told she was average. In a reclaiming mock soap opera, May de Kock grabbed a member of the audience and used him as the modern stand-in for Euripides’ Jason, so she could re-do her speech of betrayal by Medea. The performances were messy, vulnerable and perfect. They embodied the site of catharsis set out in the exhibition; excavating old wounds to transform them into comic relief.

In a final orgasmic display of shamelessness, the artists gathered members of the audience to join them in a female identifying eating contest (what else?). It was kind of gross and extremely funny, and the only way to end a night that felt like a millennial sleepover turned bizarre meme. It more than satisfied an appetite I had no idea I’d been longing to fill.

PROUDICK is a collaborative show by Lindsey Mendick and Paloma Proudfoot curated by Marcelle Joseph at Hannah Barry Gallery, is on from 7 November 2018 to 12 January 2019.

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