Working together, artists Jonathan Baldock and Emma Hart have radically re-imagined the traditional seaside show, Punch and Judy. Following Act II at Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool this summer and Act I at PEER in London last year, Emma Hart and Jonathan Baldock’s Love Life concludes this autumn with Act III at the De La Warr Pavilion. Love Life is Jonathan Baldock and Emma Hart’s most ambitious collaboration to date: a radical reimagining of the traditional seaside show Punch and Judy. Love Life Act III draws on the history of the Pavilion, originally designed as a ‘people’s palace’ to provide culture and entertainment for all. Through sculpture, moving image and sound, the artists transform Punch and Judy’s puppet booth living quarters into an oversized, darkly humorous place in which the pressure of domestic life is combined with the ever-present threat of violence.
A giant thumb made by Blackpool Council’s Illuminations Department sits on top of enclosed interiors, presented like room sets in an Ideal Home exhibition. Each booth contains sculptures: an oven stacked with anthropomorphic pots and pans, an ironing board with a human head, and a washing machine spewing out its blood-red contents. Beneath the booths, a misshapen raspberry-coloured carpet oozes out into the gallery space. Nearby, a giant infant with Cyclops head sits in a large pink baby walker.
On the walls, a string of sausages spells out the warning ‘YOUR BACK’ and ceramic speech bubbles reminiscent of Punch’s aquiline profile give the impression of a silent chorus. Visitors are invited to sit on a sofa and watch a film that shows the darkening domestic tensions between the Punch and Judy pair as they go about their daily rituals. Accompanying this mise en scène are the melodramatic strains of Jon and Emma (2016), Baldock and Hart’s collaborative soundtrack. The song is adapted from John and Marsha, the comedian and puppeteer Stan Freberg’s 1951 cult record parodying soap opera dialogue.