I’d had a bad day, but there were upwards of 35 people waiting to see me play myself at snooker in a warehouse in Dalston and we have a saying in the self-playing snooker art community, “Even if you’ve had a bad day then you still need to play scheduled frames of self-playing snooker, as long as over 20 people turn up to see it."
So I drove across town, trying not to cry, and headed to a warehouse in Dalston where some transgressive art was about to go down. The Tempting Failure Festival had sorted out a snooker board for me, but it turned out that it was a blue pool table (without even any snooker markings) and with pockets so big that I thought (wrongly as it turned out) that it would be more or less impossible to fail to pot a ball every single time I used buy snooker bat. I suspected that Me2 would be furious (I was correct - I know him so well). I had a couple of guys down to film the event so that we could, if it turned out to be of sufficient quality (I don’t know if that’s good or bad quality) put this out on DVD so more than the people in the room could “enjoy” it. There were also lights to set up.
Meanwhile next door a woman was approaching the end of a 24 hour lip-sync installation, but she wasn’t using her mouth lips, if you know what I mean. She was using her genital lips. The other transgressive artists were also preparing their works. One of them would later produce children’s teeth from her vagina and dig them into her arm.
After that I would play snooker against myself.
"What are you going to do with the table?” asked one of the tech guys.
“I am going to play snooker on it.” I told him. He looked disappointed. "I can take a shit on it too” I proposed. He seemed to perk up.
I was beginning to worry that this might be a terrible idea. Not because of the other artists. I thought everything sounded both transgressive and worthy. But because I was going to be playing myself at snooker in front of an audience, most of whom would probably be art fans, not Richard Herring fans (and I am not even sure how many Richard Herring fans enjoy the snooker podcast anyway).
But I always feel uncertain before trying out something new and if often turns out that my worries were unfounded. Sometimes it doesn’t though.
I was at the venue for a long time before my slot was due to start. I passed the time doing some pre-match interviews for the DVD and eating granola out of a plastic cup, because that was the only vaguely healthy food I could find and there were no bowls or spoons around. But also because that’s the kind of thing that transgressive artists do. We don’t follow your rules.
Everything seemed to be transgressive art. Even stuff that wasn’t. There was a sign to the accessible toilet. But the door had a combination lock on it and wouldn’t open. I assumed this was some art. But it wasn’t. Someone else had done a poo on the floor by the toilet and tried to cover it with toilet paper. Art? Maybe. I went to another loo just after an elderly man had vacated it. His old man piss was all over the floor. Art? Probably. It made me think that I could create more art by collecting up old man floor piss and putting it in vials and displaying it on a shelf.
Even when waiting in the dressing room the lip-sync vagina lady came in, looking flustered, saw me and said, “Oh, I was going to have a piss in that bucket.” Fair enough, she was doing 24 hours of lip syncing. She needed some comfort breaks. I left the room to allow her to do this. But even off stage we were transgressing normality.
There were some familiar faces in the crowd, a few of the super fans had made the tricky trip to Dalston. Also, as we were selling off my balls for SCOPE, Vivian from that fine charity had turned up, not knowing quite what to expect (and not even knowing how normal snooker worked). Otherwise My guess was that my audience was other artists or fans of their extreme work. I suspected that they would not be all that well-pleased about a stupid comedian headlining one of their nights. But that’s what makes me transgressive to transgressive artists. The organisers probably put me on just for this very joke. But it would be good if I had offended them by my presence.
Also how transgressive to come to a transgressive art festival and not get out my genitals or spill any bodily fluid.
And it was the perfect place to do this piece I think. I was down to do 90 minutes, and was considering keeping it to 60, but I realised that the transgressive thing about this was the experimentation with boredom (whilst doing something that can become perversely exciting) and ineptitude. And I predicted that people would leave. But their leaving was part of the art. But losing patience or just preferring to see something else, they had also added to the art. About half the crowd saw it through to the end and the ones who made it seemed exhilarated. I really enjoyed it too. It wasn’t as embarrassing as the Edinburgh frame I did a few years ago, or at least I embraced the embarrassment. I wasn’t as good as I had assumed I would be, but there were some impressive shots and breaks and the audience keep cheering and applauding. I can’t tell you who won. You will have to purchase the DVD to discover that (and all money raised will go towards funding proper podcasts). There were 5 frames. And by the end of it, after a stressful day and a busy week, I was properly exhausted. It was hard to walk round the table. But I was glad that I had done this. It is pointless, stupid and a waste of everyone’s time, but that’s the point and that’s why it’s not a waste of time.
I signed my balls and people gave money to Scope. Any of the other artists would have been writing on their actual balls. But mine were tiny snooker balls.
Hopefully these photos will bring some of the excitement home to you. You can see my ball sack in one of them.