Would you like some ice-cream with your Warhol?
Last week I went into my local supermarket to take some photos of ice-cream. Why? Whimsy I guess. There I was, camera in hand, waiting patiently in front of the hokey-pokey while the supermarket person restocked the shelf. Just standing. Waiting. Assembling my arty shots in my minds eye. Hokey pokey here, Neapolitan there, Chocolate ripple on the periphery.
You know that feeling you have when someone is staring at you? Like a heat seeking missile bearing down on you. You know it’s there, aimed at you and you just don’t know quite how to dodge it. I got that feeling. There. And I didn’t think it was because I was wearing my favourite shirt.
I kept standing. Staring. Pretending as you do that everything is as it should be. Peachy. Ice creamy. Ordinary. The staring intensified. I could feel myself being vaporized by the heat of it. I moved a little closer to the ice-cream to maintain my core temperature. I must have waved my camera menacingly in my fright because that’s when she moved in for the kill.
Madam? Madam? MADAM! Are you taking photos? I turned to meet her front on, cornered as I now was between the Paddle pops and the Cornettos. Is it a rhetorical question? I must have given her a particularly Cro-magnum stare because she asked again, sounding the syllables out helpfully for me. Are. You. (Pointing at me) Tay. King. Pho. Tos? And then she did a button pressing motion with her hand.
Then I made a false move. I turned my back to her and looked at the ice-creams again. Clearly in a rather predatory, hostile and uncooperative way. MADAM! Do you have permission to take photos of the ice-cream? From whom? The Museum of confectionery? The patents department of the ice-cream world? Metro Goldwyn Mayer? The Sony Corporation? Weight Watchers? My parents? What are you talking about? Whose permission do I need to take a photo of a freezer full of double chocs?
I hmmpphed. Providing confirmation of my Neanderthal status. More over articulating syllables were jettisoned towards my uncomprehending idiocy. Do. You. Have. Per. Mish. On. To Take. Pho. Tos? More button pressing hand motions. Oh Please. Just stick me in the deep freeze now and get it over with.
Pause. Disbelief. From. The. Manager? Of. The. Store? I must say that by now time had ceased to exist. The entire supermarket community were now holding their breath and had turned their collective, hungry and wolf pack eyes toward the diorama of the perishables in aisle 13.
I gave myself permission. I gave myself permission to take photos of ice-cream when I walked in here and took the photo. I pointed the camera towards her angriness and also did a button pressing motion with my hand. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.
If you get permission from the Manager, then you can, but otherwise, no. No? No.
I looked around.
Everyone was mouthing “No” and shaking their heads. I retreated. Backing away slowly my exit was aided by the communal sigh of relief, whooshing around me and propelling me towards the rabbit hole I had crawled in through. The trouble was now over. The blip on the supermarket heart monitor had been sorted and shallow breathing could resume as normal. As one, they turned and whispered reassuringly to their small children and iphones; ‘She’s gone now’.
What seems now like scant moments later I found myself in the Western Australian Art Gallery. Staring again at a wall full of supermarket consumables. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. What a delight to be allowed to roam freely and recklessly amongst the masterpieces of my cultural memory. Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian, Fernand Leger, Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio de Chirico, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock. Biting it off, chewing on it and commenting loudly on how delicious it all was, I joined all the other cultural gastronomes enjoying their first decent meal in a long time.
I found the Warhol that I really like. It’s just so fabulous. Taking the mundane and the everyday, the repetitive and mass produced and convincing us all that its art. Creepy genius. It was a once in a lifetime moment and I sat underneath the painting and asked my friend Ami to take my photo. Click, click, clickety click. Then I felt the eyes again. Not menacing this time, but there. Not really staring but watching nonetheless. I continued posing. Ami continued focusing. Click, click, clickety click.
As I stood, an elderly gallery guard sidled up quietly beside me and whispered………. ‘did you know you are not really supposed to photograph the Warhols?’ No hand motions of button pressing or over articulation of the War or the Hols. I turned to look at this gentle and respectful man and to gauge the depth of my trespass only to find he had already merged with the dripping Pollocks.
So Andy. Make a Warhol out of that.