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John Beagles
Graham Ramsay

Gasworks presented the first solo show in London by John Beagles and Graham Ramsay. Dead of Night featured a major new installation with video performances inspired by and starring a pair of specially tailored ventriloquist dummy self-portraits.

In their collaborative work, Beagles & Ramsay have often constructed character driven narratives played out within specially designed sets. This new work developed the performative aspect of Beagles & Ramsay’s practice; previously they have cast themselves in a variety of roles, firstly, as attendant corpses at their first solo exhibition, then as geriatric sages and more recently as workers in a fast food joint. Dead of Night took these long running concerns into a new direction with work that extends their interest in theatrical self-portraiture, and the grotesque doppelgänger. For the duration of the exhibition the gallery was transformed into a traditional theatrical venue complete with authentic period décor, a stage and dressing room.

The title of the show is taken from the 1945 Michael Redgrave supernatural chiller in which a ventriloquist is driven insane by his crazed dummy alter ego. Beagles & Ramsay’s new work drew upon the rich history of twisted split personalities within music hall entertainment and horror films.

A further source of inspiration was the recently rediscovered Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow. The Britannia Panopticon has been neglected and largely forgotten for over 60 years but in its heyday, it was a thriving, notorious entertainment complex, complete with a freak show, menagerie and music hall. One of the oldest surviving 19th century pleasure palaces, its stage was the site for the theatrical debut of Stan Laurel and Cary Grant. Working in this atmospheric space, Beagles & Ramsay have conjured up a video, which alludes to this rich history through the ghostly materialisation of their ventriloquist doppelgängers.

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John Beagles
and Graham Ramsay live and work in Glasgow and have exhibited together as Beagles & Ramsay since 1996. Recent exhibitions include: Videodrome at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002); Burgerheaven at YYZ Artist’s Outlet, Toronto (2002) and De Fabriek, Eindhoven (2001); Dub’l-Introoder at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2001); Evolution Isn’t Over Yet at the Fruitmarket, Edinburgh (1999); and Crash at the ICA, London (1999). Beagles and Ramsay have been chosen to represent Scotland as part of the new Scottish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2003.

A new catalogue surveying Beagles & Ramsay’s work made since 1996 published by Gasworks is available from the bookshop.

The catalogue was also launched separately in Scotland on 20 June at Collective Gallery, Edinburgh to mark the opening of a related project at Collective’s Project Room from 21 June - 27 July, 2003.