Body Collective 2 — Mona House, Morecambe

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh

The second Body Collective exhibition opened last night at Mona House in Morecambe. On entry visitors were handed a brown envelope labelled Body Collective Report which served as the catalogue for the show, a huge step up from the unidentified work that was a part of BC1 a few months ago. Inside it was immediately clear that although featuring much work similar to the earlier show this was altogether a more professional event. However it must be said that some potential attendees were still unable to find the gallery or its obscure side-entrance.
BC2 showcases the work of 7 artists (or groups of artists in Free:Control’s case) in assorted media. The first of these, and one which gained much attention all night is Pam Beck’s Endorphia, a chocolate cast of a woman laid prone on a table. Guests were invited to cut into and eat the chocolate, which provoked mixed reactions: nervous jokes about where to start, questioning reluctance to use a knife on the image of a woman, an open expression of the erotic aspects, and much reasoned discussion. People repeatedly assessed their own reaction; one viewer wondering aloud if her discomfort was entirely due to it being a female figure she was expected to carve, or if her vegetarianism would have prompted a similar response to a male figure. Added frisson came as the model stood nearby happily chatting to people who were cutting into her effigy’s breast, or licking at its pudenda, its integrity violated by a cake knife.
And yet it’s title and the accompanying text explicitly link the consumprion of chocolate to the sensations of pleasure, so is the sexualisation of the effigy by the consumer gratuitous or highly relevant?
Helen Gorrill’s large scale ink wash images of dominatrix figures are incredibly striking, beautifully coloured and balancing detail and abstract well. Their juxtaposition alongside Endorphia offers further stimulus for questioning our reactions. Her other pieces, awkward, explicit male nudes provoked complaint when displayed in Carlisle previously. It’s hard to see how a traditional interpretation of obscenity could apply, the figures are grotesque, brutal even, yet undeniably human and real, distorted by the artist in ways emphatically polar opposite to her female figures. This is no casual nudity.

Richard davis’ series of photographs entitled Body language offers a more casual nudity, but in a stylised and highly non-sexualised context. Each image features acutely pertinent sloganeering painted on the face or body of the subject. So, for example, Richard Turner’s bare torso bares the blunt ‘Love Music Hate Racism’, a young Polish woman’s face asks ‘Dirty Pole or Just like You?’ and a naked woman bears two inscriptions: Inspire Me and My Body is A Blank Canvas. These last phrases were later observed carved (by a visitor) into similar places on the chocolate woman’s figure, tying the works together. Davis is a talented photographer with a particularly strong facility for visualising disparate elements into a strikingly effective whole.

Sloganeering and how people view others is also a core of Joseph Glen’s work. His primitive styled images are often decorated with social and political statements. Notably his self portrait ‘Why do you stare at me? Have I No Place in Society?’ and ‘God Save The Queen’ across the face of a niqab wearing woman. It is a dramatic work, though its effect is partially diluted by the sheer number of Glen’s canvases. Paradoxically they also gain impact from their bold colours in such quantity in other ways.
If Glen’s work often references his own experience then that is the core of Adam Hardman’s sole piece here. A tape outline of a body on the floor, around three boxes each playing soundtracks of aspects of his life. It is a work that perhaps needs more space, less chatter, to fully appreciate but Adam has expressed interesting ideas to develop it further.
From the large scale of most of these works, and their obvious, yet coincidental commentary on each other, to Rachael Allan’s stand alone display. Exquisit miniature models of a birthing couch, a pram and a mortuary table with body bag are skilfully rendered at what I’d guess from my Airfix days to be something like 1/64th scale. Oddly miniaturisation has a two-fold effect, the journey from birth to death is made both mundane and significant.
Finally, in a side chamber Free:Control have created the latest iteration of their ongoing quasi-mythology of Azoth. This time the pagan altar of the earlier works gains a body, visceral and shocking, yet seemingly willingly sacrificed for a re-birth? It is a dark work, a nightmare fabulation of intricate detail and striking composition. The depth of invention at Free:Control and the technical awareness to realise their vision is clear.
Mona House is a small space, but this is a large and significant exhibition, packed with ideas, questions, answers, challenges and, overall, wit and intelligence. On my way out I took a piece of chocolate thigh and pondered what I had seen.


50 Responses

  1. BODY COLLECTIVE 2 is on until 4th Dec every day 10.00 – 4.00 p.m. i really recommend you check it out.
    To find Mona House you need to go to the Poulton district of Morecambe, its next door to the Bradford Arms Pub or across the road from Ma Murphys.
    If you still can’t find it TOUGH!!
    The beauty of Mona House is it requires a little more effort to find, but its not that difficult. If you want to find it you will!!

  2. Mona Hose gallery is a heritage building therefore we arnt really allowed to put any signage upto say that we are an art gallery and also the council wont put any signs up also so it just the case of if you really want to find us you will

  3. Nice to see people give such keen and encouraging responses to
    people who’d like to visit a gallery!

    Coming next: “TOUGH”: an installation which requires you to take a train,
    walk five miles through a dense wood without a map, cross a fast-flowing
    river, choose an apple from two, one of which is poisoned, work out the cube of a two digit number in under ten seconds, and then not flinch when a mild
    electric shock is administered at the gallery’s door. And if you get lost, or
    you get the maths wrong, or start vomiting from eating the wrong apple,

  4. From Kev McVeigh:
    As someone who has been many times now to Mona House, I struggled to find the side entrance used for this show. It’s really not welcoming or encouraging guys.

    Joe: Listed building or not you can put posters in the window directing people round the corner. Have you asked the council about temporary posters on a couple of the street signs/lampposts? How about direction posters in the newsagents on Queen St, the Bradford Arms and Ma Murphys?

    Rich: you complain about the so-called ‘establishment’ not respecting your work, but then act like spoilt kids when criticisms are raised. A little profesionalism isnt too much to ask is it? You do the excellent work on display a major injustice with this sort of attitude towards potential viewers.

  5. To Kev McVeigh – i would never engage in any serious conversation with you regarding my work – i have absolutely no idea what your referring to regarding quote ” Establishment not respecting my work” – There is no way i would say such a thing!!
    You have done this with other people on here – which is exactly why i would never entertain the idea of chatting seriously with you on any topic when out and about in Lancaster.
    Your out of order again there Kev.

    Loopy good luck with your attempt to find the gallery, i’m sure the COLLECTIVE will give you a warm welcome on arrival & maybe even a cup of tea and a huge slice of chocolate woman.

    Again, the only point i want to make is – if you want to find the gallery you will.

  6. Ok,The Body Collective is obviously a venture
    in its infancy. The run up to the exhibition
    displayed an overweening sense of misplaced
    hubris. Over confidence in what amounts to a
    mediocre offering from artists, on the whole,
    barely out of college. This sense is
    perpetuated by the arrogance and naivety of
    the above comments. To spit lines like ‘if you
    cant find it, tough’ is juvenile and amatuer
    in the extreme. If TBC want to compete with
    the offerings at neighbouring Lancaster and
    Kendal, let alone the art world at large, it has to
    show a little humility and respect for the audience.

    Glens canvas’ are the wrong side of controlled
    expressionism, Free Control are messy,
    uncontolled, unsubtle and didactic. Davis is
    narcissism of the highest order disguised by
    superficial sloganeering, Beck is confectionary
    and Gorrill is small titillation writ large.

    You guys and girls are suffocating under the weight
    of your own dilusion. Invite a seasoned art journalist
    in and see if the reaction is any different…but maybe
    you’d prefer the two finger salute.

    • It’s delusion with an E. And a two-fingered salute back to you and your pricked balloon of pomposity. Reading your review was like dial-a-cliche. Go and do something constructive. Or if you feel/believe you have, then do share it with us.

      • And don’t forget – delusion – it’s spelt with an E

      • Its nice of you to attack me personally as pompous, lacking humour, cliched and vulnerable to typos. I was actually commenting on the exhibition and the work, not the individuals, I mean, I wouldn’t dream of saying ‘Richard Davis, what a lank haired cock!’, that just wouldn’t happen.

        Also, correct, I have nothing constructive to share with you, that’s why I don’t shout about it, which, is precisely my point.

      • Leonard, sorry I don’t know who you are (Charles Saatchi’s most trusted advisor?) but you clearly have no understanding of us or our group.

        You say that you were criticising the work, however the tone you use comes across as a personal attack – you refer to us as arrogant, naive, juvenile and amateurs. Your crtique is juvenile and amateur, why would you fight to be constructive? If you don’t want to be constructive do not say anything, you were ‘shouting about it’ in what you wrote!

        On to your comment about us wanting to compete with the Lancaster and Kendal art scenes, and the whole of the art world – I don’t, I hate everything about them, which is why we are doing what we do. You have given us the perfect reaction, you have shown me once again exactly why I don’t want to be part of your elitist, patronising art world. And do not try to lecture me about humility and respect for the audience when i wrote 2 dissertations which used that as subject matter…again, a comment you really shouldn’t have made as you know absolutely nothing about us as people.

        I am not suffocating under the weight of my own delusion, I believe I am very focussed on what I want to achieve in my work. Like I said, I have no argument with what you said about our work, that is your opinion, as I am sure I will form opinions about your work when I am lucky enough to see some (by the way, do you have any exhibitions on or anything, I am presuming you are a practicing artist or something?)

        I actually wonder if you have been to the exhibition or simply looked at images on the internet, because I believe your view of the exhibition as mediocre is completely unfounded. I go to exhibitions and they are on the whole mediocre, that is why we did everything in our power to fight against this.

        from graeme: agree with everything alex said especially about the art world. everyone is under the impression that we are competing when in reality it couldn’t be further from the truth. Your comment about being fresh out of college is plain wrong in my case because i never went and as for making art I couldn’t care less about whether it “is” or “is not”. Personally I just want to make stuff that I think looks cool and relates to the stuff I’m interested in: Anime, death metal, alchemy etc ie I work from the heart and that is the definition of any artist exhibiting at mona house. I have had work “picked apart” shall we say, and usually feel as though I could take something away and apply to the next piece or whatever, but yours did rather come across as a slagging off rather than a critique, chip on the old shoulder perhaps? keep your pecker up, that’s my advice son.
        Can I just say that in case nobody has noticed, the average bloke (or woman) in the street either hates or chooses to ignore art because thay feel that they cannot relate to the work or the artist. Free:control have a phrase “art is dead”. The majority of people don’t care for the art world so we want to give them something else, something more real. We may not hit the nail on the head every time but we always swing our hardest. Also what richard says is true, we currently get funding from NOBODY, every ounce of cash is out of the artists pockets. (To be honest no-one has any right to judge the situation of mona house unless you have been there this past year to see where it has come from and to be perfectly frank it is a F***ING MIRACLE that there is an exhibition there at all, let alone art studios.)

      • Leonard: As a writer I interpret ‘typo’ as the accidental mis-typing of a word, either transposing or missing characters (eg amatuer rather than amateur in your post) or the use of adjacent keys (eg gallety rather than gallery.)
        As your misuse of dilusion rather than delusion fits neither category it seems quite reasonable to consider it a misspelling rather than a typo.

        As for your comments some questions:
        can hubris ever be other than misplaced?
        Is art a competion for you? No wonder you don’t understand it.
        How does ‘small titillation writ large’ differ from Davis’ work in terms of ‘superficial sloganeering’?

        I hadn’t seen the exhibition prior to this debate, but I was struck by how Kev implied a coherence to the show, linking the different artists works. It would be interesting to hear your take on this aspect of the show.

        Oh and I believe that seasoned art critics were invited along, if they didn’t show up does that not partially suggest that The Body Collective should ignore them and go their own way regardless of the establishment?

    • The fact that people are discussing the material means it has provoked a passion within that person. I am not an artist nor have I been to college, yet I can recognise when someone is passionate about what they do, and appreciate their feelings for their passion, whether or not I agree with them or like the work that they do. The mere fact they are DOING it should be celebrated.

      That is the difference between adulthood and chilhood.

  7. Yikes, thats pretty damning….I must get over and check it out, see if that observation holds any water

  8. C’mon guys, let’s not have another Lunecy shoutathon. Peace and love, remember?

    I’ve not seen the exhibition or the difficulty of access but it strikes me that if Kev’s been to the building before and still had difficulty finding the entrance, then a modest investment in neon might be a good move. Seem reasonable?

  9. Christ alive, some people think they’re amazing. I’m tiring so much of them, I can barely be arsed to leave the house these days.

    Why can’t people just do decent art without it meaning they’re some kind of fucking hero?

    E to the G to the O, is sadly the cheer of these particular leaders.

    There are so many good artists in this town, making pictures, sounds and films that we won’t see for the dense could of narcissistic work, which is unarguably reasonably good, but shouldn’t eclipse the whole landscape, yo.

  10. Blimey guys – ease off. It’s nice that you all have this “art” hobby. Don’t spoil the vibe.

  11. Mona House was a little difficult to find on the night but that was all part of the fun, especially the warm welcome I received when I arrived, as part of the audience I felt very much respected. Joe Glen’s paintings are thought provoking and a delight on the peepers, as a paint lover it pleases me to see this medium being used when it is unfashionable to do so. Free Control are messy and uncontrolled which is exactly why I love their work, it doesn’t matter how young they are, art is a journey. Mr Davis has an ever growing respected reputation with a large body of work behind him which is forever changing and evolving, as for his comment being juvenile and amatuer, I believe it’s called humour, you should try it sometime, it’s fun. TBC have no need for an “art journalist” aren’t they just critics who have no artistic talent to produce art themselves. Well done The Body Collective , you have people thinking and talking, that is just what good art is all about.x

  12. Looby that’s genius! Have you got the funding yet?

  13. O.k. i’ll try and explain a little bit more about certain issues and Mona House. The following is just my opinion – i’m not speaking for anybody else.
    So what appeals to me about Mona House?

    Its different & unique
    Its undisciplined
    Its fun with a sense of mischief
    Its creatively inspiring & supportive
    Its done from the heart
    Its not in competition with other Galleries
    Its not obsessed with money
    It puts on damn fine exhibitions
    It has a real feel of community

    I was lucky enough to catch the first two exhibitions at Mona House (both excellent) before been invited to take part in the current Body Collective 2.
    All 3 exhibitions so far have had NO funding, all costs have been covered by the artists themselves. This is an important point!!
    Over the last few months i’ve got to know the resident artists at Mona House – Joseph Glen, Alex/Greame & Adam from Free:Control. All of them in their own ways have massively encouraged & inspired me to take up photography seriously again after a long long break!
    I first became interested in Photography back in the early 1980’s when i got involved with the B’Ham Trades Council, where Art & Politics sat side by side in the heady days of early Thatcher, mass unemployment & race riots. The atmosphere at Mona House reminds me of my time in B’ham where motivated people encouraged one another to do Things!! Not just talk, but DO THINGS!!!!

    So to the BC 2 OPENING NIGHT

    All the artists spoke prior to the night about wanting it to be different – to put on a show in which people would remember who went. The switching of the entrance to the side of the building was a deliberate ploy to confuse and unsettle the visitor on arrival, we seem to of succeeded in this aim. The idea was to turn the Gallery into a Crime scene, hence on arrival people were confronted with low level lighting, projected images, loud music, people dressed in forensic suits & hand held torches to shine in people’s faces. This mood fitted the work on show in BC 2.
    Overall all the artists were happy with how things went on Opening Night.
    O.k. THE “TOUGH” quote – that comes from the fact that i believe if there is enough desire, people will find the Gallery. It’s Morecambe not Outer Mongolia.
    As for potential customers – yes i want people to come but i also come from the school of Bernie Rhodes, Jamie Reid,McClaren/Westwood – there is no “Have a nice day” or “The customer is always right” bollocks with me – sorry, thats how i am. If people dig the exhibition Great, if people don’t so be it, i’ll lose no sleep over it.
    As for EGO who knows?, Yes i’ve self belief and confident. Yes I’m opinionated and like talking the talk.
    Hope thats cleared up a few things.

    • Kev here:
      Rich, we may have to agree to differ on the effectiveness of that approach to whether people ‘dig’ the exhibition, but personally that response is far more interesting than your earlier ‘Tough’. I take your point about the need for a challenge, but there’s a fine line between challenging people to find your work and making them feel unwanted so they don’t bother.
      I hope this discussion has made a few people curious enough to go along, but I hope you consider the possibility that potential supporters might have been alienated too.

  14. Fantastic.

    Thank god for debate. The very worst review of this exhibition would have been indifferent silence.

    I had better declare myself; I am a member of Qsand, albeit a rather furtive one; as an illustrator and designer I just do whatever I’m asked for money; the niceties of whether something is art, or Art, or ART, passes me by. I also know Joe as when I moved here in the Spring he was very welcoming and supportive.

    Which brings me on to the point about finding Mona House. Damn, but it’s hard! I’m sorry guys, but it really isn’t good enough to say that if people want to, they will find it. It took me ages to find it, and I WAS looking. Ages? I am talking months. In a world saturated with over stimulation and a thousand events clamouring for our attention, we’re all learning to fade it out … not turn our sensors up. To get more people in, much more needs to be done. And being in a listed building, with a pretty unsupportive planning department at the council, makes it harder. I would suggest getting creative about the whole marketing and publicity of it.

    Regarding the artworks and the quality thereof; I was impressed by the variety on show. It still had embryonic elements; a feeling of beginnings rather than fruition; but that’s no bad thing. Better that, than a feeling of dead ends and world weariness. There is a good sense of exploration and experimentation here. Some experiments fail. But at least these artists dare to try.

    And most of all, it sparks debate. I return to my main point. It has got people talking, arguing, wondering. Whatever “art” is or isn’t, whatever it is for, to have a debate around it shows it is alive…

  15. There’s nothing wrong with being confident or believing in yourself.

    I wasn’t really talking about those characteristics.

    I am talking about the motivation to maintain and enhance favorable views of oneself as a primary goal.

    Lancaster has many fine photographers, painters, chefs, makeup artists, fluffers and musicians, but it is the ones who “talk the talk” most prominently and loudly that get our attention. In short, the people who still consider humility a virtue will go unnoticed in the audio/visual din of those who love themselves the most.

  16. ‘Free Control are messy,
    uncontolled, unsubtle and didactic’
    Yep 🙂

  17. Nowt that a small Google Earth placemark couldn’t solve 😛
    You can save placemarks and make it a download link. Google Earth is free. la la la

    I punched “mona house morecambe” into Google Earth and it took me there.
    54° 4’22.56″N

    Or punching a postcode into a Maps site
    Mona House, 1 Deansgate, Morecambe, LA4 5HD, UK

    I presume this is right?

    If you can’t find somewhere in this day an age then you must be technologically disenfranchised.

    As for the rest of the debate(s) on this thread/site, I decline to comment.

  18. Thanks Stuart, we should of got you to do that at the start. Now does google show where the side entrance is???????

    • My guess is that it’s at the side of the building or lost in a para-dimensional vortex of swirly nothingness. I wanna go there now not for the art but for the Morecambe Jungle explorer experience 😛 I may take a documenatry crew & Bear Grylls. The Quest For Mona House Channel 4 Special. Anyone got a mosquito net?

      ****Lunecy Posters Provisio****
      Only having a joke here. No need for a torrent of usual Lunecy outrage to follow this.
      If you genuinely have difficulty following maps through disability I do understand that.

  19. we already had both maps on both websites google and our own perhaps next time we ought to suply guide dogs as well with a neon sign lead or harness

    • Joe: Bear in mind that even though I know the building but walked around the block once because the side entrance is hidden under a fire escape.
      — Kev

  20. Some people can’t find their art with both hands…

  21. Now “Leonard” what really intrigues me about your comments is how you connect and relate titilation and sexually submissive men and also Richard Davis and cock, maybe some Freudian enthusiasts would be fascinated with these connections, mmmm…… I mean I wouldn’t dream of saying “Leonard you have secret sexual feelings for Mr Davis which manifests itself in blatent attacks on his talent” that just wouldn’t happen. Love & big kisses. P.x

  22. why did ‘Leonard’ write 2 dissertations? failure to attain an initial 40% pass mark perhaps??? 😉
    if ‘Leonard’ finally managed to attain a pass mark in his degree, he might have learned more effectively to back up personal comments with something to support his critique.
    and to criticise the young for being ‘barely out of college’, gosh, isn’t that a little ageist in today’s terms? most of the ‘famous’ artists Leonard has heard of probably died whilst they were still in their twenties, eg, Schiele (if he’s heard of him).
    good luck with your third dissertation, Leonard 🙂

  23. LBD-Think it was Alex at Free;control that did the dissertations

    Free Control- Give ’em a chance, in fact, I’m sure they dont give a toss about our endorsement, and rightly so. Good to see someone puttin their time and money where their mouths are. Nice one

  24. Yeah it was me who did the 2 dissertations, not because I failed however, one was for my BA, one for my MA…I wouldn’t have mentioned it, just slightly gets on my wick when someone calls me naive and juvenile when he doesn’t even know the slightest thing about me 🙂

  25. Sorry Alex Mc. I totally agree with what you’re saying. There’s also debate on here that there are better artists around the area. But what’s the point of creating art in “isolation”? Is Leonard a bitter, frustrated artist, maybe he was rejected for this exhibition, perhaps? There seems to be a lot of bitterness around….good luck with what you’re doing anyway and let’s hope there’s more constructive feedback than bitter outbursts from people who don’t really know what they’re talking about.

  26. Thanks LBD, the support is very much appreciated!
    I agree, the art is getting lost under the bitterness of some individuals. I don’t personally have enough time for such negative feeling…but some people clearly have too much time on their hands!

  27. Ok Folks – See for yourselves what all the fuss is about.
    BODY COLLECTIVE 2 – OPEN 10.00 – 4.00 both this Saturday & Sunday and every day next week up to Friday.
    Mona House 1 Deansgate (Poulton District of Morecambe) Next door to The Bradford Arms Pub and over the road from Ma Murpheys Irish Pub.

    To anyone at TLR – I’m going to put a photo of Mona House on facebook, can anyone download it to this thread, it may help people to recognise the building?

    I’ll be at Mona House Sunday morning, if anyone wants to pay a visit, i’ll gladly show you round the whole building.


    • Photo of building added

    • Sam and I went over this afternoon just after 2:30 and couldn’t get in. We tried ringing doorbells, banging on the door at the side and phoning the number on a poster in the window. We heard a phone ringing inside but just got voicemail.

      Were you hiding inside with the lights turned off? Or does ‘open every day’ mean ‘every day except Sunday’?

      • Hello guys its joe even though it wasnt suposed to be my day in the gallery this is entirely my fault I was their till 2:00 then got emergency call from missues so had to rush home so my apologies but we have been open since 10 to 4pm everyday since opening except for today which couldnt be helped! if you like to come back this week opening times or after closing just leave a message on the voice mail and ill make sure its open sorry again guys hope you can understand emergencys happen

  28. link to mona house facebook page

  29. arrow indicators to both front door and now side artist entrance only now added to Mona house photo on just for those who are still confused!

  30. *burp*

  31. lol, you were in a right state last night.

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