Tim Hunkin

The Birth of Venus  | 1975

Tim Hunkin is a brilliant artist/engineer, a cartoonist in four dimensions (including time) and a trenchant commentator on contemporary life, who’s been developing his unique craft with dogged persistence for over fifty years. 

To see him at his best you have to visit his Under the Pier Show, at Southwold Pier, Suffolk.  There you can take part in arcade games that dynamite, with corkscrew hilarity, the fears, foibles and tragic consequences of our times. You can enjoy Instant Weight Loss, and see yourself shrink. You can Whack a Banker, and let all your frustrations out. In Microbreak, you sit on a chair on a magic carpet and enjoy the flight, the coach transfer, the hotel, and cook on the beach, all in three minutes flat. He made it because he finds holidays, which many people live for, so stressful; they make him feel old and remind him of death.

I couldn’t resist illustrating Is it Art, due to a personal hang-up of mine. You put an object, any object, into the machine, and an art expert, a spitting likeness, as it happens, of Sir Nicholas Serota, decides whether it’s art or not. But just when you think you’ve struck gold, he changes his mind and shakes his head, and, for a split second, a snake’s tongue flickers out of his mouth.

Then at the end of each week Tim empties the coins from the arcade machines – very satisfying, real, heavy money legitimately earned. As he says ‘it really is a wonderful way to live – no schmoozing with people in power, no layers of bureaucracy to navigate, no cheques from stupid projects that should never have been funded anyway, and no exaggerating the truth to get grants.’  When he has finished with it, the V&A or the Tate should buy the whole shooting match as a National Monument to our times.

There’s another brilliant installation of Tim Hunkin’s in the Science Museum in London – called the Secret Life of the Home. It’s a combination of fascinating exhibits and hilarious (and highly informative, of course) interactives. You’ll go in, but you won’t come out the same.  What more can anyone ask of any work of art, especially one that gives so much pleasure in between?

For more information please visit Tim’s website: www.timhunkin.com

Is it Art  | 2001