SPON 36 - The Dead Issue
DVD [10 mins approx]
With this DVD came a small button badge which Dr. Steg casually stated had the ashes of the dead artist John Bailey glued upon them. Ha ha, oh yes, of course, he said condescendingly as if talking to someone who is slightly mad. Someone’s ashes on a button badge. What a wonderful idea. Turns out it was true. So I put it on my gig bag along with my Sheepscar Light Industrial sew on patch and my Go! Go! Go! Kagawa Udon Man badge that I got in Japan. It’s just a gig bag, don’t go shaking your head like that.
I took said bag with me to Birmingham for the Con-Dom gig and whilst trying to negotiate the hideously busy pre xmas crowds on New Street Steg’s badge became entangled with a young girls headphones wire. I think it was John trying to reach out. We untangled amidst the throng and exchanged embarrassed smiles, then I wondered if the badge had a life of its own. Perhaps I had the makings of some kind of M.R. James ghost story in me? Perhaps not.
The badge story was confirmed to me by Simon Morris [and later Dr. Steg] who pointed me in his internet direction where I discovered that John Bailey was head of art at what is now the Central University of Lancaster. Divorcing his wife he moved to France and became involved with a group of painters who became know as the FUSION artists. His paintings are abstract, brightly coloured, full of energy and life.
On inserting the DVD I must have left the room because when I returned it was already playing. A series of Bailey’s paintings appear in slideshow fashion. Over them you can hear Simon Morris and Dr. Steg having a very drunken conversation in a pub. Its the kind of conversation that arises at the very end of a long drinking session where reasonable discourse has given way to mundane observations and Jimmy Savile impersonations. Morris doesn’t seem to realise that the conversation is being recorded and appears genuinely surprised that Steg would wish to keep such nonsense. After a brief silence Morris says ‘Are you actually recording this? Is this a good conversation?’ Steg says, ‘I don’t know is it a good conversation?’
From nowhere Steg announces that ‘everything is fucked’. To which Morris replies ‘Black Sabbath have reformed’. After a brief discussion regarding whether to have another drink or not Steg goes to the bar to get Morris a ‘short’ [a straight gin in this case]. Whilst he’s away Morris talks into the device telling us of the time he played pool with Kim Deal out of the Pixies and when he met Ian Brown out of the Stone Roses, Gary Clail gets a mention as does Cornwall and a list of people that Morris knows.
Its’ around this time that the slideshow images change. There’s one image of a portrait that Steg did of Bailey and then we see Bailey in his home with a cat on his lap, clearly very old and very frail. We then see Bailey in the passenger seat of an open top red sports car and then it begins to sink in. The last few shots are of the hospital room where John Bailey is lying, close to death. There are mundane shots of the sparse nature of his room, the walls, the ceiling, a tied up plastic bag on the floor and then shots of John Bailey mouth wide open, eyes clamped shut dead in his hospital bed.
Its the juxtaposition of such ridiculous drunken talk acting as a soundtrack cum homage to Bailey’s life that makes this piece of work so moving. You’re marveling at someones life work while two drunks decide what drink to buy next. Welcome to the world.
Blackpool artist Dr. Steg has sent me a considerable amount of material over the last year or so but this slim disc captures his aesthetic far more subtly than the comics and the art and the multifarious bits of detritus crammed into various receptacles.