Sunday, May 8, 2011


When I was a kid, we made money collecting empty bottles and returning them to the supermarket. You’d make enough for a 2000AD comic and maybe a choc-ice. My brothers were a step ahead though. They used gather up any useless old shite they could find and sell it to modern art collectors for several grand.

I remember we had this old record player with a wobbly turntable so my brothers glued an ornamental clog my mam picked up in Holland to it and headed off to the Hugh Lane Gallery. When they got there they plugged in the record player and the little clog began to revolve in an undulating fashion. They told the curator the record player/clog was a ‘piece’ called I Can Hear Them On The Stairs and was inspired by The Diary of Anne Frank. The curator got very excited and gave the lads 17 grand. When they got home they found Mam a bit narked about the missing clog so cheered her up by paying off the mortgage.

I remember deciding to try it. I was a novice though. Being younger, I had a narrower frame of reference than my brothers and so found ‘flogging shite’ (as we called it) difficult. I did have one success though when I scooped up a load of golf balls from the bottom of a boating lake near the local pitch and putt course. I put the golf balls in a laundry basket I pinched from the house and carried them up to the Hugh Lane. I told the curator the basket of balls was a piece called Amazing Grace. When she asked me why the piece was called Amazing Grace, I smiled smugly and said the golf balls ‘once were lost but now are found’. Pretty clever I thought.

My confidence deflated when the curator gave me a sceptical look and sighed. I knew I had to come up with something better if I was to make the cash I needed for a swimming pool I was planning to install in the garden. Sudden inspiration struck, from who knows where, and I found myself telling the curator that my work was ‘a bespoke retro-flexive analogism re: the betrayal of objects by the unconscionable neglect of both distance and time’. The curator liked that and forked over enough cash for both a pool and a waterslide. I was fairly fucking delighted I must say.

I never made another sale after that and, once they were financially secure for the rest of their lives, my brothers gave up ‘flogging shite’ too. I hear a new crowd has gotten in on the act since. Apparently there’s this English girl called Tracy Emin who’s been sorted for 2000AD and choc-ice money for around twenty years now. Good on her I suppose.

Oh, the wittiness, . . .the awful bloody wittiness of it all.

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