Show: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BUBBLES? (2012). Nicki McCubbing.
Tell: “Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s chimp is portrayed in this installation, as a crazed prisoner, obsessed with Michael’s sister Latoya Jackson, spending his time throwing and smearing shit over his pictures of her and feeling fake boobs with his weirdly long arms.
“This work references the 2010 documentary that reunited Latoya Jackson with Bubbles after Michael’s death, showing him locked up and looking depressed and totally oblivious to her, even though she insists he remembers her. I loved it. She kept saying to him ‘I know. I know’ and Bubbles looked equally really bored and also like he was going to kill her if he could get out of his cage.
“This scene stayed in my mind and kept making me laugh. I often use something that I find funny as a starting point for a piece of work.
“In this sculpture, Bubbles, although now old still lives in the past; wearing his clothes from when he was cute and loved by the whole world, much like Baby Jane Hudson from the Bette Davis film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Most of my previous work references popular culture and its dark side and I have a bit of an obsession with Michael Jackson. I collect tabloid articles and really enjoy the outrageous stories about his life.
“This work also follows on from an installation I made at the Bluecoat in Liverpool in 2011 about country music queens. To me, Bubbles is another symbol of the American dream gone wrong: an animal in the 80s dressed up and turned into something it could never be forever, a bit like Michael Jackson himself. Eventually the charade was over for both the chimp and his owner, when both were left ruined by the bizarre character he had spent years creating for himself imploded; the drugs, the strange behaviour, the plastic surgery and accusations of paedophilia ultimately ruining the fun memories of the 80s.
“Strangely, I was seven months pregnant when I made this piece and I had an overwhelming feeling of perspective and felt very at ease making work around this time. I didn’t censor myself and as a result made some quite dark work, even though I was actually really happy at the time! I’m a great believer in enjoying what you do and make as an artist. Being an artist can be so hard, not having any money and putting your thoughts and fears out there for the world to judge can be incredibly difficult, so I think you may as well have fun making the work.
“Making this work in particular was really fun. The day I had to throw and smear fake chimp shit I had made, onto pictures of Latoya Jackson, was hilarious. As well as the night when I cut up pictures of Latoya from Playboy magazine as if a chimp was using scissors. I really enjoyed the performance element in the making of this work. Maybe one day in the future I will dress up as Bubbles and become him for art. I have actually made several pieces of work that reference Michael Jackson. I think I have enough source material to make a whole exhibition of work based on him.
“I would love to do this in the future and call this show The way you make me feel or Be careful what you do, because a lie becomes the truth (taken from Billie Jean). I always thought that was such a great line in a song and also so relevant to Michael Jackson’s life and demise.”
Info: Nicki McCubbing lives and works in Liverpool. She is one of 45 artists exhibiting as part of CAVE Art Fair, which takes place at the Baltic Creative Campus, Liverpool, between Thursday 13th – Sunday 16th September 2012.
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