view counter

INTERVIEW: Mary Meyer talks to co-curators Lara Clifton and Johnny Blueeyes about their EROTIC night

EROTIC: 26 August 2010
Barbican Conservatory Garden Room: 19.00 – 23.00

Event details: ...

Lara Clifton and Johnny Blueeyes, two luminaries of London’s avant-garde performance scene, have joined forces to take us on a surrealist journey in one of London’s hidden treasures, the “tropical garden in the sky” of The Barbican. As Mr Blueeyes says, “We both admired each others performance work from afar and magically we have been brought together to co-curate The Surreal House EROTIC Evening. With us both having an interest in performance with an erotic sensual energy, it was a perfect fit for us to co-curate the event.” This is a price positive, bank holiday bonanza that is reason enough to ditch the weekend away. Mary Meyer caught up with Johnny and Lara to chat all things Erotic - be prepared for terrapins, titillation and The Tin Man. . .

Tell me a bit about your background, how you came to work at the Barbican and where you are at this point in your career.

JB: I am an artist and stylist, and the Creative Director of House of Blueeyes. The House of Blueeyes is a family, a collective of artists, performers and musicians who have come together to create art since 2008. Lara Clifton from the Whoopee Club asked if I would like to be involved in co-curating the Erotic evening as part of The Surreal House exhibition at the Barbican and I jumped at the chance.

LC: I started the Whoopee Club with Tamara Tyrer in 2002. Our backgrounds were both in art and we wanted to create a night that was entertaining as well as aesthetically wonderful. It kicked off very quickly and we ended up running decadent parties for 8 years! Burlesque was very much a part of it. It was the first time that burlesque was presented on a multi faceted stage alongside circus performers, film and live bands. We wanted to put low-art and high art together. At the time, it was all about Tracey Emin and being real and stark, but we had a great love for kitsch and all things beautiful!

How would you define surrealism? Does your individual performance inform this?

LC: A bicycle on an operating table.

JB: My own personal take on surrealism which is what I will bringing with one of my alter-egos on the night Clowny is a sense of reality meets fantasy, realness with un-realness, a waking dream. I’ve been doing performance work for almost twenty years, both here and in America, and, as part of my performance work, I have certain alter egos. Clowny is one of my favourite and most surreal alter egos and I thought he would be the perfect friend to be part of this event.

Obviously the evening is part of The Surreal House exhibition but the night itself is simply called ‘Erotic’ - what does that mean to you?

JB: We have asked the artists to think about bringing a sense of sexuality to their individual performance. I am looking for lots of open mouths . . .

LC: Johnny and I were chosen for reasons that we are both quite associated with the flesh . . . and surrealism. Initially, it was going to be called e-ROT-ic with a nod to sex and death which its all very Freudian and Jungian and deep-rooted in the surrealist movement. You look at Dali and lots of surrealist art was about sex and eroticism and fantasy. Dali used to try and seduce women by putting an egg on their shoulder. We are trying to do a night that mixes surrealism and eroticism because it makes sense; surrealism is quite sexy and uses the body in a strange way – there’s that Magritte image that has boobs for eyes and it was all about double meanings, how ordinary actions have erotic significance.

What / who are your inspirations for the evening as a whole?

LC: Since the exhibition is very forward looking and not just about the artists that were part of the surrealist movement, we are seeking to create a night that is very modern and of its time with more than a nod to the past but using contemporary artists that have an erotic or surrealist edge to their work.

JB: The inspiration for the evening is definitely the amazing energy that we have here in London. We are bringing together a truly diverse group of artists who will take people on an erotic surreal journey out of their comfort zone, transporting them to a different place, an otherworldly moment, a parallel universe.

How would you describe the current London alternative / cabaret “scene”? Do you believe there is a discernible scene at the moment?

LC: Yes I think there is a massive cabaret scene in London, some alternative, some not so. In terms of roots, there was always stuff going on in Soho in the Colony Rooms, Peter Cook used to run that club in Soho that was completely a surreal club. There is a certain style of London cabaret that rests very easily around satire and surrealism and a slight seediness as well, probably because a lot of these clubs came up from Soho. That’s what I like in a cabaret. The Whoopee Club was a big starting block in the current scene.

Which performers have you selected and why?

LC: In terms of performance, we have an amazing mix. We have poets, performance artists, dancers and burlesque performers.

JB: There is an amazing group called The Readers who are curating a performance inspired by Dadaism. I’m really excited to experience them. We also have the beautiful poet and performance artist Betsy De Lotbiniere and the gorgeous Ryan Styles, another performance artist. The music is going to be provided by Madame Pippa Brooks of Boombox fame.

LC: The performers are all very visual. La Horrox – a sound performance artist will be doing shape shifting experiences inside the conservatory. Mr Teds will be creating grotesques like Piggy Lee who is an ice-skating stripper. We have the glorious La JohnJoseph – a beautiful singer and narrator (you might have seen his one man show ‘Underclass Hero’ at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern). Liza Angst an excellent digital artist, is designing a sound-scape for the evening. The Beaux Belles, a dance troupe, will be providing surrealist interventions and Lucy Long Legs – a very, very tall burlesque performer will be strutting her stuff… there will be knives involved! And we’ll have Little Gold Riding Hood and Bert, amongst others… Also, some students from St Martins are providing installations playing with two other rooms. We gave them as broad a brief as possible – with one key rule – it needs to be an immediate hit on the night!

Photo: The Readers (left) and La JohnJoseph.

Why / how will the location add to the evening?

JB: The location is a really massive part of it. It’s truly an amazing space on the 3rd floor of the Barbican. Just like Kew Gardens. Like a tropical garden in the sky. Seeing is really believing. We are absolutely using the garden in the most strange and beautiful way. The performers will pop out as if they live in the garden itself. It is yellow brick road esq. The good people of the Barbican that night, as Dorothy, will be taken on a Wizard of Oz journey through the garden in the sky.

LC: It is a really exciting night because we have the two different venues – the conservatory and entry area and we have themed it accordingly but to preserve the element of surprise we do not wish to disclose details. I still can’t quite fully imagine the garden full of all these creatures, half animal, half flesh, emerging from the bushes. I had no idea that this space was lurking in the Barbican! I can’t think of anything more exciting than having an erotic party in The Barbican’s secret garden in the middle of August with all these creatures and characters waiting for you to come and meet them… It’s wonderful. There’s going to be a half lady- half fish, and naked people with animal heads. We are playing with the themes of corporate versus nature, animal versus human… And, if you dreamt about walking through a door and entering into a garden it would mean a lot for a Freudian person…

Photos: Paula Harrowing: 'Johnny Blueeyes as 'Clowny'

Will this be interactive? What are your expectations from the guests?!

JB: I am really excited about the interactive element of the night. The guests will become part of the evening as they intertwine with performers. With my own performance, we are going to be making special Clowny money with which the audience will be encouraged to create live art. Clowny will be pole-dancing and is looking for the audience to free themselves and will be encouraging people to attach the money to him...

We are inviting our audience to bring their own surreal erotic fantasy to life on the night. Please dress up, please dress down, please feel free to really express yourselves in a wild fantastical way and bring stills cameras, video cameras, bring phones so you can make your own art as part of the night and we would be thrilled after if you would like to send us any pictures or film. We want you to be as involved as you wish – if you want to be a voyeur we love you too!

How do you view the different genres of art? Do you favour performance above music and film or do you see them all on same artistic level?

JB: I think art is saviour. Art, however it manifests itself, is really important in our lives. We need it to live and thrive and be happy. I encourage everybody to express themselves, however they wish to do so.

LC: Live performance is what I’ve always liked best. I favour it because I like the immediacy. I like the fact that it is so in the moment.

And finally, Johnny, you have become known for your nude performance – tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind that.

JB: Throughout my performance career, there have been times when I’ve performed nude and there have been times where I have performed fully-clothed and you can barely see that I’m a human being. I am going to reserve the right to be as nature intended or not on the night.

My nude performance is about personal freedom and being in love with yourself, realising that there is only one of you in the world and loving your body. We are constantly told that there is a certain ideal of what we are supposed to be. My performance is definitely a reaction to that. I’m aware that it makes people question things - it has either inspired them or grossed them out. And that’s fine. As artists we have to not be afraid. We have to be fearless.


Lara’s new website The Republic of She will be live soon. Watch this space!


EROTIC : Thursday, 26 August 2010
Barbican Conservatory Garden Room: 19.00 – 23.00

£12 including entry into The Surreal House exhibition as well as the party
Standard exhibition entry - £8 online; £10 full-price

The night:
The Exhibition:
Book tickets online:
RSVP on Facebook here:


Whoopee presents Carnaval

JohnnyBlueeyes from Abbie Matthews on Vimeo.

A short documentary film about Johnny Blueeyes – look out for Clowny!

House of Blue Eyes at London Fashion Week

Ryan Styles


COMPETITION: 1x Pair of tickets to attend Erotic at the Barbican Conservatory Garden Room at 19.00 on Thursday, 26th August.

To claim your tickets, send an email to with the correct answer in the ‘subject’ box. The winner will be randomly selected.

Q: Erotica and surrealism go hand in mouth like a duck to bark. I'm sure you appreciate the fleshy moistness of the whole inner ear when regarding the loins of any great stallion. One could argue that an oyster is not a wardrobe bustling with refined silk kimono's, but if you fell up the stairs of that school of thinking you really would be saying curtains to such a lush stream of thought. Missing out, we'd say. I'm sure you concur with or without any elongated shadows of pink tones of fragrant musky mischief. Milky, even. With a pipe, hat, and clowns mask. What ever next? Gin?

Here is the answer: A Deep Sea Diving Suit

But what is the question?


.1) The photographer Man Ray often liked riding his mare bareback through the frothy surf of the Andalucian coast line while singing at the top of his voice which anthem?

.2) Curator Lara Clifton has acted in the film 'The Principles of Lust', written the book 'Baby Oil & Ice', produced countless events with Whoopee - but, what is the title of her next creative project?

.3) Johnny Blueeyes has to be one of the most heartiest of all artists alive on this planet right now - a creative talent to be applauded and mightily generous with it too! What is his favourite fashion accessory?

.4) The London International Surrealist exhibition of 1936 was attended by Salvador Dalí wearing which eyebrow-raising costume?


view counter