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Aaron Williamson: 'The Eavesdropper' - disability arts online
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Blog 2: Aaron offers his services as a pet clairvoyant / 17 August 2012

I’m back on the job at the Walker Art Gallery via a stopover at Supernormal Art and Music Festival to perform with the cosmic band Flat Soufflée. (They’d decided I’m some sort of divinity and after forming a white-garbed cult, invited me to lead them around the festival as a well-refreshed wandering minstrelsy. The highlight amongst many japes was a hastily composed ‘Eastern’ chant that we embellished with dramatic prostrations in front of a roasting hog about to be served up to a salivating queue. As might be expected, many visitors to an alternative Festival, vegetarian or not, have some notion of karmic payback since the queue visibly dwindled when we howled as the knife slit the pig. . . .) 

So returning to more sober environs and picking up from the previous blog, I’ve planted a card in a nearby Liverpool supermarket advertising my services to the public as a clairvoyant in preparation for ‘eavesdropping’ on the paintings in the Walker’s collection. (If you’re new to this blog then I’m afraid the only way to make sense of that sentence is to read the previous post. I can’t face visiting bereaved, broken-hearted people to see whether or not I can ‘hear’ their dear-departed since I know that the chances of this occurring in the absence of any experience, training, willingness to fake, or indeed, hearing, are mighty slim. So instead I’ve put myself forward as a freely available (‘absolutely no payment!’), dead-pet clairvoyant going under the Goya-esque nom-de-mort, ‘El Sordo’. I’ll have to invent the methodology of this niche operation when and if the occasion arises (do I ‘hear’ barking and purring? Cuddling? What do chameleons sound like?); but so far the advert has been up for 48 hours and no-one’s texted me yet.

This proposition is not merely a dilettante amusement. The Walker collection includes many paintings featuring pets. Most of these are not in the Victorian exhibition rooms themselves, but to be found deep in the bowels of the building, in a labyrinth of arched, frigid storage cellars. So when the two Ruth’s, Gould and Adams from Dada Fest - who, along with Niet Normaal commissioned this residency - paid a visit to my Judge’s chamber, I insisted that, led by the Walker’s assistant curator Lucy Gardner, we head down into the cellars in search of painted pets.

The main non-displayed paintings are kept in a huge warehouse, (stuff like: crowds of angels puffing their cheeks at some biblical dudes shivving each other etc); but the juice is hung in cellars that, curiously are divided into rows of cages. This mesh of dim caverns is reminiscent of some Vincent Price-patrolled dungeon with head-smacking pipes hung barely five feet from the floor, the dark recesses made barely visible by light-bulbs whose glass was blown way back when 5 watts was an imperial measure. It was here that I was hoping to find a whole host of ex-pets cruelly captured in oils and then banged up in this afterlife of infernal cages. As we stumbled along, arms aloft for obstacles, I was sure the clairvoyance was kicking off and that I could hear whimpering somewhere. . . . 

Cont’d on Blog 3

Aaron Williamson’s book: ‘Performance/ Video/ Collaboration’ documenting his work between 2000-08, and an accompanying DVD ‘Quick Clips and Short Cuts’ are available through the Unbound on-line bookshop