Thursday, 23 September 2010

That's Not His Name

I first encountered the name Billy Childish while clambering around inside Tracey Emin's 'Tent': Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, at Saatchi's Sensation exhibition back in 97.

I knew of his bands The Mighty Caesars and Thee Headcoats but I didn't make the connection; I thought it was a silly name, one perhaps Emin had invented.

How wrong I was, and it slowly dawned on me through serendipitous references and ubiquitous name dropping by those who are assumed hip, that Billy Childish was a real person (Steven Hamper in fact), and had every right to occupy one of the largest surface areas within Emin's tent.
She readily admits that Billy Childish was the greatest inspiration in her life.

There's ample amounts of Billy Childish recordings available out there, and I have nothing that I can really add to that without merely repeating what others have done.

But what I have got to share is a fascinating and compelling documentary and interview with Billy Childish produced by the BBC earlier this year.

The radio broadcast corresponded with a major exhibition of Childish's work at London's ICA gallery. Visual art, music and poetry featured in the exhibition (Childish refuses to settle into one medium or form; being a true artist in the Renaissance sense; being creative, and refusing to be categorised or confined) and some of the interview concentrates on this - dare one say it about Childish - 'mainstream' exhibition.
But in the main the programme allows Childish to pretty much free-associate.

Quizzed and prompted by John Wilson, son of Bob (yes, that Bob. You know: "Bob Wilson: Anchorman" Bob), Childish comes across as a most conducive and intelligent character.
It makes for a fascinating listen. Art, Emin, punk rock, poverty, subversion, fame and a whole feast of other subject matter is covered.

For instance, I totally and wholeheartedly agree with his attitude and opinion concerning the term 'Outsider Artist'; a label Childish despises; a term I have, like Childish, always considered derisory; a label created by an elitist art establishment for anyone who doesn't fit-in or follow their arbitrary and bullshit 'rules'.

So big up the BBC for giving Billy Childish the air time, and bless 'em, they even allowed him to introduce himself:

I am Billy Childish
Ex drunk and compulsive masturbator

Late night vomiter of good liquor

Kisser of purple lipped women

Writing poems celebrating the emptiness of my love.

So if you're interested in what Billy Childish has to say about music,


or life in general, this is well worth a listen.

Wild Billy Childish
Produced and broadcast by the BBC, Radio 4.
Broadcast 23/3/10.

Excellent rip from DVD captured digital broadcast @320kbs to single mp3 (30 minutes)
Get Childish here


devotionalhooligan said...

CHEERS ROY... well looking fwd to checking this one out.he's always great to catch live(in whatever guise)xx

. said...

" ... an elitist art establishment for anyone who doesn't fit-in or follow their arbitrary and bullshit 'rules'."

Ah-ha.Uh-huh. This elitist art establishment you mention is constituted of the no-talent attitudinising charlatans you mention in you piece. Skill and technique (both predictably absent from the "art" you reproduce here) aren't elitist qualities - they're open to anyone with a bit of talent and application.

Billy Childish may be a poet (although I suspect that's more "poet") and ("") musician, but on the visual evidence here, he's a singing postman when it comes to painting. Reminds me of Bob Dylan's pictures - and who wants to be reminded of those?

And don't get me started on Tracey Emin. It's just a massive and continuing source of relief to me that my name will never, ever, be added to her "people I've slept with" tent. Her loss, too.

Fuck 'em. And the post-modern (remember that?) paradigm they rode in on.

roy rocket said...

Post-post-modern, surely.

., I don't know why you should assume I would only be interested in comments that wholeheartedly agree with everything I, or the quoted subject has to say.
Although I'm not sure you are disagreeing with what I said, or what Childish says in the documentary - I presume you haven't listened to the doc: Childish is very critical of Emin and the establishment (she's an RA, right), in fact he could have written what you wrote... without the criticism of his art, of course... and I'm sure you weren't being misogynistic when you were critical of Emin; you are a critic of her work, right, not her, or her looks...?

As for Childish being 'talentless'.
Well, that is a subjective criticism. Expressionism is what it is; many probably consider Pollock degenerate.
Childish is both pragmatic and creative; both talents in my experience; considering most people really couldn't be arsed...

., are you intentionally belligerent or is that just your style? But at least you gave me a warning. Ha.
roy x

. said...

Yep, I'm intentionally beligerent when it comes to being presented with paintings like Billy Childish's. As a painter, he clearly is talentless, or very nearly so, if the word "talent" is to have any meaning. This is lazy stuff pretending to be in some way more honest than paintings arrived at through real technique and skill, and here he's in bed with Tracey Emin metaphorically too. The Emperor's New Clothes.

You can back up his art (in fact you have to back it up - it falls over otherwise) with clever argument and erudite texts explaining exactly how and why is art is as good/valid/artistic as ... well, that old stuff in the National Gallery, but I'll base my reactions on what I see, not what I think or I'm told to think. As to my reaction being "subjective" - there's a word being used like a hammer. Everybody's opinion is subjective, as good as anybody else's, therefore you cannot criticise (say) Childish's work by any objective standards, and he's quite as "good" as da Vinci.

(PS I don't assume you'll be interested in comments that only agree with you, that's why I've posted these comments and not smiley faces. Great blog.)

roy rocket said...

Nice! roy

Somerset Wedding Gal said...

It's good that the BBC are getting slightly more adventurous with their listings! I hadn't realised him and Tracey Emin were involved.