Research for Spirit Icing was mostly focused on the writings of William Morris. I used to teach design students at Central Saint Martins (from 1995 to 2003). Needless to say Morris was a key figure and one of whom, as a design teacher, I grew increasingly fond. So to be asked to perform in a room called after him at the Victoria and Albert museum seemed a perfect opportunity to conjure with his spirit.
Despite having previously read much about Morris, I was compelled to read 'News from Nowhere' (1889), in which a man falls asleep and wakes up in a Socialist League Utopia, where all industrial squalor has disappeared, and all men and women are free, healthy and equal. The sad irony of living in that man's future was enacted in the performance, which focussed particularly on the alluring emptiness of the merely decorative – 'all icing and no cake' was the bleak axiom I suggested for our time. I employed a professional model (uncoincidentally the face of Dior) to be my silent assistant, modeling familiar Morris motifs (the trellis and intricate foliage) in icing. The research stage of this project was invaluable in both the conceptual development of the work and in the final, semi-improvised performance.
The sugar spirits I made for the occasion, bosomy sprites, were very popular with my audience (except for Gustave Metzger, of Autodestruct fame, who refused them, explaining that he could not stomach sugar). The ghost of Morris appeared at the end of the performance, expressing his displeasure with the way things have turned out.
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