There are times and places for slimy things. And those times and places we remember well, privilege or disguise, pretend not to have noticed, luxuriate in or endure, approach with caution, exploit, or throw ourselves into mind, body and soul. And is it me or does slime seem to be everywhere at the moment? Not least on Instagram, where global communities of mostly, but by no means only, young teenage girls make slime out of PVA glue, shaving foam and borax, add food colouring, little plastic stars, polystyrene balls, and fondle it in little HD haptic documentaries. Some of these Instagram slimers command the attention of an audience the size of a city, hourly, with each and every clip.
‘I Want My Ideal Paste’ takes this viscous semi-state as its focus, bringing together artists, practitioners, youth workers and filmmakers to investigate the potentials held in all things that creep, shudder, stretch and burst. The show is running as part of the Art Licks Weekend, a London-wide festival associated with Art Licks magazine, a platform for lesser-known or under-represented visual artists working at the grass roots of the city. For curator, or ‘organiser’ as she prefers to be called, Laura Dee Milnes, the show is part of her ongoing research into the mysteries and the powers of the slimy encounter – what is that strange thrill of touching, or of watching others touch, a lump of squidgy matter? Is it possible to learn something from this encounter? Through immersing ourselves in the various forms of the formless, in the delicious surfaces of all that is edgeless, might we find the ecstatic potential of another kind of world, one that is free from the cynical creep of technocracy, bureaucracy, borders and surveillance?
As you descend into the cupboard-like basement space of KELDER, you are met with, against a brilliant green backdrop, a small sheet of shivering skin. Tim Spooner’s ‘feeling around down there’ (2017) – a sheet of latex with air blown behind it from below. It’s about the height and size of a bathroom mirror, reflecting back to us, instead of our face, the most curious of our transitory bodily responses – the shiver – weirdly stretched into continuousness. A kinetic portrait of slightly agitated skin, the only in the world I’m sure, as it ‘feels around’ and touches something dubious.
Facing this, a video work by Goo Notorious, landscapes of slime mould spores, on an LCD screen around which heterogeneous stuff encroaches. The slime mould is electrifyingly intricate, luminous and complex. Slime is not about indifferent masses of sameness. It’s about imperceptibly articulated assemblages of matter and the pieces in this show are obsessively aware of this. Col Self’s ‘Fungus World’ (2017), a paisley podium displaying some strange ritualistic tool made of mushrooms, parasitic wood, a tripod and a piece of windscreen delicately carved into an arrowhead desperately wrapped up in washing line. We live in a world, you begin to feel, where things cluster together, adhere, maybe detach, only to adhere again until some sort of utility, some meaning, emerges. What else are we?
The film ‘The Body to its Being’ (2017), by youth worker and artist, India Harvey, most closely resembles the slime films exploding on Instagram currently. Hands knead and stretch some purple gloop. As you grab it, it grabs you back – the world is alive, every part of it, not just sitting there, inanimate, waiting for us to exploit it. The hands fondle, desiring something, but the pleasure is directionless, is not searching for a climax. Fondling slime is a bit like being on Instagram, scrolling endlessly and aimlessly through the clips as they gently knead themselves into your retina. Is there a queer resistance in this pleasure, one that resists the dominant ideology of ejaculation?
‘I Want My Ideal Paste’ engages compellingly with a state of matter that is becoming increasingly present in contemporary society. And it takes joy seriously. It takes pleasure seriously. It takes something so often thought of as moronically childish – squeezing something colourful and soft – and finds in it a vision of the future. It does this while never coming close to sentimentality or portentousness. The art world has talked for years about the importance of ‘play’ in art. Despite this, I’ve noticed, no-one talks of children being given control of the art world. With ‘I Want My Ideal Paste’, we have an instance where what children get up to on the internet is paving the way for whole new kinds of cultural experience.