The artists have radically re-imagined the traditional seaside show Punch and Judy, transforming the puppet booth living quarters of the pair into an oversized, warped and darkly humorous place where the ever-present threat of violence acquires a new resonance in an era of cyber-bullying. Launching at PEER, the artists’ most ambitious collaboration to date evolves in scale, form and content in three acts at three venues over a year.
Love Life: Act 1 opens at PEER, where the gallery environment becomes a grotesque domestic space strewn with crudely made props, possessions, commodities, chattels, knick-knacks, gewgaws, bling, tools, trappings, and fixtures and fittings – with the visitor both participant and spectator. Hart’s string of real sausages, shaped to form the words ‘YOUR BACK’ accompany a huge ceramic locket, squeezed out toothpaste tubes and multiple ceramic ‘nagging’ feet. They banter with Baldock’s large pink baby walker, an oven filled with anthropomorphic pots and pans, a washing machine spewing out its contents and a toy basket filled with the decapitated heads and masks of Punch and Judy characters. These unfinished narratives seem momentarily stilled as the melodramatic strains of Jon and Emma, Baldock and Hart’s collaborative soundtrack resonates across the gallery space. The song has been adapted from John and Marsha, the comedian and puppeteer Stan Freberg’s 1951 cult record parodying soap opera dialogue. Fronting this alternative stage set is Baldock’s straggly, hole-riddled hessian and net curtain hanging across the double windows of the gallery, revealing an unlikely mise-en-scene twenty-four hours a day.
Love Life is a collaboration between PEER, Grundy Art Gallery and De La Warr Pavilion supported by Arts Council England through the National Lottery.