I knew Linder’s work long before I knew who she was. I remember the yellow cover of the Buzzcocks punk classic Orgasm Addict (1977), which she designed (with Malcolm Garrett), from my father’s collection of 7-inch singles. It shows a pin-up girl’s naked torso with arms outstretched and an iron collaged over her head. Over her nipples are pasted wide Hollywood smiles. I used to wear it as a badge with my student indie-kid uniform of Converse and skinny jeans.
For most of the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Linder (in her own words: “edited down to one name… no signatures, just a stamp”) was best known as a musician. As frontwoman of the avant-garde post-punk band Ludus, she was celebrated for performances that were as adventurous as her vocals: one legendary night at the Hacienda club involved her playing in a dress adorned with raw chicken offcuts, which she pulled aside to reveal a large black dildo.
Linder has been using her scalpel blade to splice glossy Frankensteins from pictures culled from lads’ mags and women’s titles since her days as a student at Manchester Polytechnic in the early 1970s. A combination of X-rated titillation and aspirational domesticity, these images make a disarmingly succinct and relentlessly timely comment on desire, objectification, performance and power – and their violent acceleration thanks to the dynamics of consumer capitalism.
Over the past decade, however, Linder’s method has become as much a process of excavation as of superimposition: digging down into the buried histories of people and places, attuned to the unseen forces operating beyond the worldly urges of sex and money.
Spirituality, myth and folklore – in relation to individual subjectivity and collective identity – came fully to the fore in her 2009 piece Your Actions Are My Dreams. Performed on Hallowe’en, the work was commissioned by Tate St Ives as part of the show The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art. Drawing on Cornish traditions of guise dancing, where masked musicians and mischief-makers parade through the streets during Christmastide, and of the skeleton-headed ’Obby ’Oss that appears during midsummer festivities, the work involved processions of musicians and dancers, including the artist swathed in gold lamé followed across the bay by a female dressage rider on a white horse.