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in-a-gadda-da-vida at tate britain
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Britart reborn at London’s Tate Britain.

It’s everything you’d expect. A cleaved cow carcass hangs taught with sinews exposed, a crucified Christ is wrapped in fags… But In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is also more than the sum of its participants, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst. It’s certainly a suitable follow-up to the vibrancy of their previous group show, 1988’s legendary Freeze, which featured many of today’s dynamic Britart superstars.

It’s a gaudy, gutsy installation of posters, sculptures and millions of dead flies, all competing for your attention. Hirst’s reworking of Francis Bacon’s Painting, in dead cow and live tropical fish, gives freshness to his trademark tank pieces. His kaleidoscopic butterfly wallpaper covers much of the gallery.

Fairhurst’s covered a wall or two as well, one in last year’s newspapers. Every week’s front pages overprinted so that the words are lost entirely, and only the blur of inks remains. Lucas, of two fried eggs and a kebab fame, has made a w**king Spam Zeppelin and pizza menu wallpaper. Titles of her work include Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy and The Man Who Sold The World.

Mass produced stuff like cigarettes and song lyrics are reused and re-contextualised in pop-art style. The jokey misuse of everyday things puts them into a new light that’s reminiscent of lively, bric-a-bracky Surrealist shows. The show’s title was drunkenly mumbled by the band Iron Butterfly’s singer in 1968, who meant to say, “In the Garden Of Eden”. Classical and biblical references stack up - Adam, Eve, Jesus, Mary, a Narcissistic gorilla... This could be the Young British Artists’ vision of Eden.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida showcases the artists’ dark humour, their irreverence for the Establishment and their questions about our world. The curation reflects this, more fairground than White Cube. There’s a sense that entertainment’s back on the agenda, as opposed to self-important posturing.

For some it’ll be a contextual epiphany for contemporary art of this kind. Fairhurst’s giant skinned bronze banana, Undone, might seem out of place in a minimal white gallery, but here it makes comical sense. Whether a Page Three-covered lorry cabin, complete with w**king arm, tickles your art fancy or not, it seems the rollercoaster of art’s now open for business.

Rowan Kerek 12 March 04
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is at Tate Britain, London, until 31 May 04.
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41 comments | last comment Mar 15, 2004

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