One toy rodent placed in perfect symmetry with a real rodent, at the bottom of my stairs.
Pablo: “I suppose my initial inspiration from this came from the famous scene in Goodfellas, when Joe Pesci shows off his mum’s painting of two dogs to Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro: ‘One dog goes one way, one dog goes the other way’. My twist on this classic motif is that I didn’t use dogs, I used mice, and both are facing in the same direction. In the end, the fact that one mouse was freshly killed by yours truly the previous morning and the other was bought from a pet shop in Swaffham in June 2002 is immaterial. Both animals yearn for the same thing - the top of the stairs, and whatever lies beyond – but are ultimately doomed to find that what is there is not the promised mouseian Utopia, but more cats and the restrictive barrier of a ceiling. These rodents face a realisation that has haunted every idealist from Francis Bacon to Britney Spears: that there is only so much “up” in any life. More receptive, intellectually inquiring students of the piece will notice an extra theme: that of The Permanence Of The Transitory, expressed in the juxtaposition of the “real” mouse – soon to be placed in a plastic bag and put in the wheelie bin to quickly rot – and the “fake”, “ephemeral" mouse, still going strong and, amazingly, still squeaking, despite its mass-produced origins and early Noughties vintage.
2. 'The Venerable Bead'
Somewhere between five and seven thousand tiny polystyrene beads from a recently split bean bag, with a fluffy black cat lolloping about in the middle of them.
Janet: “Surely my most ambitious and dramatic composition to date. One of the questions I've most been asked about 'The Venerable Bead' is, 'Why put yourself in it?'. I suppose the most concise answer is that, despite its universality, I always saw it as an ultimately autobiographical work. I would also say that, in the five minutes between the bean bag's contents pouring out onto the floor and my owner returning with a bin bag and a vacuum cleaner, I played around with various other arrangements and none quite felt as true to me; they just didn't have the same sense of journey. A room full of beads: well, that's just, y'know, a room full of beads. But with my startled face in the midst of the chaos, beads stuck all over it, you get the duality of all maelstrom: the sweet release from convention ('Yay! Little white things to twat around the floor!') and the humiliating hangover that inevitably follows ('Bugger! What's this weird stuff stuck to my chin and nose?!").
3. 'Scum Shadow'
A cushion festooned the various miniscule debris of a hard cat's night, but leaving a perfect sleeping cat-shape within its centre.
Shipley: "See my scabby detritus, my sticky buds, my stray, dried eye bogeys, my scurf and dead cells, feel the negative space they create. See me, then see my outline. Who is the real one? Who is the clean one? Ask yourself: what are we all, but outlines, waiting to be filled in?"
A single Pets At Home Pet Mitt, placed on the other side of a window to a gardening glove
"Sometimes - and I say this not just because of my own personal sleeping habits - the best art is about doing nothing. It was not me who placed my favourite pet mitt on the window ledge, any more than it was me who dropped the lone, crusty gardening glove on the garden path on the other side of the glass, yet by being there to witness their strange symbiosis, I feel I can claim a kind of ownership. Turn your fingers into a letter box and look through it: the framed scene is perfect.. preordained, one might say. The contrast is fecund and evident. On one side of the glass: the pet mitt, better than any brush, perfectly dimpled for his or her pleasure. On the other side: the gardening glove, provider of a more invigorating stroke than a bare human hand, maybe, but ultimately always the pretender, always feted to be on the outside, looking in."
Two ancient crisp packets, once respectively housing near-forgotten lamb and mint- and spare rib-flavoured snacks, rescued out of the lake at the bottom of my garden, standing half upright against one another.
Janet: "Who says the commercial and throwaway has no place in art? Not Andy Warhol, and not me. What is most interesting to me here is not the outdated nature of the products on offer, but the way they appear to lean on one another for support. They are, if you like, their own teepee, built against the inexorable forward press of potato-based snacks. Designed to withstand an eternity spent submerged in water, to stay crinkly and robust against whatever the UK's landfills have to throw at them, they nonetheless have their own fragility, their own worries about an uncaring, harsher future. They must hide and regroup, and for this regrouping, they choose a spot to the left of the outside drain, beneath the buddleia, before the crazy paving begins: cool, tranquil, reflective."
An aging, stuffed toy otter, abandoned on the floor alongside a favourite armchair.
Bootsy: "I think of this as not just the dispatching of the unreal (i.e. that bloomin' otter that my human slaves always put on top of that expensively covered chair so I don't ruin it) by the kicking, vibrant legs of the real (i.e. me), or even as a statement against the futility of materialism, though it could be argued to be both. I also think of it as my own little joke on those of my peers who choose to cruelly speculate on my lack of bowel movements, simply because I spend an abnormal amount of time indoors. It is a metaphorical silencing of the doubters. It is proof that, despite what my impeccable, Queenly deportment would suggest, I do, just like everyone else - like even the Queen herself - sometimes squeeze out an otter."
7. 'Once-White towel, Now Black With Fur'
A once-white towel, now black with fur.
The Bear: “Genius does not need to justify itself.”