Heroes and Villains

What a year 2012 is proving to be, London is buzzing with national pride and expectation, pulling out all the stops in an ‘all singing, all dancing’ pageant of propaganda; a cultural retrospective. 

Over the bank holiday weekend, my blood was electrified as I worked my way around some key exhibitions in the Capital. The Tate shimmers and shines in the turbine hall with a diamond encrusted skull, as obscene as it is, the irony makes it the perfect cultural crown jewel, wallowing in its celebrity status and shimmering in its beauty…to remind me that we are capable of anything and will do anything to obtain its majestic power.

 ‘The peacock spreads its feathers and struts its stuff in the showcase of the world’…

We British have a glorious history full of heroes and villains… we have understood the wisdom of irony and the benefits of laughing at one’s self. Presenting ourselves in a way that is uniquely ‘British’.

As a Londoner I could not contain my pride and excitement as I encountered the great and good at the V&A’s British Design from 1948: Innovation in the Modern Age. Wow! truly impressive…try not to feel small and insignificant, rest of the world, we are part of the Global Village.

Earlier in the day (8th April 2012), my wife and co-partner in crime, and I had made a pilgrimage to Highgate cemetery to pay our respects to the late great Malcolm McLaren. Two years had passed since his death and McLaren’s legacy could still be seen and felt in the thriving cliches of London. On reflection that evening, looking at his sunken grave was a sad event, it seemed that the influential cultural situationist…was unloved and ignored. 

McLaren’s legacy had become a parody and still doing its rounds in Camden Town, ironically, Damien Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’ was exuding iconic vulgar immortality in Tate Modern. Both are tattooed in the British psyche and both a source of iconic British pride, two equally unloved personalities, so what crime have they have committed?…  They both have exploited the system, having milked society to prove their point. The anti-establishment two fingered salute only retains its power if you remain anti-establishment: “well done Malcolm”. A powerful idea in art, remains powerful even if you run with the fox and bark with the hounds, none-the-less Damien Hirst is perceived as greedy and insincere.

God save our heroes and villains.

Being Bad is Good: Being Good is Simply Boring. 

I first felt the influence of Malcolm McLaren when I was in Raglan Junior school (London). Adam and the Ants had just released ‘Kings of the wild frontier’ and a small group of boys were huddled in the corner of the classroom with the album. One of the smartest and coolest kids in the class fought his way into the middle of the scrum and pulled out of his bag an album that was to change my life forever ‘The Great Rock n Roll Swindle’ was unveiled and a self defining moment of existence was experienced. When the double album cover was opened it was probably the first time any of us had seen a nude girl, the classroom erupted as we pushed, shoved, punched and kicked each other trying to glimpse the forbidden, we were like wolves attacking the dead Bambi for its meat….it was complete chaos, the teacher went ballistic and the album was confiscated. To this day, I cannot listen to the album without it turning me into some demonic feral monster as I wildly jump around shouting along with music, such is the power of its concept.

In another part of the country, my future wife to be, and collaborating partner in crime/artist, was roaming the countryside as a young Devonshire girl, poking cow pats with a stick to see what would happen. She too would later fall under the combustable and toxic influence of Malcolm McLaren.

Malcolm McLaren almost got lynched on TV (The Baron) by dividing opinion and attacking a society’s core values with taboos. In his final election speech in his bid to become Baron, he goaded the crowd with an infamous statement ‘Don’t you know Jesus Christ is a sausage?’ McLaren’s wit and wisdom of agitated declarations and contrived statements set out to bait the conditioning of the community.



Previously in a Pam Philliippo exhibition entitled ‘You don’t deserve an explanation’ (Grange Bar, Stratton, 6th July 2009) we determine if the potency of McLaren’s outrageous sexual ramblings and lewd inferred icons could have a similar destabilising effect within a closed community. The Polish sausage becomes the icon, the natural replacement for the cross, symbolic of a mass-produced, over-processed, high-octane ‘me’ generation. A fetish/phallic icon can be seen as a discarded remnant from a festival or rave. An unsightly turd on a lawn waiting for an unsuspecting puritanical mind to accidentally step on it. ‘You don’t deserve an explanation’, the exhibition, only lasted 15 minutes, when it was due to run for one month. The Bar Manager was forced to take the exhibition down from the public bar when patrons demanded its removal. Their reasons were:
1.      It was not art because it was photographic 
2.      Art should not cost more than £50 

3.      The title of the exhibition was a personal insult to their intelligence 
4.      That although they were broad minded themselves, they deemed the content of the statements, in particular the word ‘inbred’ would offend the ethnic minority
5.      They were suspicious of the iconic symbol and did not know what to make of it.

To summarise:

Malcolm McLaren: A satirical situationist who agitated a stagnant society with 240v of Sooty and Sweep skulduggery

by Stewart Phillippo
watch our tribute to Malcolm McLaren:

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