performed for the opening of Christina Mitrentse’s exhibition “Domestic Gods And Mushroom Heroes”, Hackney Empire Marie Lloyd Bar, London, 3rd December 2009
Enter King carrying a sack of shit on his fur-trimmed shoulder, the public figure lugging along the compost of his corporeal body, hoisting it high, tipping out the muddy memento mori over the throne-room floor. Engravings of skeletons and hourglasses, corpses in tiaras, beautiful robes nibbled at by rats, dogs sniffing the bones, the old cliché that we all go the same way.
That much has been established; we know how to drag down kings. Those robes and throne-rooms still have their appeal though, the castles, crowns, a pantomime in real gold. What to do with it all?
We might want to ditch the power to rule over, but we needn’t forgo our sovereignty. Wastefulness and ostentation continue to have a role. It is essential that we retain the glitter.
(When I say ‘we’, is it just the ‘royal we’ or am I speaking for us all?)
I attempt tonight to be kingly. I carry a bucket to Greenwich, under the trees with the falling autumn leaves, and bring back a pile of gold. I flounder in soil (I am as mortal as a king!) I wallow on the ground like a drunken lord.
This soil is my island! The golden leaves are all mine (until they rot into the ground).
I am a king tonight and treat myself to two bottles of champagne. (No matter that I got them on a supermarket offer.) I am a king tonight and carelessly muddy my silk cape. (No matter that I’ll have to wash it myself.) I am a king tonight and rule over no-one!
Not one subject! No-one below me! No courtiers! No envoys! No advisors! No guardsmen! No coachmen! No cooks! No valets! No grooms! No footmen! No retainers! I relinquish them all! That’s sovereignty!
- explanatory notes handed out at the event