Huw Lemmy on Mathew Wayne Parkin's 'I Believe in You'

Part of ONE WORK

Mathew Wayne Parkin, 'I believe in you', 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

ONE WORK is a series of online events established in response to the first lockdown in March 2020. Focusing closely on a single work, these generous discussions provided an opportunity for an artist based in Scotland to present a recent work and talk through how the work came into being. These events have since developed into a more substantial part of our programme, and now include a month-long online screening and a specially commissioned written response that will be published on the LUX Scotland website. The series now provides an opportunity to think more deeply about the work and provide a record of the discussion events.

Mathew Wayne Parkin took part in a ONE WORK event with us in February 2021, presenting and discussing their film, I believe in you’ (2016), that examines how the body is mediated in public and on the internet through performance and dance. We commissioned artist and novelist Huw Lemmey to make the first of these new written responses.

We are delighted to publish Huw’s response below, which explores images and ideas arising from I believe in you’, particularly what intimacy might mean when navigated over the internet. Huw’s response takes the reader on a journey, moving through a thread of people, objects and spaces, perspectives and time zones.

Huw Lemmey is a novelist and artist. He is the author of three novels: Unknown Language (Ignota Books, 2020), Red Tory: My Corbyn Chemsex Hell (Montez Press, 2019), and Chubz: The Demonization of my Working Arse (Montez Press, 2016). Huw has written for the Guardian, Frieze, Flash Art, Tribune, TANK, The Architectural Review, Art Monthly, New Humanist, Rhizome, The White Review, and L’Uomo Vogue, amongst others. He writes the weekly essay series utopian drivel and is the co-host of the podcast Bad Gays.

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At 14:20 Michael finished lacing his boots and opened his front door. Locking the door behind him he descended the 120 steps from his fourth floor apartment. As he descended he passed the apartment of two old ladies who he sees often on the stairs and whose apartment always betrays the smell of stewing meat. He passes the apartment of the new young couple who moved in two months previously whose apartment always betrays the smell of burning palo santo. This morning there is nothing. He swings around the iron balustrade to check his mailbox, where he finds a magazine arriving months out of a date and a bill from the water board. He slides them into his bag and unlocks the shared door to the apartment block, stepping out onto the street, where the sun is momentarily blocked by a passing removals van. In 30 minutes time a bus will arrive from the airport at the large square in the nearby city centre, and Michael is walking in that direction. Right now the airport bus is on the raised highway towards the city. It is driving at 42 kph and the traffic is free-flowing. The recently resurfaced asphalt betrays no bumps to Alejandra, whose plane arrived 48 minutes prior to this moment, having taken off from the runway in Mexico City at 6.40am. She is still digesting the meal of rice and chicken that she ate while watching the 2012 film Argo directed by Ben Affleck. She closes her eyes watching the palm trees, struggling to stay awake. Her mobile phone vibrates in her hand. Just at this moment her boyfriend, who she hasn’t seen in 11 months, sent her a text message informing her he was leaving the house and would meet her at the central square, beneath the statue. The statue, an allegorical figure of a woman dressed in a flowing classical gown, on whose head rests a marble crown of olive leaves, is one of many in the city’s central square, but when her boyfriend refers to the statue, both Alejandra and her boyfriend share an understanding that this is the statue to which he refers, having met numerous times beneath its outstretched arms before. Despite this, they have never taken the time to read the words carved on the statue, which mark it out as a commemoration towards the dead of a war that, unbeknown to them, they both lost ancestors in. As the phone vibrates in her hand, there is already a man waiting beneath the statue. He is wearing a pair of jeans whose tears and tatters were produced prior to sale in a manufacturing plant in Thailand, a jacket made of imitation leather, and around his neck is a thick silver chain. He is lost in the screen, pulling his finger down its smoothness as he draws up through a series of over 150 messages sent and received on a chat app in the previous 48 hours. He receives another message which draws him to the bottom of the chat. The timestamp is 14:22. Having sent the message, the American tourist who has been in the city for four days is walking towards the minibar in his hotel room. He is naked but for his watch, and is craving a glass bottle of coca-cola to relieve the effects of the hangover induced by a night of drinking cava and continental lagers at a series of small bars with his friends. They met at college over six years ago and are travelling around Europe for the length of the summer. All couples but him, they share different rooms in the same hotel. While they slept off their headache, he again loaded the hook-up app only half believing he might meet the guy beneath the fountain. He is scrolling, contemplating each of the men as they might appear were they taking off his clothes before him, and is so taken with this digital world he fails to notice the sound of crashing plates and glass from the cafe Mirador beneath the hotel window, where a young man has just taken the handbag from beneath the chair of an absent-minded tourist, an Italian woman from Florence visiting the city for the first time and up to this point charmed with the unspoilt beauty of its crooked old quarter, and attempted to run with the handbag. A waiter leaving the cafe’s dark and cool interior, as its brass-handled double doors swing behind him, enters the terrace to see the theft in action and, instinctively, extends his left foot into the path of the young man, sending him flying across the terrace and into the table of an elderly couple from England, bringing their table crashing to the ground just as they are discussing the plans for the day with their grand-daughter via skype. She is currently sitting in the kitchen of a rented house she shares with three university friends, in Nottingham. Glasses are hitting the floor in a row that sees people across the square turning their heads. Just at this moment a street cleaner in his early 60s drops the handles of his pushcart in order to roll himself a cigarette beneath the main door of the cathedral. He can hear singing inside, and watches the waiter, joined by a middle-aged man in a blue padded gilet, chasing the young thief across the square, the waiter’s long black apron streaming between his legs. The thief is running faster than the two men and is losing them in the crowd of confused tourists. The street cleaner, unperturbed, lifts the now-rolled cigarette to his lips and lights it. Putting his lighter back into his pocket, he checks his watch. The digital display shows 14.25. The thief, breathless and sweating despite only wearing a thin cotton t‑shirt, rounds the corner of the street where the large 19th century bank still takes and dispenses the cash of citizens over 130 years later. As he’s taking the corner he is distracted by the sight of a flock of birds that seem to be bursting across the gap between the two lines of buildings at the end of the street, where the enclosed street opens into the vista of a broad river, bracketed on both sides by a wide boulevard. The sunlight catches the brightness of the flocking gulls, and they appear to ripple. His eyes almost blinded momentarily by this flashing light, he runs at full pelt into a man coming up the pavement in the opposite direction. The two men are knocked to the floor, grasping at each other for balance, and Michael and the thief both clasp their hands against the bare forearm of the other. As they come too on the floor, Michael can feel the soft undercarriage of the thief’s forearm against his fingertips, the thief and him both lying on the cool stone of the paving flags.

Audio Version

Huw Lemmey's response to Mathew Wayne Parkin's 'I Believe in You' (2016).

Part of ONE WORK

ONE WORK is a series of online events that focus closely on a single work. These generous discussions provide an opportunity for an artist to present a recent work and talk through how the work came into being. Each work is available as a month-long online screening, followed by a specially commissioned written response that serves as documentation of both the work and the discussion.

Learn more