I woke up this morning with a head full of doggerel. The poem bore the stamp of youthful enthusiasm, if not of quality. A quick search through my diaries revealed that I wrote it on my sixteenth birthday. You would doubtless recognise the source of my inspiration, Leroy, if I recited that piece to you now.
There once was an artist who pickled a cow,
Then sliced it in half with a chainsaw.
He encased it in glass,
Did the same to its calf,
Yet was mocked for creating an eyesore!
In truth, I was never much of a poet, as you reminded me whenever you read my scribblings. Even so, those clumsy lines evoke the delight I felt on hearing that Mother and Child Divided had won the 1995 Turner Prize. The furore whipped up by the tabloids was sheer inspiration to a wild-child who delighted in raising hell in her GCSE arts class. Back then, Damien Hirst was to die for. Sound-tracked by Damon Albarn, of course.
Two years before Britart’s finest hour, the State of Texas executed a murderer by lethal injection. Showing laudable, if ironic, concern for the future, Joseph Paul Jernigan donated his body to science. A magnetic resonance imager scanned Jernigan’s cadaver, slicing him into pixel-planes thin as salami. The so-called Virtual Human was uploaded onto the Web. Some people thought the images macabre, others called them art. By papering the walls of your studio with them, you placed yourself squarely in the “art” faction.
Giddy with ambition and blitzed on acid, we brought our influences to bear on one outrageous project after another, melding digital media and roadkill into surreal installations that became a cause célèbre on the fringes of the British arts scene. But after four years of partying and three years of marriage, our relationship ended in acrimony. Once matters were in the hands of our lawyers, we never spoke again. With good reason I might add, for I had every reason to hate you, didn’t I Leroy?
Until a week ago, I thought that the passage of time had blunted my anger, but I felt its familiar sting when I recognised your handwriting on that old-fashioned manila envelope. I was on the point of turning down your invitation when my Homebot relayed the news of your death.
As I walk down the long ramp that leads into the vast chamber of grey-painted brickwork and black-steel girders that houses the Tate Modern gallery, it occurs to me that I, Tanya Roberts, may be nothing more than an early work to be dusted off and put on display in the exhibition of your life. I feel sure that you are manipulating me, just as you did a quarter of a century ago.
Manipulated or not, I cannot help but be impressed by this, your ultimate creation. The hologram of a nude, middle-aged man towers over me, so tall that his scalp seems to graze the skylight. Your ruggedly handsome face is tilted downwards and your eyes are closed, as if the drone that suffuses the Turbine Hall has lulled you to sleep.
The cultural commentators have heralded this piece as your definitive bid for artistic immortality. To a world-famous artist afflicted with a terminal disease, the temptation to create some kind of grand summation of one’s life’s work must have seemed irresistible. But the title of the piece, You and Me in Disunity, is pregnant with implication. Perhaps that is why you invited me to attend a private viewing, before the cognoscenti descend en masse.
My mind conjures up a vision of the Turbine Hall swarming with the smug-looking, dressed-to-impress darlings of the Establishment, gossiping and name-dropping and guzzling champagne. I dismiss the image with a shake of my head, glad to have left that world behind.
Determined to obtain the best possible view of your hologram, I climb the stairs to the second level, then make my way to the barrier at the end of the platform. My head is at the same height as your feet, which float in mid-air ten metres from me. Only at this close range can I confirm my suspicion that your body has been sliced into sections, as if filleted by an invisible cleaver.
Hyperslice installations are nothing new to me, but the sight of a slice detaching itself from your thigh is enough to make me shudder. The slice spins on its axis as it spirals towards me, images flickering over its exterior like a magic lantern. I glimpse a gang of youths pushing a sports car along a rain-soaked street. A bottle of vodka passes from hand to hand, then pinwheels into the chocolate-orange sky. One of the voices is achingly familiar.
The slice lifts away before it reaches me, following a trajectory that will return it to your body. Presumably the incident it records dates from your late teens, a few years before we met. The thought that I might experience some of your subsequent memories makes me tremble.
In spite of my fears, I feel compelled t -- [End of Preview.]