Guy Parker has, over the years, proven to be one of the more controversial artists on the international art scene. He first came to the public's attention for his 1985 Turner Prize entry in which he used a hand pump to inflate an elephant to four times its normal size, then mounted it on top of a giant beach ball. While some commentators viewed this as an ironic critique of Western economic expansionism in the Third World, most saw it as an obscene and unnecessarily cruel trick to play on a defenceless creature. Nevertheless, it did secure Parker's avant-guarde reputation, and he went on to inconvenience many more exotic creatures over the next few years - welding penguins together, forcing giraffes to wear hats and, most famously, flattening and framing thirty endangered rhinos for a touring exhibition in the summer of 1996. He did try to redress the balance several years later by reassembling some of Damien Hirst's preserved animals and releasing them back into the wild, although this was largely dismissed as a cheap stunt. Last year he was in bad books again as a result of his Reflections exhibition. This was a collection of fourteen paintings, all exact mirror images of old masters. He was accused of the most blatant plagiarism, an accusation he countered by explaining that it is the duty of the artist to hold a mirror up to society, and he had merely taken that sentiment literally and chosen to reflect his own profession.
Well now the talentless twat has embarked on a new project, a restaurant in London's Camden Town, blessed with the ridiculous appellation 'tomARTo'. The press have already nicknamed it 'Arty Tomatoes' and have doomed it to failure. We were unfortunate enough to be invited to the grand opening, and further incommoded by having to listen to Parker explain the concept behind the establishment.
Parker: It's about food. It's about art. It's about exploring, fully, the whole spectrum of sensation. It's about providing a rich palette of colours and textures.
UBO: So what does that mean in practice?
Parker: It means that people will be able to come here to experience the very essence of nutrition, to appreciate food and to understand it in a way that was never possible before.
UBO: Yes... right... So, what does that actually mean in practice?
Parker: It means a concentration on form as well as substance; on shape as well as texture.
UBO: Will you be doing chips?
Parker: One of the most important things about this enterprise - one of the most important things for me, at any rate - is that it is not, in essence, an exclusionist undertaking. We are not, in putting together this menu, seeking to exclude anyone or anything. It is, if you like 'non-exclusionist'. We are taking up a non-exclusionist position, if you see what I'm driving at?
UBO: You appear to be talking bollocks.
Parker: But I think that what I'm saying is supremely valid. We live in an age in which validity, like non-exclusionism, and also, to some extent, colour and texture, is extremely important. I think all these things are addressed with this new venture. Indeed, I think if you look at my body of work to date, you will see that I have been concentrating on these principals throughout.
UBO: Hmm, well yes, probably. Of course it's difficult to completely dismiss the view held by many art critics, and indeed by much of the wider community as a whole, that your work is - how shall I put this - a load of old cock.
Parker: Well, I understand that there is a great deal of antipathy towards my work. This is part and parcel of being an artist; it's part and parcel of being human. These people are entitled to their opinions, just as I am entitled to mine.
UBO: Well, no, you're not though, are you - because you're a dick.
Parker: Again, this a matter of opinion -
UBO: But you are a dick, though, aren't you?
Parker: I would have to say -
UBO: : That you're dick?
Parker: Well, no, I -
UBO: You're a dick.
Parker: I think you're being -
UBO: : I think you're a dick.
Parker: It's an interesting idea, and whilst I'd have to disagree on principal, there are a number of ways in which -
UBO: Okay, well it's been fascinating talking to you, but I expect that's all you've got time for.
Parker: No, I -
UBO: Bye, dick.
Anyone foolish enough to be interested in Guy Parker's new restaurant is advised that it will be opening to the general public on the fifteenth, early booking is recommended and there's a Pizza Hut just around the corner.
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