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Home > Culture and Society

Water on the braindead

30 July 2005

He’s back. This time we tried to ignore him. It wasn’t easy, and ultimately, obviously, we failed. Mark McGowan reappeared in the papers a month ago on the back of his latest artwork: a running tap in a plugless sink in an art gallery kitchen in Camberwell. The work is called ‘The Running Tap: 28 June 2005 - 27 June 2006’. By the end of the year-long exhibit, McGowan estimates he will have wasted 15 million litres of water.

The ‘idea’ behind this stunt is to draw attention to how much water is wasted every year, both by ordinary individuals and by leaks on behalf of Thames Water. Which is rather like protesting the amount of dog do in your street by pulling down your pants and shitting all over the pavement. McGowan insists he is making a valid point however, and that the publicity created by his gesture will in the long run result in less water being wasted. People will see the point he is making and change their lifestyles accordingly. Indeed, he claims to have already received a letter from one woman promising to do exactly that.

Mark McGowan is the worst kind of publicity-seeker. The kind that pretends to have a cause. His modus operandi seems to consist of thinking of something infantile, irritating and potentially offensive - catapulting an old person into space, for example, or drowning kittens - then tacking on an issue for which he can claim to be raising awareness - elder abuse, for example, or the over-commercialisation of the Tate Gallery shop. Now wasting water to highlight water waste.

If nothing else, he can be proud that this time at least, his publicity-seeking has yielded fruit. And he is proud. On Sunday he sent out a press release update gloating that ‘on Friday 22nd of July 2005 Thames Water issued a notice to the artist and to the gallery threatening that they had 7 days to turn the tap off or else. Both the artist and the gallery refuse to turn the tap off.’


Just ignore him, we decided, after he drowned those kittens that turned out to be stuffed toys back in February. He isn’t worth it. Pay no attention to him and eventually he’ll go away, maybe get a job, or a drug habit. But it's difficult to ignore someone who is effectively helping your grandchildren to die of thirst.

Thankfully, on Wednesday, it all ground to a halt. Threatening to cut the gallery's water supply did the trick. McGowan backed down and promised to turn off the tap this afternoon. We're glad, because we think it was the worst idea McGowan has ever had, and he's had a few. But we still think he's a cunt for not having the strength of his convictions. You can't win really, when you're such an objectionable tool.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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