UPCOMING
22 March – 18 May 2024 – I can fit a fist in my mouth, curated by Seán Elder, Cubitt Artists, London, UK

Gutted

PDF spread of printed publication designed by Phoebe Kerr,

Gutted, 2021, text written for the publication accompanying I didn’t think it would turn out this way, programmed by David Dale Gallery at P/////AKT, Amsterdam, UK

Gut me. I’ve started straight at the thing (shot my load too soon). But the thing you think is the thing is never really the thing, it’s all the things around the thing, that are barely things at all to start with. Just stuff(ing). So I guess in our case the skin, or the food, or the sex. Mainly the sex.

Gut me, gutted. I haven’t held a fish for a long time, maybe never. But I have seen it. I’ve seen fumbling thick male hands holding a drying out fish and pushing a knife into its belly making it into food. Tin foil. Fire. Caravan. But gutting takes me to fish, maybe more to the fish counters in Morrisons. A fishmonger is a bit too much (read posh). Dull (read shit) yellow slices of flesh laying on ice, maybe with the eyes still inside them. I don’t know much about fish organs or digestive system, but I think you are supposed to tear the digestive tract out of prawns and shrimp or you get ill.

We used to go to Spain (read Mallorca) a lot when I was younger. My mum would rent these big villas, at first in towns but as I grew they got more rural, I’m not sure how related this was to my parents’ imploding marriage (I prefer them divorced). My brother would usually get to bring a friend (or 3). I could but I didn’t really have any, especially not one that I would want to spend that much time around. One year my brother and dad got really into this one restaurant on the seafront and wanted to go a lot. Maybe we were there for two weeks that time, it was a villa in a small tourist town among many other small villas. The restaurant, I think, was just a quick walk away. My main recollection from the holiday is faintly where the pool is, Alliyah on music TV and looking really hard at the postcards with naked men on them so I could go back to the villa, lock myself into the bathroom and frantically wank thinking of that body. I felt so guilty afterwards, more so than when I used to masturbate thinking of my brother’s friends changing on the beach, towel wrapped around their waist, I’d still get an odd glimpse of their cock. Or my uncle’s (same age as brother don’t worry) body, and the time he asked if my Topman bleach splatter jeans were actually covered in spunk which gave me a semi right there in the back of the people carrier.

So the restaurant was on the seafront and pretty standard. Plastic chairs, plastic awning rolling out with the name of the restaurant, laminated menus. Clip art and faded photos of food. That part might be a lie, the menu might actually have been in plastic fake leather folders. They had ice cream in a plastic penguin figure. I was already by this age (don’t ask don’t tell) a stubborn vegetarian, sitting at a table of rabid carnivores. My brother’s friend in particular, a hulk of a man with a sultry heavy brow, was known for being able to put a lot of food away. I once saw him make an actual mountain of Chinese food on a plate with lava like flows of sweet and sour sauce. I could (read would) only eat chips and double egg. Or just chips as the egg’s rubbery blandness got to me after a while.

They would have paella as was tradition. I don’t know how much it was authentic (such a troubling thing, inauthentic paella is no doubt an authentic tourist experience). It would come in a large low copper platter (I might be making this up I can’t really be sure. Lately I’ve become convinced that I have a mild form of aphantasia, I can see something but it’s like a drawing. I guess I use language in my head to describe an object I then source in the world. This language is very specific and leads to that feeling of knowing exactly what you want but you can’t produce it. At the same time I am one of those people with a fairly constant stream of conscious or internal dialogue. I rehearse conversations in the shower. A shame I am a bad writer. I have to coach myself to orgasm during sex, telling myself increasingly perverted fantasies to make myself cum, imagining in that way. Sadly I rarely say this out loud as I find my voice a disappointment). It was often placed in the middle of the table, shards of red, and brown, and purple, making my white-yellow double egg and chips a sorry sight.

A mound of quivering seafood they would all plunge into, assumed fresh as we were sat by the sea but I have my doubts. I think it swam in industrial metal freezers. There were a lot of intact prawns or langoustines – I don’t know if either of those is the correct animal. They would have to pull it out of its shell, extract the soft bodily flesh to push down their gullets and discard the husk on a plate. A plate almost always placed in front of me. Where these sad sea shells would pile up. It would make me nauseous, I didn’t really want to be in such proximity to this plate. I don’t know what bothered me more: the smell, or the sight of the skins sucked dry by sweaty teenage fingers. The same ones that had no doubt been fumbling on the beach with a girl the night before. I stayed a virgin until 18.

I haven’t mentioned smell much, which is a shame as smell is so much a part of the fish experience. But I don’t really recall the smells (Sweaty. Salt. Cheetos. Chlorine.)