The artists have radically re-imagined the traditional seaside show Punch and Judy, transforming the characters’ puppet booth living quarters into an oversized and darkly humorous place where the ever-present threat of violence acquires a new resonance in an era where cyber-bullying is more prevalent. Love Life is the artists’ most ambitious collaboration to date evolves in scale, form and content in three acts at three venues over a year.
Following Act 1 which opened at PEER, London in November 2016, the Grundy presents Act 2, where the exhibition expands dramatically, filling the Edwardian rooms of the gallery and drawing directly on the history of popular culture in the town in a series of new works and displays. In one striking new work, Hart and Baldock have commissioned Blackpool Council’s Illuminations Department, who manufacture and install the town’s celebrated annual six mile long lighting display, to create a giant new illuminated sculpture. Alongside this will be a new film shown and a special display of vintage Punch and Judy puppets drawn from the town’s extensive collections, providing a contextual and historical background to the new work by the artists.
In the largest gallery space, visitors will encounter a set of ‘domestic’ interiors installed as though an Ideal Home booth, also referencing Austrian artist Franz West’s Wegener Rooms. Each booth will show different elements from the domestic setting as re-imagined and re-configured by the artists. These include a giant infant with Cyclops head in a large pink baby walker, an oven stacked with anthropomorphic pots and pans and a washing machine spewing out its contents. Nearby a string of sausages spell out ‘YOUR BACK’ and ceramic speech bubbles hang off the walls, reminiscent of Punch’s famed aquiline profile. This strange and mischievous mise-en-scène is accompanied by the melodramatic strains of Jon and Emma (2016), Baldock and Hart’s collaborative soundtrack. The song the soundtrack plays is adapted from John and Marsha, the comedian and puppeteer Stan Freberg’s 1951 cult record parodying soap opera dialogue.
Love Life: Act 3 opens at De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-sea in October, and will include further new works.