ARTHUR MCDONALD: THE ROYAL FAMILY + THE POOR
British provocateur Arthur McDonald unabashedly wields his axe cutting the line between fact and fiction through his art. Once referred to as Prince Brian, Arthur—the original founder/vocalist of The Royal Family and the Poor, soon tapered his involvement—leaving Mike Keane to the reigns. At times tender—at times biting—one thing holds fast, Arthur’s need to talk.
Tales of upbringing.
Born 1949, idyllic (for a boy) post-world war 2 working class Liverpool. A handsome ex-soldier, communist dad and a pretty ex-armaments factory worker, catholic mum. They voted for the Labour Party and the UK got a free National Health Service and free education up to university level. School was easy. There was even an all girls school next door. The Beatles music and the Mersey sound drifting in and out of English and American tv shows on ITV and the BBC. By 18 I`d passed enough exams to get a grant to complete the Fine Art Degree Course at Newcastle University starting September 1968. In May`68 scenes of strikes, protests and riots in Paris appeared on UK news shows. I had a summer job as a barman in a pub. I first started exhibiting artwork in 1970 in the Young Contemporaries exhibtion at the Royal Academy, London. Teresa bumped into David Hockney. Later on, we met Joseph Beuys and Richard Hamilton in the Tate cafe. We visited Fournier St to meet Gilbert & George but they were out. We met the exhibition organiser Richard Demarco and exhibited some of Teresa`s works in his gallery in Edinburgh.
The child behind Arthur.
Fine. but bollocks to the `Yoko Ono` infantilisation of art and music.
Why Prince Brian?
If you haven’t, watch the film `The Life of Brian` by Monty Python. It`s a really funny English musical comedy set at the time of Jesus. Various Jewish sects are convinced `Brian` is the messiah and the more he tries to convince them he isn`t the more convinced they become that he is. It was controversial with the English church in 1970 who denounced it as blasphemous on UK tv. It`s not in the least blasphemous it`s just really funny. Younger generations who`ve not seen the film are in for a treat. I think it was a New Musical Express review of our gig at the Moonlight Club in London (with Joy Division and Crawling Chaos) that used the comparison with `Brian.` Far more interestingly, Joy Division thought we were great. Is there any higher praise than that? Looking back I can now see how and why RF&TP and Joy Division were doomed. But what a doomed!
What’s so great about Pussy Riot art?
What`s so great about Pussy Riot art ? Everything. They`ve `upstaged` the entire Russian spectacle managed by the cultural, religious, political, business, and media mafias. Putin and Kirill are exposed as cynical, misogynist liars. Thousands of Russians are now leaving Russia, many for `Moscow on Thames` in London. Pussy Riot are the apotheosis (so far) of the situationist detournement of public culture by feminist artists. England once put Oscar Wilde in prison and Russia has done the same with Pussy Riot. They are the finest artists in Russia since the Suprematists and the Oberiu Poets. They speak and seek the truth. Putin and Kirill do the opposite. In scriptural terms the Orthodox and the Kremlin have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. Zizek`s `The True Blasphemy` expresses this clearly. It brings Raoul Vaneigem`s `The Resistance To Christianity` right up to date. It is the Church and State that has nothing to do with art, that is anti-art, anti-intellectual, anti-poetry. My painting/photography project `The Miraculous Appearance of Pussy Riot In The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, 2012` chronicles this birth of a new artworld and a re-definition of art itself. Viva Free Pussy Riot and Gothic Moon Records!
What about Femen?
Femen are a huge fledgling protest art experiment more nihilist and atheist ideologically than Pussy Riot. Fearless anger and undisguised hatred of `the system`/patriarchy…..and their new aesthetic of a rejuvinated women`s revolution make them the beautiful naked shock troops of feminist art. Their critics are also anti-american and anti-israel, anti-intellectual occidentalists. Viva Femen.org! The female figures in my painting `Shanghai Lilies` look as though they could be members of Femen.
On hearing that Marcel Duchamp had died, Picasso said of Duchamp’s works, “He was wrong.” Was Picasso wrong?
Yes, Picasso was totally wrong. Picasso knew how to compete against painters from Braque to Matisse, but Duchamp could not be beat. If Picasso was a minotaur, Duchamp was a labyrinth designer.
What do you think of the interview with Duchamp from 1966 just re- published in the Art Newspaper?
A great interview. His dismissal of `beauty` and `truth` is contradicted today by Pussy Riot and Femen who attack the ugliness and lies of the spectacle. Matthew Collings and Emma Biggs “go straight for beauty” in making their collaborative abstract paintings. “In times of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act”- George Orwell.
Does Hirst`s or Emin`s work mean anything to you?
Is there no beginning to their talent? Tracey Emin is now officially one of the Queen`s corgies.
Do you think the Russian millionaire owner of the Independent newspaper (UK) was right when he wrote that England is sleepwalking into a Soviet future ?
Yes, and Margaret Thatcher started it. Followed by the cocaine addict casino racketeering bankers, and the Blair, Brown, Clegg and Cameron cults. Thatcherism is `capitalism with Asian values` or `stalinised capital` (as the situationists describe it). A perfect monument for Thatcher’s grave would be Duchamp’s `Fountain` (perfect for all overrated mediocrities). The poet John Cooper Clarke`s `Beasley Street` (the Martin Hannet production) , and Joy Division`s `Wilderness` are both remarkable expressions from the `Thatcher Years.’ David Bowies `Lets Dance` being suitable for her state funeral/canonisation but not played during the service at St Paul’s Cathedral for some reason.
In quantum physics terminology, is art a Bose-Einstein condensate?
Yes but don`t ask me to explain it here. Art is even stranger than science.
Matthew Collings or Camille Paglia?
Camille Paglia because she`s also spoken in support of Pussy Riot. Her new book `Glittering Images` was published too early to include Pussy Riot and she has unfortunately totally missed Akiane Kramarik in America! Paglia`s article `How Capitalism Can Save Art` has Andy Warhol as the hero. The fine arts “are a wasteland” devoid of the `spiritual quest` of great art. Not at Akiane`s in Idaho though. Or at the Foreli Academy she has co-founded.
Is Zizek right about the Holy Spirit?
Yes, this is creative philosophising of the highest order.
Is Stella Vine the best English painter?
Akiane Kramarik - young genius artist of America?
Yes. Miraculous, even.
In 1966 Duchamp said “The meaning of words changes every 50 years.” Agree?
In Russia today the meaning of words can change in 50 seconds after a phonecall from Putin. You can have everything you want in Russia except the truth.
In the recent New Statesman, Zizek says “We need a Thatcher of the Left.” Do you agree?
Yes. and not just for the UK. I think even pro-capitalist Camille Paglia might agree on this. The only woman I can think of who mght be such an experienced, radical and charismatic Leader is Nadya from Pussy Riot. She`ll be out of prison with Maria in 9 months. Inna from Femen might be another. They`ve already set the ball rolling in that respect. This `Venus Rising` can now happen anywhere. I read a few days ago that the feminist magazine Spare Rib is to be relaunched online and as a bi-monthly by Charlotte Raven and friends. The other pleasant surprise has been the rise in voting for the UK Independence Party. This has shattered the Lib/Tories. It looks like the ‘ruling class` has lost its nerve. They are being `upstaged’ in every sense and they know it.
How does passion keep aflame?
I`m a mystery unto myself, perhaps temptation, fascination, seduction, poetic provocation, and by the power of the Holy Spirit (in the Hegelian sense)
What’s love got to do with it?
A lot, but keep your sword sharp. Terrible record collection can ruin nations too.
Your last thoughts before bed.
Single entendres…if there`s something you enjoy you can be certain that its illegal, its immoral, and it makes you fat…
A good name for a perfume.