The gag reflex…

After being arrested for the murder of a wealthy ‘cat’ woman, Stanley Kubrick’s protagonist Alex is sentenced to 14 years incarceration.

Two years into the sentence, the Minister of the Interior arrives at the prison looking for test subjects for the Ludovico technique, an experimental aversion therapy for rehabilitating criminals within two weeks; Alex readily volunteers.

The process involves drugging the subject, strapping him to a chair, a_clockwork_orange_3propping his eyelids open, and forcing him to watch violent movies. Alex, initially pleased by the violent images he sees, becomes nauseated due to the drugs.

After two weeks, Alex has been ‘cured,’ – for him both violence and sex are now associated with feeling ‘violently’ ill. He can no longer fight back. He can no longer rape. He is no longer a threat to the state.

Where is she going with this? Well, I’ll tell you. It is all about cause and effect, or at least the brain’s connection of cause and effect – the link of synapses that breed subconscious aversions which later flourish physically.

For example, once upon a time in my early years, I was at the Bishop’s Stortford College canteen having lunch. I ate my portion of spaghetti and meatballs and two hours later was ‘violently’ sick. From that moment I associated meatballs with puking and was unable to touch the Italian delicacy for over 10 years.

Now let me bring you up to date with a more timely anecdote – last night. Last night, I was sent to review the new Fiona Rae exhibition at the Timothy Taylor Gallery in Mayfair. The collection was like a series of carefully crafted fairy-tales and as I gazed into the intricate layers of glitter, spray paint and embroidery, I was transported to a land of magic and possibility. Huge canvasses surrounded me – riveting to the extent that they seemed to hijack time. This was the first room.

The second, smaller room opened off the first and was home to both the smaller works of Rae’s collection and a wooden table. On this table were complimentary glasses of white wine. ‘How lovely,’ I thought and picked a particularly full vessel up, ‘drinking and admiring, the perfect combination.’

Walking over to a painting filled with fluffy green clouds and a upside-down dangling panda, I took my first glug of white. Sour, salty and with an acidity that would have turned litmus paper red, on entry it instantaneously triggered my gag reflex and frothed straight back up my oesophagus into my mouth, whereupon I had to swallow the cursed substance again – and again.

So now, the 24 x 19 ½ inch, oil and acrylic on canvas titled ‘sing songs,’ is sadly associated, for me, with feeling sick. A word of wisdom to galleries – do not underestimate the power of bad wine. Though in different circumstances, the Ludovico technique that has haunted in cinema, still exists in life.   

RAE 1Fiona Rae: ‘Sing songs’


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