So, yeah - Madchester. Or, Gaychester, apparently. The birthplace of both the Industrial Revolution and The Smiths. Not fucking bad.
Manchester Art Gallery has been offered the exclusive opportunity to display a video portrait of footballer David Beckham by acclaimed artist Sam Taylor-Wood. Filmed in Madrid after a training session, this naturalistic film is an intimate and beautiful portrait of an international icon.
The work, which draws on diverse influences from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol, was filmed in a single long take, at eye level. This gives the viewer the impression that they are lying in bed with Beckham and are able to reach out and touch him.
In the 107 minute loop, Becks makes sleepy faces, his eyes move
under his lids, and sometimes he readjusts his position, moving his arm
from under his head to somewhere in the darkness around his waist.
Mostly though, he looks impossibly beautiful, with his red lips, sculpted eyebrows and gigantic diamond earrings; and rather than being the
ball bending, sarong wearing, fabulous hair-having international
superstar that he normally is in our sights, he is passive, and
unconscious of our searching gaze.
The moving portrait is marginally more satisfying than a simple still frame, but at the same time, it raises expectations in a strange way, and foregrounds the viewer's distance from the subject even more acutely. The titular first name suggests that this is a portrait of someone other than the resident of Beckingham Palace -- perhaps that man's private alter-ego. But, at the same time it feels almost embarrassingly cosy, it also feels entirely contrived, like another manufactured facet of his celebrity, all of its intimacy belied by the public space around it in the gallery.
Remember when Becks was on the cover of Vanity Fair several months ago? Shirtless? I do. It was all over the supermarket, and I had to actually AVERT MY EYES. Being caught actually looking at that Vanity Fair cover was like being caught making out with your pillow, and when it comes to dream lovers, David Beckham isn't even my cup of tea. This video portrait of Becks sleeping was the same, kind of, but worse - unnerving and impossible to look at for long, and fascinatingly layered with things to consider about media culture, celebrity, desire, beauty, etc.
Here's what else it entailed:
Right? Because David Beckham is ludicrous. Thank god for the saving grace of his silly little voice.
Brilliant, overall, I thought.
In other news, my hosts here in Manchester, my old friend Steve, his girlfriend Lindsey and son Iain, have been unbelievably lovely and ridiculously hospitable. I'm off later today to a village on the moors where we will attend a folk festival which Steve tells me will involve Morris dancing.
So, my miserable experience of Britain continues.