Neil Cooper, 'Identity Parade' (The List, 15/04/2010)

What are words worth? ‘Glamour’, for instance, is a Scottish derivative that comes directly from the word ‘Grammar’, the literal meaning of which is ‘learning via a magic spell or hex’. Clearly this is a long way from the red carpet approach that passes for glamour today, and forms part of the thinking behind ‘The Darktown Cakewalk: Celebrated from the House of FAME’, a thirteen-hour performance by artist (and close friend/photographer) to Morrissey, Linder, to accompany her exhibition, King’s Ransom (Hybrid Tea) at Sorcha Dallas.

As the title suggests, the piece is a riot of criss-crossing ideas and influences. It incorporates input from dancers, The Cinematic Orchestra’s Stuart McCallum, and Richard Nicoll, designer and creative director of fashion house Cerutti. The roots of the piece, however, are much closer to home.

‘I’d been looking at the film of John Osborne’s The Entertainer,’ says Linder during a break from preparations for the show, which included a month-long residency in Glasgow. ‘It was filmed in Morecambe, near where I live, and is very much to do with the senility of music hall and the senility of that form. That got me thinking about the senility of pop music, and about living in a world that has this ease of absorption. Music hall always had thirteen acts, and I wondered what would happen if you stretched them out to an hour.’

The resulting collage promises an epic invocation of witch trials, ragtime dances born out of slavery and bathing beauties on parade. It’s an even bigger step up from Linder’s four-hour 2001 performance piece ‘The Working Class Goes To Paradise’. While Linder’s previous performances in Glasgow, at Sorcha Dallas and at Lucy McKenzie’s Sunday night Flourish event, have been on a small scale, ‘The Working Class…’, performed in Manchester and London, combined similarly disparate elements, as three bands played simultaneously while women re-enacted Shaker rituals and a bearded-up Linder stalked the room à la Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western anti-hero.

Linder’s work has long subverted notions of sexual identity, and is most recognisable from early collages for Manchester-based punk-era contemporaries Buzzcocks and Magazine and a collaboration on The Secret Public with writer Jon Savage. As vocalist with the band Ludus, Linder applied sexual politics and primal screaming to a nouveau cocktail jazz guitar backing, once appearing at The Haçienda dripping in bloody meat and sporting a giant dildo. ‘The Darktown Cakewalk’, though, is something else again.

‘It’s not rehearsed,’ Linder stresses. ‘It’s continuous improvisation. The whole piece is in flux, and could change any second. Time is the star of the show, and you need thirteen hours for that star to shine.’