^ Charlie Fox, lair photograph.
OTP Short-Forms: Charlie Fox
An interview with a faunstar.
John Fruiscante, The Bird Game and UK Surruralism.
Charlie Fox is an artist, writer and curator based in London. His first book This Young Monster (2017), published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, features essays, play scripts and diary entries that perform a kind of literary vivisection of the author's kaleidoscopic mind, spraying its potent bank of cultural references over 250 pages in the process.
Surveying a variety of phenomena loosely connected under the umbrella of 'horror', and primarily focusing on the art-world's more transgressive players over the past 150 years, Fox meditates on queerness, beauty and adolescence in raucous style.
Making his curatorial debut(s) last summer with simultaneous shows at Sadie Coles HQ and Rodeo Gallery, Charlie Fox's taste for an original cocktail of the fantastic, the hallucinogenic and the sinister was met with wide acclaim by UK and international gallery audiences alike.
OTP What’s important to you?
CF I just need a room where I can go wild and make weird noises and experiment; a lair.
^ Larry Clark, spread from 1992 (1992).
OTP Why do you think you connect with Larry Clark’s early photographic work? Were there many affinities between your own adolescence and the kind that Clark depicts?
CF He makes being bad looks so fun.
The weird mix of feral energy and elegance; the tableau of the kid with the noose around his neck sucking off the gun in the fat book 1992, which look like stills from Mouchette or something.
But he’s also chilly, artificial (even anthropological) sometimes, which makes it even sexier and stranger: the weirdness of somebody else’s flesh. (His work is as much about the body as David Cronenberg’s.)
I guess everybody freaks out about ‘reality’ in his pix but I always feel like Clark’s into mythology, he’s photographing these magical but fatal demons, manifestations of how you imagine wild kids to be, whether it’s River Phoenix in Stand by Me or somebody on a talk show or his dead speed-freak friend. It’s hot.
My own life? Yup, suburban wasteland vibes, mischief, skate tapes, but I wasn’t injecting meth. I hung out with a ballerina who was addicted to morphine because of an old injury. She was fun.
OTP How do you think the UK is responding to ideas like the Suburban Gothic / ‘Surruralism’?
CF My favourite surruralism story is probably when I found a wrecked fridge in a big empty field in Sussex. I would’ve been eight or nine.
The sky was this strange, lonesome purple and orange. It was kind of like a mystical experience, like I was an ape encountering the sentinel in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The League of Gentlemen, the English comedy show, did suburban gothic/surruralism best by inventing their own grotesque town which seemed to be under some malign, gothic spell.
They had an amazing sketch where a scarecrow turns out to be a person, which I think about a lot, at dusk.
^ Charlie Fox, I Will Be Appearing In Your Dream Later Tonight, 2020.
OTP What has your experience of New York been like to date? Am I right in thinking you've spent some time there with Sue de Beer?
CF Sue’s a pal.
I remember visiting her old apartment near Washington Square Park and it was crazily hot and I’d walked past this pub which was a replica of The Slaughtered Lamb from An American Werewolf in London and when I showed up at her place, Sue had laid out all these beautiful pix for me, including somebody wearing a huge werewolf mask, and I knew she was magical.
I like New York a lot, many pals there. It’s a mutant. I like the spooky neon-green and pink clock over the bar at Odeon; I like the Halloween Adventure costume emporium; I like the wooden bear outside Sophie’s.
OTP How did the idea for the script for The Bird Game come into being?
CF Marianna had the story in her head, very hi-def. And the meat of the film (the stately location, sleep disorders, crow) was all there way before I came aboard, too.
It was a very close collaboration. I think we were dreaming up wicked things for the crow to do, Crow’s seductive speech, ways to deform Sleeping Beauty… It was like experimenting on an animal we’d invented— our crow.
They’re beautiful creatures. Perfect for the bedroom.
^ My Head is a Haunted House: curated by Charlie Fox, exhibition view, courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ.
OTP Have you ever experimented with directing before?
CF Nope, but I totally would. I’d like to direct the tale of Faust, the great phantasmagorical epic.
Curating two shows was kind of like directing two movies: they had to be lit and staged like two eerie horror environments, there were masks and costumes, all the rooms were like different scenes inspired by some traditional horror archetype.
e.g. the body horror room or the photographs and collages arranged on the wall like materials in Buffalo Bill’s lair from The Silence of the Lambs), all the pieces were like characters.
It was supposed to be like a huge dream sequence, like you were wandering around just before the monster jumped up, drooling blood.
OTP How have you been spending your time in COVID-lockdown?
CF Taming my sleep paralysis demon; puppet show; performance thing delayed by the plague. I’ve been working a lot.
Luckily my life consisted of being alone in my room and freaking out on GarageBand and cavorting in my ape costume and watching Little Nicky at 3am before the horror even arrived.
^ Stuff (1993), directed by Johnny Depp & Gibby Haynes.
OTP What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen on the internet?
CF I was really into that video of John Frusciante’s house during his hardcore junkie phase when YouTube was relatively new, circa 2008.
It’s called Stuff and you get to drift around his trashed house in LA which is full of all this scary detritus. The soundtrack is just a bunch of amazing strung-out Frusciante jams that sound like he’s fucking unravelled.
There’s blood on the walls, garbage everywhere, just the wreckage of this person’s life, like a demon has been there, wreaking havoc. Heroin, honey.
Anyway, the video itself was a seriously degraded VHS rip in, like, 240p: the colours were all drooling and fuzzy, it felt so illicit and sinister, like The Ring. As an early occult memory of the internet, that’s my favourite.
OTP Do you have a favourite John Waters story?
CF Ah, I can’t repeat it— it’s too shocking.
OTP Are there any artists you have recently come across that you are particularly excited about? Any recommendations for the reader?
CF I’ll just answer with a bunch of stuff from one of the picture folders which give me the most accurate read-out of my mind:
- Screenshot of Arnold Böcklin painting of boy riding unicorn in darkling forest
- Purple-tinted headshot of kid with scrofula
- Cover of the next issue of Dazed
- The Spice Girls holding up Buzz Lightyear dolls in 1995.