Eileen McHugh - a life remade

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Imagine no more LSD

Imagine no more LSD

This work was the first Eileen did during her second year at college. It was topical, even political, in a way her previous work had not been. Hindsight might suggest prescience, but then that is the presumption of hindsight. Both Charlotte and Linda remember discussing the work, but neither had much to say about it. They both recall how Eileen had come back from her summer break in Yorkshire bristling with ideas, all of which she wanted to discuss, rather than do. It seems that Imagine no more LSD did in fact get made, but it went on display in Eileen’s space at college for only a few days before she destroyed it. Eileen claimed, they both recall, that it had always been her intention to destroy the work, though neither of her flatmates remember that being part of the concept. She immediately imagined retitling the work Imagine no more LSD – No more, but that aspect of the work exists only in anecdotal, apocryphal memories and is not mentioned in the artist’s own notes. Those notes, however, are pretty scant so we cannot be sure on this matter. This is what Eileen wrote:

Imagine there’s no money

Makes me wanna cry

No furs for Yoko

Nothing more to buy

Imagine bombed out countries

This year we’ve had a few

Napalm to kill and die from

Laos flat, Cambodia too

Imagine Indo-China living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a wanker

But I’m not the only one

Nixon too can come and join us

And the world will be o’er run

Imagine no possessions

Because we’re all so poor

No need for pop or popcorn

A brotherhood of breath

Imagine all the people, penniless and ill, you

You may say I’m a wanker

But I’m not the only one

As long as I keep my Roller

My world has space for one

Both Linda and Charlotte gave descriptions, both short, which differed only in detail. The sculpture comprised a cardboard cutout of John Lennon, hanging horizontal, suspended by cords around the neck and feet, but tilted towards an onlooker, who had to stand on just one side of the work. This was unusual in Eileen’s work, since most of her work thus far had assumed that viewpoints would not be fixed. Above the image was to hang an Airfix model of a B52 bomber, painted in psychedelic livery, but with clear USAF markings. On strings secured to the aircraft model at one end and the cardboard cutout at the other, were to hang various coins and banknotes from the currency the United Kingdom had just replaced with its new decimal version. The denominations involved were the ten-shilling note, the half crown, the florin, the shilling, the sixpence, the threepenny bit, the penny, the halfpenny and the farthing. Of course, the old money used to be called LSD, an acronym based on the names of the denominations, pounds, shillings and pence, but based on their Latin names, for some reason. Of course, the pun was deliberate. The fact that Eileen never wrote a reference to it does not suggest that her intention was anything other than explicit.

Eileen dropped the idea of the farthings quite soon when she found them hard to source. She also dropped the inclusion of the ten-shilling notes, because she could not afford to include them.

“Ten bob was a lot of money then,” Charlotte told me. “We were only paying a fiver a week each for the flat in Muswell Hill. So a few ten bob notes were a week’s rent. She was on the way to becoming a Damien Hirst before he was born, I suppose. Actually, he would have been seven at the time. I wonder what we would think of that skull if it had old pennies attached, rather than diamonds? An interesting question… I wonder what Fabergé would have done with a real egg?”

Imagine no more LSD – No more, as I prefer to call it, was a work of its time. It has not existed since early October 1972 and will be one of the first remaking projects to be attempted when the Eileen McHugh Foundation is inaugurated.

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