Lindsey Mendick is known for her installations, filled with ceramics that are at once gorgeous and grotesque. From afar her work appears glossy, rich in colour and texture, but up close the gore and grit are revealed. This feels like a metaphor for the UK in particular, and the West in general; the shiny facade masking something altogether more sinister underneath. SH*T FACED, Lindsey’s new show at Jupiter Artland, explores how many find solace in new, inebriated identities, for better or worse.
Jupiter Artland, with its dreamlike, camp, and (sometimes) grotesque landscapes, is the perfect home for Lindsey’s work, so much so that she is the muse (alongside queer workers’ co-op Bonjour) for Jupiter Rising X Edinburgh Art Festival’s free party this August.
How’s the instal going?
I’m doing it very much from afar, and they seem to be doing loads and it looks amazing. I’m really excited. They’ve been so supportive. It’s just been a very different thing working with them in that total paradise [Jupiter Artland]. Did the location inform the subject matter at all? With a lot of my work, there’ll be an issue that I want to tackle. I’ll have this idea in my head, and then go to see the spaces and gauge whether it works within the space.
Because it’s such a joyous, light, airy, and beautiful space, it felt like it was strong enough to withhold it without putting a real dampener underneath everything.
SH*T FACED explores the allure of seeking cheerful oblivion in mind-altering substances, and the low of the head-splitting hangover and cringe decisions made. What drew you to discuss this?
I was getting to 35. I have OCD, and I really like controlling myself and my life – I want to be seen in a particular way, so I find modern life now quite frightening. It feels like if you take a wrong step there’s not a lot of space for forgiveness. I feel like we’re constantly living in fear of saying the wrong thing.
One of the things that I feel very intensely is that I’m always trying to be good, but actually within me is quite a self-destructive and bombastic person. I’ll have a really good day in the studio, and I’ll just be like, right, let’s go to the pub.
And then the minute that I have the first drink, I love it: I’m not anxious about the way I look, about what I’m saying. I’m not second-guessing myself. I feel so joyous, and then that leads to another drink, and it’s still quite fun, but then it goes so far.
You feel such intense shame afterwards, especially as a woman, because we’re told we need to look after ourselves. If there’s a woman who’s too drunk, she’s told ‘you’ve put yourself in this position’. But there’s this intention of letting yourself go completely.
Like having that pint at the airport in the morning: you’re not even out of the UK yet, but you’re still in this threshold place where you can finally let go.
I think that’s one of the things in the novel Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. He so wants to be accepted by his society, to be a great part of society. But there’s something within him that doesn’t want to be good. And it’s like, I don’t want to be good, but I just don’t want to feel like that.
One of the things about OCD is always feeling that you’re morally corrupt. So within my head, there’s this very black-and-white sense of what’s good and bad. There’s this idea of ‘splitting’, and I definitely do split myself into the good and bad. My friends used to call me Aunt Linda, like, ‘Ooh Aunt Linda’s on the karaoke’ [laughs].
When we do something wrong, instead of naturally thinking ‘I’ll learn from that’, it either affirms or ruins our idea of ourselves as good/bad people.
We have such a love/hate relationship with everything, anything we love we can equally turn around and hate it just as much. Ceramics are so beautiful. They’re totally charming and manipulating because they’re glossy and they’re special. We’ve always been around them. With the work I’m making at the moment I’m really trying to push that subversion of classical forms and then make them rotten to the core.
Your use of the triptych form is also really exciting. I’m getting visions of Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’. What drew you to the triptych form? Is it a nod to religious art?
Bosch is a massive reference of mine. So, I’m doing ‘Dante’s Inferno: The Nightclub’. We filmed ourselves doing karaoke and getting trashed, and the nightclub scene is based on Dante’s rings of hell.
We have a hen do that turns into a three-headed Cerberus eating a stripper’s insides. The bouncers have turned into Minotaurs and are dragging out a wormy gooey slug man.
People turn into pigs. I’m so interested in this metamorphosis, the idea that we just turned totally into dumb animals, and this scene is trying to show it in its full glory. And it’s actually really sad [laughs]. The faces of the people in the club are actually the people who came to the karaoke night. So it’s going deeper and deeper within itself.
So I must ask you about this year’s Jupiter Rising free party, as you are the resident muse. What’s your ideal night out, karaoke?
And a glass of white wine. I love karaoke because it makes legends out of normal people. My partner has the worst singing voice you’ll ever hear but he does ‘Ride on Time’ [sings], and then for hours he’s just like, ‘waaaaooooh’.
When I see the joy it brings on people’s faces, I just feel such intense love. There just has to be a way to do it without being catatonic afterwards.
I love performing so I always do ‘Live and Let Die’, rolling about on the floor! But when I see the videos of it the next day I’m just like, ‘oh for fuck’s sake, you look like such an idiot’. I hate the me that lets her hair go. Aunt Linda’s come out again [laughs].
SH*T FACED is showing at Jupiter Artland from 15th July till 1st October and at Jupiter Rising X Edinburgh Art Festival’s Free Party 19th August.
Main photo credit: Ellisa Cray