Mark Leckey: Nobodaddy at Tramway

As part 2018’s Glasgow International, the Tramway  is currently showing a mixed media installation by 2008 Turner Prize winner, Mark Leckey titled ‘Nobodaddy’.   The title is a reference to William Blake’s poem of the same name – one which Blake uses as a play on the idea of God being the father of no one, but also the man with no body.


The exhibition consists of both an enlarged wooden figurine of Job and a large video projection which sit opposite each other. It’s an intimidating but interesting experience when you venture into a darkened room in a gallery. You’re kind of on edge in case you’re going to trip over or stand on something that’s part of the work. This is how I felt entering Leckey’s exhibition.

Job is situated in the centre of the room with the video projecting some footage of the figurine placed in different situations and environments, which flickers off the sculpture highlighting what looks like lesions, sores and flayed skin covering the body, reminiscent of Dennis Potter’s classic The Singing Detective whose protagonist suffers head to toe from the debilitating disease psoriatic arthritis. Medieval plague victims and lepers also came to mind. A proper grotesque fest. Something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Goya scene. The original wooden figurine of Job made in the 18th century portrays Satan’s infliction of boils upon Job’s whole body as a test to his belief, an all too familiar sight for centuries due to untreatable diseases being rife.

Job’s body is expanded and infiltrated by technology. Almost telling of today’s society with more mobile phones than people, iPhones welded to people’s hands, text and social media more preferable than verbal communication. Hollowed out limbs, organs removed and filled with speakers which give voice to his state, like a modern day automaton.

Part of the video projection showed what looked like an exploration of the inside of Job and projected out from Job, sat like the Thinker, was Leckey’s voice distorted in various ways asking “Would you like to be immortal?” reminiscent of a modern society where the prolonging of life itself  is a growing industry,  and health & fitness a main past time.   The obsession over extending life rather than living it.

In amongst what could pass for experimental music, words and terms such as ‘IBS’ (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) were heard in distorted fashion. Here, sixteenth century writer Rabelais and his Pantagruel & Gargantua series of books came to mind which are highly descriptive of changes in the body through eating, shitting and sex.

Nobodaddy runs until 1 July 2018 at Tramway

Stuart Murphy

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