Garageland reviewer Corinna Spencer visits The Museum House of Death (courtesy of artist and taxidermist Charlie Tuesday Gates) and meets a black-humoured fox.
Leave from the exit near platform 1 at Waterloo station and then walk for a few minutes until you reach a set of stairs that lead down to a heavily, but brightly, graffitied tunnel (which is nowhere near as scary as it looks from street level) then turn right. You will see the A-boards for The Vaults Gallery. Getting there feels like a bit of an adventure in itself, like Harry Potter's first day at school in a dark and twisted alternate universe.
|'One Night In Peckham' a film exhibited with 'Born Free'|
by Charlie Tuesday Gates & Mark Arrigo
Once in The Vaults there are two parts to The Museum House Of Death. Turn right to find head dresses and costume hats, all beautiful and totally macabre. Feathers, skulls and bones are interwoven with jewellery and things that sparkle.
A projection is playing silently, headphones hang down from the ceiling. On the screen a dead fox puppet is silently speaking to me. This is followed by an animation of a lamb skinning itself, called Born Free. It's time to take the plunge and put on the headphones.
|'Sing For Your Life' Fox and Badger|
The second exhibition space is the real Museum House Of Death. It is dark, full of shadows, gloriously grubby, and holds shrines made up of bones, shining things, trinkets and toys. There is a stage and puppets (badger and fox) await their reanimation during scheduled performances, but during my visit they sit patiently, looking out at an unusual bunch of chairs that cast odd shadows about the place.
The exhibition encourages the gallery visitor to become an archaeologist, a scavenger going through the possessions of a person long since deceased or finding the ritual grounds of a yet undiscovered tribe, all in a red-tinged semi-darkness.
|Beautiful shapes in the darkness.|
This is a huge body of work, it feels like a lifetime's worth of making by the artist. Taxidermy, although an obvious feature, is not the central draw for me, and I'm not sure that its the central focus for Gates either, but just a part of the whole.
The contorted animals bring a human element into the work; our influence and intent, our use and abuse of all manner of things from animals to people to the once cherished possessions of others. There is shock and discomfort here for the viewer, but beneath this is a much more long lasting substantial idea about life and death and the importance of what we do in between.
|'Thanks for coming, see you again soon, yes?'|
The Museum House Of Death
22 May - 21 June 2014
Charlie Tuesday Gates