John Beagles and Graham Ramsay’s newly commissioned sculptural installation, Good Teeth, is the result of a three-month residency designed to allow for experimentation with new materials on a bold scale. Timely enough, Good Teeth features a golden and glittering monument to Mammon – a false god of greed, projecting the illusion of perfect happiness. The piece is lit solely by the facing neon sculpture comprising two loaded words GOOD TEETH.
Beagles and Ramsay have been collaborating in Glasgow since 1996, and their early work crammed the exhibition with a barrage of items, from posters, videos, and photographs to music, theatrical installations and performances. Their work satirizes extreme contemporary consumerism and its relation to the body – the chaos and humour in the carnivalesque and burlesque traditions, as well as in the corporatization of the art world. Beagles and Ramsay often occupy the same worlds and environments they parody. In Burgerheaven – The True Taste of Stardom , (2001 – 2002), their twisted humour jumps on the culture of celebrity worship as they cook up a scenario with hamburgers designed to replicate the flesh of dead superstars (Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana), offering us a chance to get even more intimate with those we idolize. Self-portraiture and the whole idea of the doppelganger were recurrent themes, for instance, in life-size dolls like Budget Range Sex Dolls (Double Self-Portrait), 1999. 15 th December 2065, 1999, imagines the pair aged and asleep in bed. In Dead of Night , 2003, they appear as ventriloquists, each with a dummy of himself – a dark, witty piece exposing the split or loss of self through repetition, obsession, and even apathy.
Recent works, including Glitter Island , 2006, and the series Glitter Deserts , 2007/08, present more elegant and sparse groupings of photographs, sculptures and performance videos, centring on landscapes of gold glitter where the artists pose as dandies, condescending and aloof, oblivious to any other world except their golden island. Expanding on ideas in those works, the artists have distilled this exhibition further by removing themselves and including only two pieces. The viewer is no longer asked to roam through cluttered, messy remnants of daily consumerism. There is no sound. Instead, one is brought into an inner sanctum, a strange place of worship where the immediate focus is on the materials. Covered with more than fifty pounds of gold glitter, meticulously applied by hand, centimetre by centimetre, over a period of two months, a figure resembling a giant toy robot from the 1930s sits quietly, with a smile and a notable erection. On the opposite wall, the prominent neon sculpture sheds a cold light on the glittering behemoth. Good Teeth stylishly mocks the pretentious cults of want and loss, of celebrity, beauty and success. Tongue in cheek, the show’s press release cites a quote from Pasolini’s Accatone (1961): “The world belongs to those with teeth.” And, perhaps more aptly, from George Bernard Shaw: “The man with a toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound”.