HONK review by Kevin Boniface

HONK, Contents May Vary, Bates Mill, Huddersfield. Friday 21st November 6-8pm

It was wet, dark and very cold. The white Citroën Relay was parked outside Bates Mill and a man in a baseball cap and hooded top was sat smoking a roll-up in the front load space. He asked me whether I’d like to buy a watch. I said I wouldn’t. He said he had these watches; “made in Iran and hand-stolen by the tribes of Liverpool”. He got out of the van and showed me the “iced-out” gold watch on his wrist. He enthused. He seemed confident I’d appreciate its qualities and be keen to have one for myself. He said “200 quids worth - yours for a tenner - come on mate, I can’t say fairer than that” etc etc and so forth.

He was shivering from cold.

“Why don’t we try one on you? Here...” and before I’d had chance to refuse he’d reached into the van and begun to wrap a watch around my wrist; “there you go mate”, he pulled hard on his cigarette, “beautiful isn’t it?” He held up my wrist to the light of a street lamp for me to admire. As his foggy smoke breath dissipated, I looked at my wrist and, in the orange glow, I saw the watch - made from corrugated cardboard with a hand painted dial of Tippex; it was twenty-five-past-one.

A tall man passed by and asked us for directions to “the show” in a Dutch accent. I said I didn’t know but the hoody man pointed him around the corner. The Dutch man thanked him and set off, only to be distracted by a group of half a dozen or so people in woollen hats and overcoats clustered round the back doors of the van. The Dutch man went over to join them, I followed him. An animated film called Brown Paper Bag Box was being projected onto the rear bulkhead of the white van’s interior. The brown paper bag in the film twitched and crumpled as though there was something inside, weary and confused by its confinement. It was trying to fight its way out; a couple of lame kicks and a punch and then apathy set in for a few seconds before another half-arsed attempt and so on and on and on. A man with waist-length dreadlocks asked “How long does this go on for?” and somebody said “fifteen hours”.

I went round to the front of the van the hoody man blagged a cigarette paper from me as I passed.

I looked in at the cab of the van. It was brightly lit by three cheap LED cupboard strip-lights. Scattered about the front seats were a dozen or so paper “take-out” coffee cups with plastic lids. Each cup had been expertly decorated in old Biro with press-shots copied from newspapers - Agyness Deyn, Max Mosley, Jay-Z etc - as though a bored old photo-realist had had another very long day on the road, looking for somewhere he could finally lay his hat again.

I made my way home, past Centrefolds - “The hottest lap-dancing club in Huddersfield”, the Mecca Casino and the enormous new church building that God has provided for The Huddersfield Christian Fellowship. At home, it was warm and dry but when I switched on the TV Gordon Ramsay and Kirstie Allsopp were preparing a classic 1970s steak Diane with a modern twist.

Kevin Boniface


Citroën Relay 1100 HDi 2.0l diesel SWB 2004 5 door
White body work, panel body
Blue carpeted interior
2 front passenger seats, 2 front facing back passenger seats
Remote central locking
electric windows
5 speed manual gearbox
100,000 miles on the clock
Ideal for touring art exhibitions

Outside A Foundation, Liverpool, Saturday 15th November
Concurring with Night of the Owl, an Owl Project supported by Castlefield Gallery

Outside Leeds Art Gallery, Thursday 20th November
Concurring with Northern Art Prize

Outside Bates Mill, Huddersfield, Friday 21st November
Concurring with The Graphic Method: Bicycle part of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

Outside Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, Thursday 27th November
Concurring with Laura White

Honk was the tenth show by the Manchester based artist collective Contents May Vary and the first taken on tour. The exhibition visited four established art venues in the North of England as part of Artranspennine08 and coincided with prominent contemporary art and music events.

Contents May Vary showed work produced and selected in response to the transportation and exhibition context of a white van. The artists incorporate everyday objects through animation, drawing and performance and exhibited three varied individual works with subtle commonalities.

The white van is synonymous with the transit of varied goods and materials and is a regular method of art transportation. Contents May Vary chose to exhibit within the vehicle, leaving the exhibition one step short of it's expected gallery destination.

Contents May Vary, co-founded in 2004, is Alice Bradshaw, Liz Murphy and Richard Shields. The collective organise and curate large scale group shows in diverse spaces as well as exhibit individually. They also run an independent, internationally distributed, Contents May Vary publication.

Contents May Vary are currently part of Castlefield Gallery's Project Space, a programme that supports artists through sustained periods of bespoke professional development activities, funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Arts Council England.