Thursday, September 06, 2012

TRIBUTE TO ADAM CULLEN. Or; What Adamn shame. (Part Two of Two)

When Adam Cullen was in art school he chained a pigs head to his ankle and left it there until it rotted.

On the morning of Wednesday, August 15, 2012, in celebration of the life of Adam Cullen, I decided that I would also chain something to my ankle.

Rather than a pigs head however I chained a footlong ham sub.

It was a long and silly day.

Here I am driving to uni.

Here I am in class. 

Here I am in my studio.

Here I am at a talk given by the head of the art school, discussing what my options are regarding post graduate study.
Here I am in the VCA toilets. 

(This is the same disabled toilet where Anastasia Klose filmed her 2005 video In the toilets with Ben.)
Here I am at the opening of the honour students' exhibition in the VCA student gallery. 

"I feel stupid" I told my buddy Dan.
"You know why you feel stupid..." Dan began.
"Yeah, yeah" I said.
Here I am at the entrance of the National Gallery of Victoria, where in 1975 Ivan Durrant dumped the carcass of a "freshly slaughtered cow".

(According to wikipedia Durrant was fined $100, with the magistrate describing the event as "an act of ego").

Here I am squeezing into a peak-hour fully packed tram, heading from uni to a reading group up at West Space gallery.
I arrived ten minutes late, with the heavy chain clanking along the West Space floor and echoing everywhere. 

The same way people in high heels sound like they're horses, my dragging chain made me sound like a pirate as I sheepishly swaggered through the long front room of the gallery and found a seat around the table.

There were 12 people in the reading group, I only knew three of them. It was a stupidly embarrassing way to introduce myself to a room full of highly intelligent people.

Someone asked me whether Cullen chained the pigs head to his ankle as a form of protest against animal cruelty. For instance, when Ivan Durrant left the slaughtered cow he did it because he wanted to remind people about the reality of what a hamburger actually is.

I don't know for certain, but I highly doubt that Adam Cullen had any intentions of a genuine message along those lines.

So far as I can tell for Cullen it was simply a masculine-make-a-name-for-myself-stuff-you kind of punk statement.

I also think he probably just thought it was a funny thing to do.

And I agree.

When it was time for me and my ham sub though, suddenly it wasn't so funny. Well, I think the idea is funny, but when it came to actually doing it I was a lot more embarrassed than I'd expected, and more than anything I just felt like an obnoxious show-off idiot.

What is funny for me to consider though is that when questioned I could always say "oh well er you know how Adam Cullen died the other day, this is a kind of tribute to him", whereas Adam had nothing like that to fall back on, he would've had to have been blindingly proud and confident in the action.

I feel like I learnt a lot about Adam from going through with this, maybe I didn't, but I feel like I did.

After the reading group, with the sandwich by my ankle leaving a trail of juice along the West Space floor, I dragged myself to the nearest Subway restaurant where I sat down and unlocked the chain.

Immediately my ankle was relieved, the chain had been tight.

I unwrapped the sub and ate half of it.

I've eaten fresher subs before.

To give the day some kind of conclusion I decided to drive over to Prahran to visit the Cullen Hotel.

I threw up.

I did it into the Subway plastic bag.

I smuggled the second half of the sub and the bag of vomit into the Cullen Hotel by putting them inside of my tennis raquet cover and putting that inside of my backpack.

Here's the backpack in front of two Adam Cullen paintings.
There isn't much on the internet about Adam chaining the pigs head to his ankle. There aren't any images, and on his wikipedia page, in his media articles, on the websites of the galleries that represent him and even on the Cullen Hotel website they all only use the one exact same sentence;He gained early fame at art school by dragging around a rotting pig's head chained to his ankle.
I'm a bit suspicious of that sentence.

I wanted to take the sub and sub vomit to as many original Adam Cullen paintings as I could find, so I followed a couple of men in suits into the elevator and rode with them up to the top floor, (level 5).

When I went to change floors I discovered that to get the elevator to work you have to swipe it with a room keycard. 

Here I am on level 5 waiting for someone to leave their room so I could get back down. 
When finally I got back from floor 5 to floor G I went to the hotel bar and politely asked for a pint of their cheapest beer. I then corrected myself; "a pint of your least expensive beer, I mean". 
You don't use the word 'cheap' when you're in the Cullen Hotel, it's all class. In fact the Cullen Hotels toilets are probably the classiest toilets I've ever been in to. 
Anastasia Klose should go there with Ben. 
Or me.

The Cullen Hotel doesn't sell pints of beer, they sell bottles. The least expensive bottle was a Cascade Premium Light. Seven dollars. Sure.

I sat on a stool facing the window, drinking the beer, eating complimentary gherkin with a complimentary toothpick and looking at the adult bookstore directly across the road. 
The thought occurred to me that maybe if Adam Cullen had've only drank Light beers he might still be around.
Then again if he'd done that his work wouldn't have been the same. 
Then again it might've been even better.

I watched the two handsome men at the bar flirt with the two gorgeous bartenders.

Everybody was doing well.

Time of my life, the song from Dirty Dancing, came onto the radio. 

Suddenly I was alone.

I missed my ex girlfriend so much it hurt.

What the hell was I doing? I was by myself with a bag of vomit in some far away hotel bar on a Tuesday night.

Was this whole thing about Adam Cullen or was this really all about me? I guess the answer had always been obvious. 

After a while I became a bit delirious, I found Adam Cullen on a wall and I talked with him about what I should do next.
I went back into the elevator and tried to be hilarious.
Then I accidentally dropped the bag of vomit.
I decided I needed to leave the Hotel.

On the way out I left the half a sub that I hadn't eaten underneath the cow sculpture in the foyer.

I felt bad for the staff who would've had to clean up, but I felt confident that Adam Cullen would've been happy about all this. I also felt confident that the Cullen Hotel would have understood that my intentions were good.
I'd paid Adam's life a tribute as best as I could.

It took me an hour to drive home. I was glad to be in my car and not the ambulance I was following. 
I hadn't even realised the radio was on until I heard the opening chords to a song by The Eagles.

I turned it up full and for the duration of the song everything made sense.

Art and Love and Comedy and Ambition and Torture and Adam Cullen and Kenny Pittock, it's probably a cop out but the lyrics to Take it to the limit summarise everything I want to say here a lot better than I ever could.

The end.


  1. Replies
    1. Hey Yalei, yeah I agree. Great to hear from you, thanks heaps for reading.

  2. Adam would have loved this tribute, Kenny. But I also see it as completing a performance even he didn't really understand at the time. So really you have made a collaborative work and helped him resolve the problems in the initial one. It's kind of amazing it took 30 years and Adam's death for it to happen, hey? But let that be a lesson to you kids. Sometimes art takes time to happen.

    Carrie Miller

    1. Hi Carrie, thanks so much for such a wonderful and generous comment. It really means a lot to me.

  3. This is so great and so funny.

    Well told Kenny!