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During lockdown, I noticed that the food and fat residue at the bases of takeaway pizza boxes invariably generates beautiful abstract expressionist works. I framed and titled several, which I then of course sold for vast amounts of money on the international art market. Here is a small selection:

Manilow Synesthesia

Vitruvian 12 Inch Meat Feast

A Hunger Artist

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We are left to wonder in the story of Mr Greedy if he ever truly awakens from his slumbers of its opening pages, for beneath the veneer of the moral fable we remain very much situated in the realm of the unconscious throughout. In terms of subject matter, we might also ponder if the message of this work may be somewhat lost on its readership, being perhaps more relevant to a slightly older audience.

In Mr Greedy we meet the adolescent male libido, whose drives his voracious appetite can be taken to represent. He avidly guzzles whatever pleasures come before him, his gluttony implying frequent and fervid self-gratification. It is no surprise that his wanderings through the Freudian wilderness of dream quickly lead him to a cave - the sex. He cannot but venture within, licking his lips as he enters at the delicacies doubtless in store.

And what sights it has to show him - enormous culinary delights beyond all imagination. He bites on a giant apple of temptation, gorges on a colossal plate of bangers. The symbolism of neither is lost. But of course, in the domain of dream we find not only wish fulfilment. We also come face to face with our neuroses, the inner life we repress. The adolescent psyche is a difficult place, with much to process and overcome. Perhaps a little guilt is there at the autoerotic explorations of youth. 

Sure enough, a giant appears. The overbearing father figure is once more present with the son in the womb - the battleground, the arena, for this particular complex. There is a telling picture in which we see only Mr Greedy’s head protruding from the vice-like grasp of the giant. With this, Hargreaves confirms that we are witness here essentially to a character wrestling himself, struggling against the pull of powerful internal forces.

And what storms we find have been raging in that bottomless pit of his! Mr Greedy is confronted with the Oedipal hatred and fear that has stalled him thus far at the oral stage of his psychosexual development, his insatiable appetite a regressive rebellion against the internalised paternal archetype. But when faced with the Father now, his guilt commands him to meekly accept the punishment decreed. The giant forces him to gorge on the unthinkable banquet of the mother’s flesh, where the mutual presence of the two locates us.

Mr Greedy emerges from his youthful excesses ostensibly a man of moderation, with increased regulation of his drives. But can we truly say he is cured? Some of the most disturbed criminal minds have found their genesis in less than what has passed here, and we shudder at the thought of what psychopathological maelstroms lie in wait for Mr Greedy. Better let him sleep?

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Tupelo Shroud

The Elvis equivalent of the Turin Shroud? A miracle caused by sunlight falling on fabric at Graceland? Or a highly convincing forgery created one night in a bedsit in Pimlico with some hair bleach & a projector? Hmmm - where's Fiona Bruce when you need her? Some fun from 2009…

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It remains a great honour and source of pride to have been represented at the 2017 Venice Biennale - the 'Liverpool' version of my masterpiece 'The Taping of Quincy', blu-tacked for posterity at the junction of Ramo Primo de la Pegola with Calle de la Pegolathe.

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‘A reverent exploration of the monuments & sculptures of our housing estates as sacred sites of shared experience - intoxication, sexual becoming... Even micturition upon such works is read by Knill as a sanctifying act.’

(Cover photo: Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee)

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Whilst throughout his work Hargreaves retains a certain fascination with the individual as a tool of resistance and agent of social change, he generally prefers to frame his exploration of this with characters who enact it inadvertently – often through clumsiness, silliness or being particularly accident-prone. It is these characters who triumph most emphatically when we consider his output as a whole.

Clearly written with Debord in mind, the confused and confusing Mr Topsy-Turvy falls very much into this category. If Situationism needed a literary hero, Mr Topsy-Turvy would fit the bill - if only he knew it himself. Moving through a metropolitan environment rather than the semi-rural suburbs more commonly found in Hargreaves, his act after act of unintentional détournement leaves the city in a state of considerable malfunction. Taxis crash, streets come to a standstill, and consumers tumble down the escalator in a department store - all due to seemingly innocuous, innocent behaviours such as speaking in jumbled up sentences, or wearing one’s socks on one’s hands.

But why this narrative insistence that our hero should appear so oblivious to his impact? Is it that Hargreaves views the rebellion of the unconscious as somehow more authentic than organized collective action?  Or, more likely, does he wish to side-step his own misplaced need for moral equilibrium? One suspects that Hargreaves prefers to see capitalist power relations crumble through the benign acts of a Chaplinesque fool, rather than through an open revolt whose perpetrators he would then feel he must punish.

This is all most disingenuous of course, and Hargreaves betrays Mr Topsy-Turvy’s total grasp of the situation when the character insists on hanging the pictures in an art gallery upside-down. We note, furthermore, in the disarranged utterances of a newsreader at the end of the story, that Mr Topsy-Turvy has decisively infiltrated media culture and turned it upon itself. For a man so unaware of the chaos he will cause, he certainly seems to know how to target his efforts. His sudden and mysterious disappearance owes only to the sheer magnitude of his impact. It is not that he is gone – he is everywhere. His ascension complete to the realm of signs, he occupies now the very structure of thought. That is, he is language itself. 

And it is with this radical transformation that Hargreaves declares Mr Topsy-Turvy the most genuinely subversive of all the Mr Men. Whilst Mr Tickle, for instance, might well bring temporary disruption to the accepted order of things, Mr Topsy-Turvy far surpasses this. Like a countercultural virus, he infects and fundamentally alters the system he traverses to bring about enduring change.

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Amidst the neatly mown lawns and manicured hedgerows of the commuter belt, in Mr Fussy we meet a well-known creature of this habitat - the anal retentive personality type. With his excessive need for order and meticulous precision, Mr Fussy’s drive to retain control even goes as far as straightening the blades of grass in his garden.

Students of psychoanalysis will immediately recognise the fundamental unsustainability of this level of repression. And sure enough, it is not long before Mr Fussy is visited by Mr Clumsy, apparently a cousin from down under - clearly an allusion to the anus. Mr Clumsy is of course nothing more than our hero’s own deeply buried desire to rebel against the toilet training of his infancy. As this process, though clearly traumatic, was at the same time integral to the formation of his adult identity, it is only logical that his subconscious must project an alter ego through whom he can stage his regressive revolt.

It comes as no surprise to see that Mr Clumsy is in appearance simply a fatter, more bedraggled version of Mr Fussy himself, dutifully giving the latter licence to relinquish control of his bowels and at the same time look disapprovingly on. Make no mistake, Mr Fussy is loving every minute as the symbols of the self in his house and garden are processed and expelled as waste. And because the conscious self is allowed to remain a mere bystander in proceedings, this return to the Eden of untrammelled excretion evades any crisis of guilt.

For now at least, that is. Hargreaves hints that there may be a future price to pay for his scatological rampage. Things cannot simply go back to how they were. Soon after Mr Clumsy leaves, Mr Bump arrives. Do we take this to mean that Mr Fussy’s still unresolved internal conflict will see him at some point escalate to bouts of accidental self-injury? We are left to muse on what earthquakes await with the shifting tectonic plates of the psyche.

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'Tony Blackburn reads Derrida' audiobook

Would you believe me if I told you I found this in a charity shop in Bacup?