Challenging the New World Order with Magical but Inadequate Weapons: a tall order for an art exhibition. But in the setting of Deptford’s Old Police Station, a symbol of perhaps faded authority, something magical is indeed happening.
It is the evening of the show’s private view and as early as 8pm engaging and entertaining work is already being unveiled in the form of Squeed. Tonight is the world premiere of the film by Chelsea College of Art and Design students Jake Caleb and Mario D’Agostino, built around the satirical concept of a future where squid, as the only living organism to have survived the selling off of all farmland to supermarkets and the destruction of all other sea creatures with a ‘miracle super bait’, is traded as currency. Featuring unpleasant shots of talking squid, hilarious numbers of squid-based puns and a car bomb, it has everyone who can squeeze into this small and crowded space captivated and in stitches.
Next up the filmmakers perform as Dr Peabody, a three-piece band who sing hysterically witty songs about an alien race of Gold People who exchange gold for cash, banker pubs, and film director Michael Bay. The band grow in confidence as their danceable bass lines, catchy lyrics and quirky observational humour have the crowd grinning with enjoyment.
Performances tonight are non-stop, with a butt naked Josefine Arnell soon taking over one of the art-filled prison cells to cover herself in purple paint and use her body as a human stamp to create somewhat engrossing prints.
In the rest of the cells is the bulk of the exhibition, which runs until 11 February. Much of the work plays on the imprisoned environment as images of holiday destinations adorn benches, colourful streamers rain down through doorways and beautifully intricate drawings of woodland creatures decorate a dirty old sink and hand dryer. Scattered around on windowsills are graphic business cards detailing the username and password for the show’s blog, presenting visitors with a tempting opportunity to either create or destroy after they leave.
The show is packed, and squeezing past fascinated members of the public to navigate the narrow corridors and doorways is all part of the fun.
Later a man in a skeleton costume graces the area demarcated as ‘stage’, singing as part of Little Tiger. The band catch the audience’s attention with an intro of sex noises panted into the microphone, before launching into a technically proficient and well-performed set of melodic pop songs which, in the wake of the hilarity of Dr Peabody, are disappointingly serious.
Little Tiger might be the more professional act, but they feel slightly at odds with such an eclectic and forward-thinking night of largely politically aware art. But that a man in a skeleton costume singing about Tina Turner is the most ordinary element of this show speaks volumes.
Chelsea art collective SALT and friends may have set themselves an ambitious task, but in this little corner of south-east London at least, the New World Order has definitely been Challenged.
By Sophie Armour