Dead of Night, Gasworks Gallery London 2003
Len Horsey, Flux magazine, Endgames Issue


Ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation and observational fortitude…a heuristic…heterogeneous…corpus cavernosum…of…dramaturgical ventriloquism…ladiesandgentlemen…your own, your very own, Mr Beagles and Mr Ramsay…


With the duality of artistic and comedic sensibility, Beagles and Ramsay have always dived into the ugliness, dross and destructive qualities of life. Old age, violence, vulgarity, stardom and burger joints…Burgerheaven served up reconstituted burgers made from our favourite celebs (Diana Burger), served rare with royal blue blood shining through the sinew. In Goodnight Goodnight, two look a like corpses in a double berth coffin attend thir own preview night, with a lovely nod to the Two Ronnies and the much missed Eric and Ernie.


In contemporary art, as with theatre, circus clowns, comedians and the horror genre, there is something often hidden, tragic, dark, lurking beneath the surface. Something a tad distasteful and discomforting that prompts a reaction of hot sweating palpitations or outright hilarity. The clown, on the tale end of unrequited love for the bearded lady disguises his sorrow with a painted smile. The cast of a humorous farce who through envy systematically destroy a fellow actress' career with tales of farmyard activities. The jovial uncle who lures us to the garden shed with a joyful promise of puppies and sweets, and then proceeds to chop up our genitalia. Laugh or cry?


Beagles and Ramsay are at Gasworks Galler presenting their first solo London show: Dead Of Night. The show is accompanied by the launching of a catalogue surveying the artist's work since 1996. The title of this exhibition is taken from the 1945 film made at Ealing, starring Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist. Redgrave slowly becomes possessed by his dummy's abhorrent and disturbing persona. For people suffering from clownophobia (fear of marionettes/ventriloquist's dummies is a complimentary phobia) this could be for you. The lads have made two fully functioning ventriloquist's dummy self portraits.As in their other work, like Double Self Portrait Sex Dolls (Budget Range) 1999, a pair of cuddly soft option sex puppets, the dummies are fashioned in the artist's own image with 'quality wigs and glasses'.


To accommodate their passion for character driven narrative within a created environment, they've transformed Gasworks into a large theatre set complete with stage, curtains and dressing room. Alone on the stage sit the Ventriloquist dummies, demonic despots or benevolent vessels? In the dressing room a monitor shows pre-recorded performances with the dummies from the oldest surviving music hall in the UK, the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow. Stan Laurel and Cary Grant started out at that very spot. Around the auditorium other video works, photographs and a DVD projection enhance and dislocate long forgotten nightmares, memories and jiggle up the bones of merriment.
Beagles and Ramsay's exhibitions have the investigative qualities of California's finest cop: Lieutenant Columbo. You leave the show thinking you've got away with it, but then…oh, er, excuse me, just one more thing…