Modern Toss


Written by Izzy Elstob
28 Monday 28th June 2010

Illustration versus Art; Design versus Illustration; Object versus Image; Comical versus Satirical. Leave these questions at the door of The Modern Toss London Museum of Urban Shit-Naks at the Maverick Showrooms. Grand theoretical contests become redundant pedantries when faced with the irreverence of Modern Toss’s (Mick Bunnage and Jon Link) surreal creations.

This is democratic stuff. Their images and slogans are stamped on T-shirts, transformed into iPhone apps and compiled into slender, affordable books. But these are no Monet water-lily mugs. The products that carry their motifs and language are bound to the playful and approachable ethos of Modern Toss’s bizarre aesthetic sub-culture. It is both cultish and comprehensible: everyone’s in on the joke but simultaneously feels chuffed at being drawn into the gang that the joke is being exposed to. 
The variety of Modern Toss’s methods for translating their gags provides a great rendezvous point between nostalgia and twenty-first century concerns. For some of their works it is their love for the mechanical that injects real charm into irreverent schoolboy humour. Grand Master Flash, for example, a glass encased slide for 10p coins that reveals the bare bodies of a group of women every time a coin is inserted, reeks (in a good way) of Victorian high jinks; the delight it gives echoes the sea front arcades of the nineteenth century. In an age of mind-boggling technology, the wonderment that the little pulley-systems of Bird Translator, Fishing and Flag provides for audiences with pockets choked full of Blackberries and iPhones, is lovely to observe and is extremely reassuring of how far we haven’t come.
The layout of Drive By Abuser Cappuccino mimics the graphics of the nursery rhyme books of our childhoods, which clashes magnificently with its content that is not only rude in its language but is utterly contemporary in its subject. Drive By Abuser is one of the gems of the Modern Toss creations, verbally assaulting everything, from entire nations – the French – to inanimate objects like aeroplanes. This is done to such crudely eloquent effect that the reader realises that ‘yes, that’s it, that’s what’s always really fucked me off about Christmas trees’. The crudity of Modern Toss’s work is not only in the language that they employ with such marvellous accuracy but also in their aesthetic. The simplicity, naivety, almost child-like sketchiness of their graphic style bolsters the joke through its contrast to the adult material of the subject matter. In Visualize Your Goal and Ideas Meeting the fluffy and vacuous language of the modern corporate world is spat on by Modern Toss’s simple drawings: the goal visualized by the employee is the employer getting fucked by a horse; the voice of the ideas meeting implores his mignons to not think about it, ‘just say it’ – all right then, ‘fuck you’ is the response. There’s viciousness in some of these images, hinting at a real anger behind the irreverence: Modern Toss display a very real exhaustion and impatience with a tiresome world seduced by jargon and artifice.
If humour is an antidote to cultural frustrations, and art is a remedy for cultural banality then Modern Toss’s London Museum of Urban Shit-Naks is the mad meeting place for the two to high-five and shout abuse at the ridiculousness of our lives. They let us laugh at who we are underneath all the bullshit that we stick to even though we know it stinks:
‘I hear Peter’s new business is in trouble’
‘Peter’s a cunt’      
Just go with it.


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