Mo-Leeza Roberts, HEAD, (London: Bookworks) 2015

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"Superconversations: Nina Power, Review of HEAD, Indigo is the color of the sublime rising, dead, after collapsing in on itself", 16/12/15.

Pae White
Gustav Metzger
Sterling Ruby
Aida Ruidlova
Oscar Tuazon

MARCH 19 - MAY 08, 2016

+1 213 973 5327
Tuesday – Saturday 12 – 6pm


‘… a giant figure steps into the scene moving unsurely, losing its step, slipping and recovering its balance. It’s a giant albino praying mantis, tattooed with a grain pattern. An epidermis-like wood, but drained of all colour. Nine feet tall. Some kind of insect-humanoid hybrid, with an element of dragonfly. Similar to the vast mutoid-extended versions in the far south. Its feethave been cut off, right at the Achilles tendon. Footless, it stumbles forward slowly, trailing blood, balancing on its lower leg bones. Its arms outstretched. Its face racked with emotion. It desperately attempts to keep its balance over the shiny surface of the convention centre floor like some translucent, white-fucked, stilt walker. Or a crab-spider distortion...' 


Sterling Ruby ‘… a brutally routinized conveyor belt of mechanized excess and nine-to-five opulence…’, laser-etching on plexigalss, 40 x 70cm, 2014.

The tentacles slide past the vast five-penis flower hub of Pae White’s inflatable artwork ‘Dear God please forgive me… please forgive my sins. Please take me to another place. You are The Merciful!’ (Edition of 5), 2014. It’s an artwork that exists as a messy unfurling of desires presented as multiplying lichen.


Pae White, ‘Crown of Thorns I: Widening participation to under-represented sections of the community’, Dimensions variable, 2015
When seen from a distance, it synthesizes the form of an immense crown of thorns, wrought in intricate detail by bio-plastics manufacturers to include endless subdivisions down to micro-scale beyond the visible ‘existence’ of the sculpture. Each extension is split into further extensions and subdivisions. It can function as Public Art.

The root system, as it incrementally converts inert plastic into fleshy tendons through bacterial intervention, extends across the gallery into ever smaller branches, until it appears like fine gossamer mist. Beyond this gaseous state, it subdivides on a micro-molecular level, eventually remodeled atomically, into an acoustic alignment to render a muffled cock’s crow and the rhythm of crickets - distantly submerged within this soundscape is the feint trace of monastic chanting and twirling dervishes, captured with anachro-recording tech, spinning in the medinas of the cities of the Levant.

At un-patterned time intervals the thorns reappear out of the molecular mist as a thorn bushes in the corner of the gallery, away from the window.


Aida Ruidlova, ‘Crown of Thorns II: Written by a goat in the blood of a monkey', 2015
Inside the bush there is a screaming animatronic goat. The work is directly related to Pae White’s conversion to Islam and her first incursion into the fashion-design of suicide bomber vests and leisure wear. It may also have something to do her new condition as a neo-disab. Along with the massive inflatable, Pae White had produced a series of texts (perhaps to herself) inscribed into the shellacked windows of Head Gallery.  One text block on each window pane.
'This letter is not addressed to you directly. It’s a precaution. Just as you always asked: no names in the correspondence. Absolute discretion. It’ll soon be heading your way, speeding through the subnet, zoning across Nu-Euro and piercing all the membranes that separate it from what’s left of the Middle East, just as I will soon be leaving these heathen territories, renouncing my infidel life - in order to land in a dusty post office box in downtown Mecca Cairo. It’s where you suggested I send things to if it ever became necessary. These pages will arrive EVEN IF YOU ARE GONE'. 

Despite some glitches during production of the inflatable, everything seems to be working properly during the opening. As the crowd thickens, and the first inquiries about the work are floating around, a robed and bearded figure materializes out of the gypsum drywall sheets of the left wall of the gallery, which was left unpainted. This figure walks towards the goat. Under the robe the figure's flesh is lacerated with hundreds of cuts, opening outwards like miniature lips, each seeping blood. This figure, parting the bush and slicing his pseudo-flesh arms, slits the goat’s neck. A clean slice. So precise that it erects the animal’s genitals.

Pae White, ‘Crown of Thorns IV: surrender is not an option', 2016
The bearded man performs awkward cunnilingus on the jerking body. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Outermost and the Innermost. Limited edition miniature crown of thorn cock rings are available carved in a variety of hardwoods and modeled by a range of religious look-a-likes, including seven different version of The Prophet with a quad vagina-penis refurb.
'One begins to imagine the worst. A few hours of turning all this over are enough to still things that once strobed un-intrusively on the horizon, at the very edge of one’s thoughts. The possibility that you are really missing and will never be heard from again assumes a new dimension. As does the fact that they, the infidels, are really always after us, relentlessly scouring every corner of the planet, trying to smoke us out and put an end to every last one of us. Things that we have a way of rendering somewhat insubstantial and insignificant, of pushing to the background, gain purchase on attention. They claw at the illusion of normality and fuck up our days'. 

Deluded and BITTER, A SOUR FLOW OF DESPERATION AND NIHILISM going nowhere in the studio or in life, Mo-Leeza Roberts BIT ON THE commission, to produce a glam-flattery piece for Vanity Fair about Head Gallery. Missing deadlines, one after another for more than three years, Roberts just continued to put together material; plowing on, becoming somehow increasingly obsessed; plunging into archives, accountants’ logs, UN reports, suicide notes by testosterone junkies, and boring art magazines. Consulting fray-edged imperial edicts, twitter feeds and memoranda with a sagacious eye, the work escalated beyond its original parameters. In the end a novel emerged because there was no reason for it not to. Not as something that was ‘required’, or fulfilled any particular cultural or political function, but just as an object which existed. In fact the work moved beyond its original trivial remit, as a testimony to the fidelity of forthcoming truths – a desperate post-apoc future, in which the eponymous Head Gallery is the dominant force in the art world, and possibly beyond it, delving as it does into lifestyle production, surgical enhancement, interior decoration, digital publishing, sex trafficking, and arms dealing.


Fig 1: 'He plowed on, becoming increasingly obsessed.'

As Davis Davis writes "Like the cries of children liberated by pan-international bombing, or the blood of slaughtered horses, Mo Roberts kneels down in front of his subject matter and ‘cries like a child’ - or merely ‘means it’, although it is not clear to what extent this performance relies on a ‘deeply conservative’ safety net of irony and cynicism". 


HEAD by Mo-LEEZA ROBERTS. BUY HERE '‘...deeply conservative’ safety net of irony and cynicism".'

The novel is at once critical and complicit, and as deluded and envious as its author. It wants to caress, to be intimate but also to lash out, to cut and lacerate the thing that loves it; to feel tears on its skin and and yet also to hear laughter. Artists, curators, collectors, hangers-on and other art world actors – don’t miss the Sofia Coppola orgy cameo – are skewered and covered with soothing ointment and then brutally crucifixed and then patched up again, as they cluster around Head Gallery like cockroaches swarming over a dead pig’s head. A brutally routinized conveyor belt of mechanised excess and nine-to-five opulence. All organised according to the whims of the Head Gallery, which remains, the overseer of events and a selfless accumulator of prestige and wealth.


Fig 3: '‘A brutally routinized conveyor belt of mechanised excess and nine-to-five opulence. ".'
Trawling a familiar line-up of characters, who explode in faked ecstasy, pain, or self-induced eradication - the dead and the nearly so, transfixed by pastiche and porn, a cauldron of seething hate and desperate love, of self-flagellation and other forms of sweet punishment distribution. Delirious with jealousy for all the familiar contemporary artists and collectors that are reanimated for the future, as shit-eating zombies, as deracinated yes-men, and patheticised herd-followers, like maggots swilling round the empty bag of human flesh. Any reader, any desperate motherfucker who can namedrop more than one gallery, more than one curator; any critic who is able to string together more than five coherent clichés should feel at home here, both seduced and also dirty, implicated and infected, junked out on Drano-laced downers cutting into the spleen giving you that minimum-wage poverty vibe, feeling dirty, feeling like you are surplus labour. Like Dickens, the PR people complained, but without the laughs induced by our approaching extinction, and like Salò, they said, but written, by a goat and a monkey.


Fig 4: '‘Written by a goat and a monkey".'

Head Gallery is based in New York and Shanghai, with outreach projects in Los Angeles and Havana. It has imperial aspirations but is also concerned with widening participation to underrepresented sections of the community. It advises collectors, appraises antiques culled from war-torn territories, bankrupts sponsors, gives out MAs in curatorial practice, bulldozes peoples houses (Long live the Mossad and the IDF! Down with the BDS), commissions spiritual tracts, does expert restoration where apoc-damage is concerned, plans corporate events and retreats, disappears interns, holds alcohol support group sessions, funds Scottish nationalists, and produces bestiality instruction videos. It is also dedicated to producing ‘critical’ art texts, endless fucking analyses of immaterial capital and troll feeds that are split between a written textual element located on an anonymous website, hosted on an ISIS server, expanded press releases, psychic exhibition descriptions (produced before the opening), and materialized elements installed in unsuspecting galleries. It operates between a future set in 2078 and the present. Real, dominant and enduringly present, the Head Gallery is an anonymous and inviolate force.


Fig 5: '‘introducing underrepresented sections of the community to participation".

Riven with guilt over the existence of the novel once it was published—but also because she had been spared the mass loss of sensation that began to afflict the world—Mo-Leeza scratched off her face with her nails. So it was a lacerated mess of flesh. Eyes looking back at herself in the mirror out of a pulp of meat. It was true: she had never learned the Internationale, she didn’t know how to ice skate or play the piano. Her identity dissolved as she looked back at herself. She is an artist, a Head Gallery intern, or perhaps an elite super-wealthy drop-out who navigates grotesque, hallucinatory visions of the future with the grace and knowledge of a former insider? Perhaps she is aware that blowing the whistle on the neo-capitalist glam-barbarism of her employer will ensure that she never works in the art world again. Or perhaps they will finally allow her to open her own gallery. She would call it Chateau Shatto. At the very least, she can finally reveal that Mo-Leeza Roberts is a pseudonym for Gustav Metzger. A name he has been using ever since he lost his last grain of empathy for fellow human beings and for the environment, and became a neo-disab. (He tried using Pae White for a while and making zealot leisure wear and inflatables for a while – if you cant think what to do, do a neon or an inflatable.


Metzger no longer feels anything for the world. Or rather, he doesn’t feel anything at all. He has lost all sensation. A formidable anesthesia has taken over him, over his body but also over his entire emotional architecture. To call it numbness is to be hopeful that he can be relieved of it one day; that there is a way to repair him. But his is an endless sensory lapse. The world offers him nothing on which to gain traction. It is just stuff  – shit, things that get in his way. The whole thing can go to hell, or not. He can’t commit to anything anymore. It’s not that he has relaxed his oppositional attitude, toned down his destructive impulses, it’s that whatever they were grounded in has gone. No feeling, no outrage. No world, only art world.


Fig 6: '‘No feeling, no outrage. No world, only art world.". 

Absolute indifference—cruel-seeming from an outside perspective, but not really involved in the sort of affective economy that this would suggest—is plastered over his face as he watches his giant sculpture, an involuntary collaboration with Jeff Koons. It's a twenty foot cube of pre-processed human flesh with all bones removed - veins and organs tracing a pattern like raspberry ripple across the surface. The sculpture is lifted high above the ground by a crane, swinging at the end of a chain. Vacuum packed, the grotesque object swings in the breeze. An offal pendulum. Already, although Gustav had overseen the packaging only a few days earlier, the meat-mush has taken on a peculiar hue. The blood coagulating across the edges and pooling at the bottom of the packaging looking like a strange beard or the sticky drool of a melting popsicle.

The processed flesh, fuming toxic gas, has twisted the perfect geometry of the cube. It now resembles, a little bit, a human head, Gustav thought, as he coldly registered the way it swayed in the light. Perhaps it’s a portrait of a decapitated monarch with a stomped-in face. He thought of a legion of decapitated monarchs walking around in a castle somewhere. They would look like giant penises in fancy robes. He imagined that their nice cauterized slit necks would heal and the scar left by the guillotine would become a urethra slit. They would ejaculate their decrees; cum becoming law mid-flight. Like patriarchy. The image, which he conjured unenthusiastically, caused no sensation in Metzger. It just leads to other images. Dead horses. Bleeding marigolds.


Fig 7: '‘It just lead to other images. Dead horses. Bleeding marigolds."

From a certain angle the arrangements and curves of fat and gristle resembled the features reminded of someone he knew or recognized at least—he just couldn't remember who at the moment.

As he looked up, he saw there was seepage. There were obviously unexpected chemical reactions taking place within the cheap packaging. New compounds were gnawing at the plastic. Maybe it was the low-grade Euro anti-coagulates he’d added to the mix. They were reacting with the vacuum packing, the lack of oxygen. Tiny odd bumps were beginning to bubble on the exterior surface of the packaging and the whole thing was beginning to give off an air of internal turmoil.

The piece was aloft, because Gustav had finally managed to convince the gallery that this piece, ‘Construction with Flesh and Technology’ (2077), should be placed outside the gallery, and not shoved meekly in one corner next to works by Hirst, Drabble, and Latham—much as he was a massive “fan” of their work. Not that he liked their work—how could he numb as he was?—but that he owned a great deal of it. It was piled somewhere in his house, still in crates. Besides, he was concerned—not concerned, just rational calculation—that when the degraded flesh finally fully burst through, it would have a deleterious effect on his chances of ever exhibiting again, if it took out a couple of other sculptures with it. No, the piece belonged outside, on the roundabout, across from Head Gallery, where limousines and hova-pods would judder past it, jangling the flesh inside, vibrating it and speeding up the chemical transformation of the work until one day it would return to the meet of the world around it in a massive burst of glory and liquefied tendons. The meat of the proletarian scum who moved past like ants would be baptized with a glorious shower, a scared deluge of rotting flesh. Art and the social would finally consummate. At the level of sebaceous gunk. At the level of gland secretions and clogged pores.

Gustav had to give a talk that evening. He’d been invited to speak by a group calling itself “Da Sensoros Acceleros,” whom Mo-Leeza had put in charge of the event. Gustav found their image of capitalism and technology rather shallow.

Automation, automation, and automation—it was like a mantra to hide the lack of a program. They should be the first ones under the piñata of flesh waiting above the round-about. The S.A. had been hovering around him for months now, after he accepted to participate in the event, emailing half-formed questions, demanding examples of auto-destructive snuff-erotica for their various new online magazines and for a slide show they wanted to project before his talk, and now this, the actual public lecture in a gallery. Their basic thesis was that the faster you masturbated the closer you approached the ideal 'exit velocity of desire' and feeling would return to you, sensation could be fired up again, deep emotion would root, and that the general will of a ‘feeling population’ would be transformed into an explosive evacuation of the workplace, and exodus into a post-work society. And full automation would follow. 'DOWN TOOLS. UP TOOLS,’ as the slogan went. This was predicted in the accelerated capitalist proliferation of pornographic category on mainstream websites where the uncontrolled and liberatory nature of (albeit commodified heterosexualist) desire was a clarion call to the new republic. In the move beyond 'next click utopia' this was a vision of humanity masturbating itself into communism, through the field of renewed feeling. 

Gustav thought these people were a bunch of motherfuckers—not angrily, just rational observation—and did not want to give a lecture, but he needed the money to feed his coke habit. (Coke habits were promising routes back to feeling, until they just became cumbersome money vacuums.) He really did not like artists—this was the only echo of a feeling that still coursed through him. He fucking hated artists.

He had prepared some notes as preliminary comments... or he had had some notes prepared … about something he had been meaning to address … something that had been bothering him for a long time: …namely the responsibility artists have to the rest of the world. Ha, ha, ha - that made him laugh…Not in earnest, but he just knew that in another time, a time of feeling, that would have seemed preposterous and hilarious. Basically, he didn't give a fuck about those cocksuckers. Fucking tedious cunts doing their banal jobs. Fuck that … his main interest now was voodoo and biomechanics.

Anyway he glanced back down at his notes as he sat on the wall outside the gallery, his pendulum of flesh swaying across the street. “To go on limiting oneself to achievement strictly within the rules of a profession laid down by a society that is on the point of collapse, is, to me, a betrayal!” He’d got the notes pre-written for him by this guy on Twitter called LoboChrome who struggled with comedy-Marxism but even so this was lame as fuck. ‘… he was tired of the solipsism of the art world, its interminable parasitism and its dominance, the way money washed through everything and how much nonsense was perpetuated in its name. Yet, at the same time, the art world was in a sense the world, or at least a part of it, and could hardly be blamed for being as awful as what surrounded it’. It was like some dumb twelve year old was talking in his head. Or Koons having a go at theory.

Getting bored with his notes, Gustav walked over to the control panel and switched on his some high powered oil lamps and began projecting shapes onto the meat. A-blot-of-matter-becoming-a-chemical-soup-becoming-a-protein-chain-becoming-a-cellulo-clump-becoming-afibrous-tissue-becoming-an-epidermal-shell-becoming-an-insect-mutant-becoming-an-animo-predator-becoming-a-crystallized-mammal-becomeing-ablock-of-black-glass-becoming-Jeff-Koon’s-grin.

It struck him again that the cube of meat reminded him of something or someone.

Back to his notes … and he was supposed to be astonished at how little artists did beyond their own world, how little responsibility they felt they had for nature, for politics, for wars perpetuated in their name, for other human beings. … precarious. Workers’ Brigade blah blah and Arts Against Cuts blah blah W.A.G.E.  blah blah… capitalism …  internal contradictions etc.

What the fuck!, he thought, the exasperation in the way he heard himself say it in his head was a little feigned … Auto-destructive art was about fucking things up not a kind of psychoanalysis of the audience through objects. The Sensaros Acceleros didn’t seem to grasp this, he reflected—they just liked the fact that there was a massive shape of flesh - and FLESH is cool - and that this would somehow usher in communism, or something. Automation. Gustav sighed. Their image of communism was unlike any he’d heard of before, consisting of flying robots, remote access sex implants, orgasmo-technix and automated autonomous machines for flying. And automation. His thing didn’t have anything to do with this. If these FUCKERS ever got any power it was going to be some kind of hippy love-in sexual revolution thing. The Age of Aquarius with FULL AUTOMATION. But they wouldn’t, would they? They couldn’t organize a three-legged race in a Leper colony. Yes fuck that. Atom by atom, dissembling of all matter in the universe as a radical non-alignment of everything with everything else—that’s what auto-destructive art was about. No fucking healing going on here.

There were about seventy people in the audience. Most of them looked young, a bit bored, but simultaneously eager with vibrators and notebooks in hand. Young art students, he guessed, keen to fill their head with the wisdom of someone who’d seen a few decades - and two reanimations - and who might pass on a few anecdotes about other artists.

After a lengthy but phony introduction, Gustav M. began:
Auto-destructive art seeks to remind people of the horrors which they are perpetuating, and is a warning and an admonition to reverse this direction.
Well, that woke them up a bit, even if he didn’t really mean the “reverse this direction” part. He wanted everything to go to shit at this point—not as a real desire, just rational calculation. Things would just be better. A couple of students shuffled in their seats. He knew that there were some people who could still feel in the crowd. Maybe this is why they were signing up to the Senso-Accelo program, as a preemptive strike against losing that last bit of humanity. Gustav continued to expound his theory of auto-destructive art: “Auto-destructive art is dangerous. We cannot know all the effects it is likely to have on some people. I WANT TO FUCK UP THE PLANET!!! NOT THEORETICALLY BUT FOR FUCKING REAL. But social developments have not been halted because of considerations such as these: the people who will launch the attacks against auto-destructive art on these grounds should ask themselves if they cannot find powerful windmills to combat.”

A few people laughed at the windmills remark. But not enough, Gustav thought. Fine, I’ll move on to the details, he thought.

“Matter leaves a work in fragments. These fragments could be in the form of solid blocks which hit the ground without shattering and are eventually removed… Who writes this shit Gustav thought, not really upset, as he looked up at his swaying sculpture …

He suddenly realized who the flesh sculpture reminded him of  - it was like a large pink blancmange version of Karl Marx … just at the same time as he realized this as this realization … somehow behind the sculpture …behind the swaying mass but then somehow in front – floating almost like a k-hole fantasy, like an older reality tearing through space-time— emerging out of the geometry of the art fair architecture, like a grid in front of another reality behind – a bacchanalian scene - or as such it first seems … but less polished than this. It’s more oppressive and nightmarish … a medieval pigpen or horse-yard full of mud. It has a strange turreted tower in the middle. Dancing around this structure are a sequence of dwarves with strings of pearls and plastic carnations around their heads. They skip, slowly, counter-clockwise around the tower. Moving in a strange trance-like state, a slow step to the rhythm of an unseen drum but throwing their feet up at the end of each step. There faces contorted in the ecstasy of this movement. As they move minute to minute, hour to hour. Sweat dripping down their faces. Above their dancing ring, a strange howling rises above. Siting on top of fence posts, positioned at ten feet intervals, small fairies facing inwards masturbate themselves flapping their wings and emitting a strange throbbing bass beat, then whistling higher as each dwarf moves past their post. The dwarves continue their slow march humming and whirling their pearls. And then a crack rings out and one of the dwarves falls, the side of his head blown away. The other dwarves move on regardless. Above, in the tower window, we can see there a strange white figure move back into the recess, dragging back with him his high-performance sniper’s rifle. And the dance moves on.