I like unusual objects in incongruous places. That’s probably why I adore Tim Walker so much – entranced by the beds in the woods, the aeroplanes in stately homes, the tents in libraries. Many fashion photographers play around with these kinds of juxtapositions, making the ordinary slightly more bizarre or brilliant by introducing unlikely clashes of prop and location. Tim Walker just happens to do it with a particularly vivid, striking type of flourish. He’s made it his trademark, encompassing everything from a living room with a stream running through the middle to Lily Cole dangling on a huge fishhook above a river.
That kind of use of location – of making it new and odd – is also what I found so appealing about Punch Drunk’s The Drowned Man. Set over several floors in an abandoned warehouse, each level was transformed into something different: ballrooms, film sets, forests and deserts among them. You could wander between each in turn, stumbling across rooms full of sand and desks and birdcages, or locating the secret passage at the back of the wardrobe. It was my favourite kind of interactive theatre, the audience turned voyeurs as we craned forward to follow a lover’s argument or watched the doctor at work. It was less an unusual juxtaposition, more a suspending of usual boundaries - space made strange.
Perhaps my favourite example of incongruity though isn’t something I ever saw, but only heard about recently. Back when my dad was 25 and living in Bristol, he and a friend decided to do breakfast with a twist. Rather than your average dining table/ kitchen set-up, they took their morning meal to a nearby city centre roundabout - setting up a table and chairs complete with tablecloth, food, teapot and cutlery on this small patch of grey concrete. Both wore dressing gowns and read newspapers. You can see pictorial evidence here. A local radio station got involved, asking whether it was “political?” The police stopped to ask what on earth they were doing. My dad’s answer? “We wanted to cheer up the commuters.” This is what I appreciate most. It was street performance, for sure, but there was no intent beyond the two of them doing it because they could, because they were young and playful and thought it would be funny.
I’ve never managed anything on that scale. I’ve taken tables and bookshelves into fields. I’ve hung dresses in trees. I’ve got friends to wander along with picture-frames over their shoulders. These feel like tame offerings though, usually solitary – surprising only the odd dog walker or enthusiastic hiker. Maybe I need to up my offerings, do things on a grander scale. Or maybe I can just appreciate what others have achieved, and occasionally do my bit by wafting around crumbling Welsh cottages in lace wedding dresses, just for kicks…
Here's me in the slightly more prosaic setting of our garden, wearing all second-hand - including a vintage sixties suede pea-coat I nicked from my mum. I'm now off to go sit out there again with a glass of wine in one hand, and a poetry book in the other. Not really incongruous, but ever so delightful.