Another piece of writing from my 'lost files': this time an exercise I was set at my first writing workshop. They say your early work is always autobiographical.
Here is the brief and my response:
You are the new Tracy Ermin. Your bed is going to go into the Tate gallery. One bed, from sometime in your life. Which one do you choose? Put it on the page as if you were describing it and its `artistic' and personal interest to a visitor of the Tate.
Boarding School Bed
Artist Mark Charlton
The title of this piece hints at the ambiguities of the artist’s childhood.
Here is an apparently straightforward bedroom: single divan, purple crocheted bedspread, neatly folded flannelette sheets. The wallpaper motif of galleons at sea and the matching curtains in toning shades of blue, fix the room firmly in the Sixties. A typical child’s room from a loving family: the quintessential 2.2 children living in a three-bedroom semi.
Yet the scene is uneasy. The bed is too neatly made for a child, the sheets folded and tucked in almost military fashion (evidently the title comes from the family's cleaner who coined the phrase). There is no mess or muddle, no sign of fun - nothing of childhood beyond the galleons on the wall The corner of the curtain nearest the bed is oddly frayed from constant tugging, posing the question, why peer so often (and so furtively) through the window?
The bed itself is pushed tightly in the corner and close to the radiator as if trying to hide but with nowhere to go: trapped? Or perhaps, it is positioned to get the best view of the door. And the lampshade, swinging rhythmically, suggests the foetal rocking of a frightened animal. Why is it swinging you wonder, a child could never have reached it?
A closer look reveals disconcerting details. The only toys are a tiny knitted penguin, and the ripped face of a home made teddy bear; both are stained, both hidden in the pillow-case - as if rescued from rubbish - secreted away? There are no books to be seen, no radio, no sound but the creaking of stairs.
The installation comes to life with a periodic projection of shadow puppets from a torch on the bedside table. The puppets act in a silent world: the inventive characters enacting a tale of swashbuckling retribution.
As I left the installation I noticed that the small wicker chair at the foot of the bed echoed that of Van Gogh’s room at Arles.