What better place to see Andy Holden’s epic and widely acclaimed masterpiece Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape (2011-2016) than in the memorabilia-packed treasure trove that is the Cinema Museum? Holden describes cartoons as “the unruly id to cinema’s super-ego", and in his animated film-cum-lecture the artist assumes the form of a cartoon avatar, journeying full-tilt though the history of animation. Here, he explores the alternative physical laws of cartoons which he believes can also be seen as a premonition of our increasingly cartoon-like times. In both, anything can—and does—happen.
The Holden avatar also features in four new films set in the cartoon landscape, which also span the cultural terrain. One combines spooky Scooby-Doo houses with Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, another the terrain of Road Runner with Wordsworth’s Prelude. The fact that the Cinema Museum is housed in the 19th century Lambeth workhouse in which Charlie Chaplin—himself a proto-cartoon character—did a childhood stint makes it an even more perfect context for this rich and wide ranging show.
Both the real and the animated Andy Holden were in attendance last night at a two-part performance which also chimed brilliantly with the Cinema Museum’s atmospheric interior and idiosyncratic, higgledy-piggledy contents. First off, Holden lip-synched with an on-screen Charlie Brown and mirrored his postures as he delivered a live narration to Oh! My friends there is no friend (2014-2018), the artist’s film on the nature of friendship which was first unveiled at the recent Somerset House exhibition that celebrated the Peanuts cartoons of Charles Schultz.
Friends and family were at the centre of the second part of the evening. Accompanying Holden on the piano was his fellow Grubby Mitts band member Roger Illingworth (who had featured in the earlier film). With his mother also in the audience, Holden unpacked some of the 300 ceramic cats that he had inherited from his grandmother, who never herself owned a cat. Projected onto two large screens, often striking dramatic poses and sporting some highly eccentric body decoration, this feline throng (all sourced from charity shops) seemed utterly at home in this shrine to the golden age of cinema. I feel Charlie Chaplin would have approved.
• Andy Holden: Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, The Cinema Museum, until 10 March