Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Have no fear

One thing I didn't do before posting the previous entry was to check whether that singularly odd phrase "Daring - don't fear of my eyes!" had surfaced online. The answer is yes, and the toy I couldn't remember is revealed as a pair of extra large joke glasses. "Toy only!" the packaging warns, in case any purchaser with a genuine eye condition might be deceived, with tragic (or hilarious) consequences.

Reminds me of the story oft told by Barry Cryer and others about the notorious Windmill Theatre. Notices forbidding "artificial aids to vision" were prominently displayed - ie no binoculars for watching the static nudes. One gentleman had thought to buck the system, if that's the phrase I want, with magnifying lenses fitted into a pair of spectacles, but fell down a flight of steps and broke his arm (or something), because he had forgotten distances would be similarly distorted when he wasn't seated.

There also is a strange electronic track to be  found on soundcloud with that title and you can see the glasses modelled here. Saddest image to be found on the net, however, is that of the packaging without the spectacles.
A strangely sombre sight, like the melancholy look on the faces of children who have been subjected to face painting, as though the thrill of the thought of being transformed into a tiger could not be sustained for the time it took for that change to be effected.

Which makes me think that the above toy is not really "daring." Momentarily diverting, yes. But maybe that clumsy slogan will be enough to ensure its immortality. Doesn't quite have the zing of Thomas Waller's "Go, lovely rose", perhaps, but perhaps it will be some consolation for the anonymous coiner of the phrase, should he ever read this, that his is the true artist's satisfaction: the thing he created are out in the world assessed on its own terms, shorn of any associations with the artist's character.

Thinking further about these matters, I suppose it's why clowns are such sad spectacles when not, in Laurie Wyman's phrase, grinning gigantic - as in the example here. A painted face cruelly reminds us of the gulf between possible fun and the mundane or depressing reality. It's like seeing someone else's dreams or delusions externalised, which is unsettling because it calls your own into question. An outward reminder that whatever we try to do, however we try to redefine ourselves, inevitably we take us with us.

This also reminds me of an inconclusive experiment I once tried when at art school - or strictly speaking on a bus when an art student. I didn't have the "giant's glasses" above, but I did have a spectacles-and-plastic-nose set which I donned for a bus journey. I don't recall much reaction from anybody - politeness or indifference? - but I felt mildy embarrassed when one of my tutors, Pete Bevan, came on the bus.

I don't suppose that he would remember the event and I can barely recall it myself. As far as I remember there was a kind of muted conversation -  did I sheepishly remove my disguise? - but all I retain from it is the vague impression that whatever I may have wanted to achieve I didn't.