Friday morning I awoke in the wonderful B&B that they had put me up in the previous night. Normally I hate Bed and Breakfasts because staying in them always feels like staying at the home of a relative you barely know. The anonymity of a motel always has a comforting aftertaste. I don’t feel bad not making the bed or worry about using up all the hot water and there’s never an old woman that seems vaguely annoyed at you for asking what the password was for something called “the wireless”. This one, however was quite lovely. I left the young lady who ran it a magnet and the following message in her registry: “Thank you for the wonderfully restful evening. I’m sorry that I pee’d in your sink. Just kidding.” From there it was back to the Wapping studio. Steve Beale said that Laz was keen on me doing something by hand at the studio. This would be fine for anyone not already convinced that he had no business calling himself a contemporary of the other artists on the Outsiders’ roster but I immediately seized up with anxiety. When working from home, there is no pressure. No one expects me to create anything of value so if I stumble upon something, it’s a pleasant surprise. Now I was feeling like I’d just told someone I’d read a book that I hadn’t just to impress them, only to have them ask me what my favorite part was. At the studio, Beale told me I could do anything I wanted, it was up to me. I settled on printing up a limited edition of one of my posters and painting it in. Lars and I chatted about a music video I had watched that morning featuring the embarrassing caterwaul of Mark Gormley. As I played it for Lars, the soothing failure of Gormley singing his “intense” single “Without You” was oddly relaxing. Later Lars and I went to a pub where I once again played the game of “do I ask for Sprite or Lemonade?” because in England, they’re one in the same. Steve Beale met us with the contracts for the prints and I signed them happily. With my confidence returned and my stomach full of British soda, I felt pretty good.
It was short lived.
That night I was to stay in the studio, giving me plenty of time to totally lose my mind with insecurity as I worked on the prints. Painting the shirt in one of them blue I could hear the reaction Steve Beale was sure to have the next day. “So… that’s it? You just painted in some stuff? We make art here you idiot, not coloring books!” No doubt I would later in the night be visited by the visions of Stanley Donwood, Paul Insect and Blu. “Radiohead would have laughed at me if I gave them THAT for an album cover!” Stanley would say. “Oi! Let’s see if Brad Pitt wants to buy that!! Not likely! HA!” Paul would chortle out. “If I painted that on the side of a giant building, the city would tear it down and they’d be RIGHT TO DO IT!” Blu would scream in Italian that none of us would understand but whose tone would speak volumes. Around noon the next day, Steve Beale came to pick me up at the studio and take a look at the work I’d done. “These look fab” he said casually, as though it was no big deal. “Oh, cool” was all I could muster as a narcotic wave of relief washed over me.
Back at The Outsiders’ gallery, I took a seat as a family walked in to have a look around. Steve mentioned to the father that “this print was hand finished by the artist” and pointed to a print on the wall. “He painted the orange part.” I couldn’t believe it. What the hell had I been so worried about?! I wanted to scream at the visions of Donwood, Insect and Blu “YOU JERKS GOT ME ALL FREAKED OUT FOR NOTHING!” to which they’d shrug and explain “Uh, we’re just figments of your own cruddy self esteem, what the hell do we know?”
At this point I was happy to have some time to walk around London and check out the shops. I had promised my wife that I’d try and get her something from Top Shop, the England based version of Forever 21 meets Urban Outfitters. This was to be the height of my good mood. I’d passed a test, would leave tomorrow morning and knew that my ability to embarrass myself was getting slimmer and slimmer by the minute. I walked into a Starbucks for a little taste of home. I’ve been straight edge since high school so I don’t drink coffee for the caffeine but I enjoy the Bucks’ hot chocolate. I got myself a grande and stepped back out into the London streets, Kanye West’s “Power” playing on my iPod. “I too am livin’ in the 21st century, doin’ something mean to it, do it better than anybody you ever seen do it.” I thought for a brief moment before becoming distracted by how badly I needed to use the bathroom. After all the stress it occurred to me that I’d been holding my bladder for about four hours. I found a small café and ducked inside the rest room. Inside it was pretty gross. There were two urinals and a single stall with a man inside taking the loudest dump of his life. I thought for a moment and decided that this was indeed the very last place I wanted to set down a grande cup of hot chocolate, as though the fecal grime would seep it’s way through the cup and into the chocolaty goodness. Plus there was really no place to set the cup anyway. Still- I had to relieve myself. I decided that I would hold the cup with one hand while using the urinal with the other. I unzipped and began to urinate. So far my plan had worked perfectly- until another man entered the small bathroom. He walked to the urinal beside me and began using it. I had finished peeing but was suddenly hit with the realization that I could not zip up and button my pants with one hand. Releasing the button and zipper was fine but buttoning them back up might prove difficult and now I had a man standing beside me that I would risk exposing myself to. I decided to put the rim of the cup in my mouth and balance it on my chest. I only needed a couple seconds after all. A couple seconds was all that fate needed as almost immediately the cup slipped from my mouth and began falling to the ground. I instinctively reached to catch the cup with my hand but instead I accidentally just smacked it towards the wall. The cup hit the wall in front of my and exploded. Hot chocolate splattered the walls, my face and all the way down to just below my crotch. I was stunned for a moment before realizing I should probably put myself away and zip up, so I did. The man at the urinal next to mine turned to me. “Ahh, I should have known that would happen” I said, my face, dripping. The man just turned and walked away. I looked around for paper towels but alas all I could find was an electric hand dryer. The man in the stall that had been crapping his brains out came out and gagged. Realizing that someone finding the walls of a bathroom dripping with brown liquid, he must have feared the worst- that someone’s sonic diarrhea had some how hosed itself all over the walls and my face. “It’s not what you think” I said. “What is it then, sick?” he asked. The image of me projectile vomiting all over the bathroom made me smirk. “Oh no, it’s just hot chocolate.” I said. “Did someone bump into you?” he asked. “Yes. Yes that it exactly what happened” I said, thinking that explanation was a much better one than “I honestly thought I could hold a cup with my teeth while I put my junk away after peeing.”. The man shook his head “that bastard should have bought you another cup of coffee!” he said sympathetically. “Oh no, it’s fine.” I said. I turned and stated taking toilet paper from the man’s rank stall. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Just cleaning up.” I said. “Oh, just let the people who work here do it.” He said. “Ah, I’d feel bad” I said, knowing that if their reaction to the sight of brown watery stains on the wall were anything like his, I’d be ruining their day for sure. The man shrugged then left and I wiped up the full contents of my cup off the bathroom walls. I washed my hands and took off my jacked. I still needed to retrieve my poster tube and glue bucket from the Outsiders’ gallery. With my jacket off, the only part of me still wet was my crotch. Perfect. I jogged into the gallery and waved to Scarlet, the curator who, of course had to be attractive and hip and exactly the kind of girl who would have been too nice to outright reject me when I was single but would say: “Oh sorry, my phone’s not working right now. How about instead of me giving you my number, you give me yours and I’ll totally call you to go out some time” only to never be heard from again. I quickly grabbed my stuff and ran out, looking I’m sure as if I’d stolen something and all the while pulling the bottom of my t-shirt down to cover my stained brown crotch. Hours later I would take out my iPod and laugh at seeing “Power” still paused from when I was king of the world. If only past Morley knew what was coming.
While I could see this only as another in a long line of mortifying experiences, I choose to take a more positive outlook and appreciate the fact that things like this keep me humble- and humility is what keeps an artist relevant. As I look at my favorite bands, directors or visual artists, with very few exceptions, it was always the moment that they started buying into their own hype that their art suffered. The moment that fame and money and success became their focus, they lost touch with what it was like to be a normal person. What gives a person the right to speak about loss, rejection, heart break and struggle if they’ve forgotten what it was like to actually experience those things? Sure, I frequently wish I was the super cool, charming artist that could get someone like Scarlet’s number, but the truth is, I am actually the kind of guy who spills hot chocolate all over himself in the bathroom of a café and to be honest, if my work has any level of significance, it’s because of that. So thank you God for making me such a clumsy oaf. If a slapstick style humiliation keeps me more in touch with my own frail humanity, than so be it. I’ll just learn to turn to the camera and wait for the “WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAAAAAH” from the tuba to echo in my head.
Enjoy more pictures of the work I posted. My adventures abroad will conclude tomorrow!