This Tuesday, May 3, Charlie Tuesday Gates will be hosting a lesson on D.I.Y. Taxidermy as part of the Diesel School of Island Life at London's RED Gallery. Launching in May 2011, the innovative program from Diesel School of Island Life offers all 'passport holders' exclusive access to a range of events, parties, workshops and field trips, hosted by select guests from art, film, politics, and music. With desert island discos with Goldie, Metronomy, Optimo, Mr Hudson, Errors, SBTRKT, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Joker, to inspirational events with Howard Marks, Project Pigeon, and Stephen Walter, their event this Tuesday kicks off with Gates for firsthand guidance on how to do your own taxidermy. Dazed spoke to the creative taxidermist about her experiences in the field, and how one can stuff their own furry friends.
Dazed Digital: How does one get started in taxidermy?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: I grew up in the countryside so you do come into contact with these things more than city folk. Poking wildlife is a great pastime of mine. I hated waste and was obsessed with collecting - then I started collecting the dead… When I was very, very young I accidentally buried my gerbils alive… I still have reoccurring dreams about this. Later in life I had a baby chick. It was disabled and walked backwards. Its pecker didn’t even reach the ground so it couldn’t feed itself. It died of wholly natural causes and I buried it. A few months later I dug it up - curiosity got the better of me... It always has.
I moved into a warehouse with a terrible rat infestation. I started trapping and killing them. I got into trouble with my Buddhist flatmate so had to do things in secret. In this secret warehouse I was able to bring back anything with no one to tell me I was disgusting and weird... which happened quite a lot. Now I was out of harms way I started experimenting!
One day my brother brought me a fox he had found in the woods. This was my opportunity to take things bit further. I had never opened up anything before and I didn’t have a bloody clue what to do… but I went for it and just kind of made it up! I have never been very good at being told what to do as I'm far too headstrong. I always think I know best even when I know nothing. The only way I learn thing is if I do them for myself.
No one can teach physical experience and taxidermy is definitely an experience. If you want to do something and you have the ability… then you should just do it (obviously within the law) and not be afraid. It is amazing what comes naturally, and for me, taxidermy is one of those things. Kind of gut instinct and common sense.
DD: How do you find your animals?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: Dead. I have some excellent contacts now! I am friends with the local farmer, butcher and I am also on excellent terms with the local gamery. After the animal has been stripped of their ‘useful’ parts, they are thrown away. The lambery is a good place. Lambs are taken away from their mum’s three days after birth…. because of this lots of them die and again, are tossed into giant skips. Can you imagine a stinking skip full of baby lambs?
It’s horrifying to see such beautiful creatures tossed into the bin as if their lives meant nothing! This happens day in, day out all over the world. It is usual practice. It’s a disgusting waste of life. Life has become disposable, so throw away.
DD: You've mentioned you're most interested in exploring the realities of death - do you also think taxidermy is a way of keeping things alive?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: Traditional taxidermy is preserving the illusion of life... I like to get a bit more creative with my materials.
DD: Do you think your work has ever upset or made anyone uncomfortable?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: Yes. Someone has been sick before. People have said they were terrified of everything - general fear. But I guess I don't see it that way and I never set out to shock. I was just doing what I wanted to do and what interested me as an artist. It's pretty self indulgent really because everything I make, I make for me and not to freak others out. I like to look at interesting things - turns out the things that interest me can be quite disturbing.
DD: What is the film 'Borrowed Time' about?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: It's bloody hilarious! Genuinely an inspired script and I fear I won't do it justice!!! Borrowed Time is a comedy written and directed by Jules Bishop. The film got commissioned as part of the Microwave scheme- the same one that saw Plan B's get made.
Needing to pay off his drugs debt to the local psycho ninja, Kevin decides to rob a local house. However the unsuspecting lad didn't know that the old bastard inside is a taxidermist and spends his life surrounded by stuffed friends. Kevin ends up with a gun in the back of his head as Phillips silently stalked him on his stanner stair lift. This starts the beginning of an unlikely friendship.
This is being filmed this summer!
DD: What will you be doing for the Diesel School of Island Life?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: D.I.Y Taxidermy IIII is a performance, demonstration, exhibition and artist talk all in one. I like to describe it as a bit like a science lesson from your favourite supply teacher…who is actually an artist. In about an hour I will talk an audience through my D.I.Y process (emphasis is heavily on the D.I.Y aspect). Delivered in a 'shopping channel' style, I'll give you handy hints and tips for using basic everyday objects, where to source animal parts legally & personal preservation methods, giving a unique insight into this seemingly dark art and mind of an artist. The audience is encouraged to participate and generally be involved in the creation of a new artwork. An exhibition will run alongside the show, displaying surreal and bizarre assemblage sculptures of recent finds.
DD: What are you most excited about next?
Charlie Tuesday Gates: The future! I'm excited about loads of stuff! Most of it is a secret though...
Diesel School of Island Life, Charlie Tuesday Gates' D.I.Y Taxidermy IIII, Tuesday May 3, RED Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, London EC2. For more information on the events, go to www.facebook.com/diesel. Pick up a Diesel Island passport in any Diesel store to attend this free series.