So anyway I went over last Saturday to see the Tate's Gothic Nightmares exhibition. Not just for itself (in fact I saw very little in much detail) but because this particular tour, at 3.00, was to be given by Alan Moore, comic book artist, magician, and general knowledgeable dude.
I arrived a little early, and wandered through to see the layout of the place. By the time I came back through the second room it was quite full and getting fuller, just a large group of people staring at the statue in the center. It was clear that Moore wasn't going to pop out of it, but it's a self-forming sweet spot: the first room is more of a foyer, if you were hanging around there then it'd be clear that you were waiting for him, but if you were in the third room you might not notice he was there until after everyone else. So instead we got 200 people standing in one room pretending to study a statue for 15 minutes. I noticed barrysarll, the only person in the room that I could be said to know, and went over to say hello, that we could pool our statue-studying resources. After a while someone comes out from the third room and announced that the event is starting in there. Embarrassment prevented a stampede, and we trundled in a dignified manner into the third (and biggest) room, and there he was, nice mustard wallpaper-jacket over waistcoat, talon-like rings, and rather more grey hair than I was expecting. Perhaps he's been using the same mugshot for a few decades, or breaking out the Grecian 2000 for the newer ones.
It's pretty clear from the start that, possibly because of the size of the crowd, this isn't going to be a tour but rather a lecture. He begins by saying that he was wondering why exactly the Tate asked him along, then suggesting that they'd looked up "Gothic Horrors" in the yellow pages and there he was.
He also suggested that there was a connection seen to be made between William Blake and comic books, though he reckoned this was mostly b0ll0cks. He doesn't hold with most attempts by popular culture to get some reflected glory by mumbling something about Albion (singling out Richard Ashcroft & Pete Doherty in particular), and he reckons comic books are the same. William Blake wasn't "a little bit crazy", he was mad - he genuinely saw a different reality from the rest of us, and his apocalyptic visions are just that, about the end of the world not running out of a few fags. He also lived penniless and never sold fvck all of his paintings, in contrast to almost anyone who tried to nick his name.
The other reason that he thought he might have been asked is because he shares some of Blake's views on the reality of the non-material world. He talked about how in Blake's time, people had a different view of how consciousness worked, and when you heard voices in your head, you didn't think "a neuron's gone wrong there", you thought "ah, that'll be angels/demons". Alan Moore believes in the reality of the thoughts in your head (though not the same reality as eg chair, table etc) and that they're important, that you can't live in an entirely material world because you end up making crude decisions based on, for a start, Crude. This was tied back to the previous point by a story about Fusilli (who Moore has v. little time for - one big hit and then he churns them out) visiting Blake and finding him eating cold boiled mutton, whereupon Fusilli exclamied "This is why you can do anything, because you can live on mutton!".
Then there were questions, ranging from the predicable ("Will you sign this?" "If I sign it, will everyone want something signed?" "YES!" "Then, no.") to the interesting ("Is George Bush a romantic?" - apparently he's just mad according to Moore) to inevitable state of the comics industry stuff (burn it down, he reckons). The last question was "Why the rings?" at which he spread his hands wide and said "An aging man, trying to distract".
I was surprised that he didn't mention the most obvious reason for his call-up: a performance piece later released on CD called Angel Passage, which is him and musician Tim Perkins doing a thing about Blake's life, and his effect on ours. It's super stuff, and if I had a complaint about the talk (apart from the fact that it had sod all to do with the actual exhibit) it would be that I was maybe expecting something for people who'd already read/heard/seen it.
Check back tomorrow for a status report on what for the sake of argument we'll call my life.