Tom Phillips, his wurds, my werds, your word.

It’s words, we love to play wit them. The constructing and de-constructing. There’s so much to do wit werds. I create werds mi wey. Tom does too, his way. Together, with whey, we make HEY!

tom swiping smkba page

So I saw (see I saw) Tom Phillips (TP) last night at the South Bank Poetry Library. Good show. He talked about his new ‘thrupenny’ opera based on an old Victorian book he paid thruppence for back in 1966 whilst in the company of the late great R B Kitaj at a flea market. The book was ‘The Human Document’ (W. H. Mallock) TP was intent on doing some altered book werk treat-ment on that Victorian forgotten document, told RBK he’d spend the rest of his life on it, and up to now he did, 50 years. His version he called ‘Humument and it’s a play with the text,

a play full of art which he has turned into an opera now. So this book, one of Britain’s early artist’s books, has had a life and is now in its 5th version. TP’s work on the pages is exquisite as some examples show in the Poetry Library. Tom talks with the closeness of an artisbloke but the distance of someone who knew he had ‘made it’ years ago. He is very confident, very self-effacing, if you can do both at once. Very kind too, let me take some photos, and signed a little pamphlet I got about his other big work, Dante’s Inferno which he translated himself then illustrated impeccably. I hold my hand up to Tom, he is no doubt a wonderful artist and he has the bravery to delve deep into the possibilities of ‘social media’ like his tweets show. His creativity to me seems to be how he manipulates media. Now he’s manipulating Opera with similar adventures which he described fleetintly last night, talking of what ingrediates a good opera; music, dance, foreign tongue etc. So below I am going to amalgamate his spoken word with my own thoughts and observations and variations, don’t worry if you can’t understand a werd of it, it’s a new form of ‘writing-collaboration’, werds and images I gleanmachinated into a combination of his werds and mine and those they trigger in your mind too, here goes:

‘November 1966 in company with Ronald Kitaj I found A Human Document on a flea market it cost thruppence. So the opera can legitimately be called the thruppenny opera? I know the purple questions you stir the violent notes. The opera could be a palindrome cos , ‘One man in the dust is so much like another’ opens and closes it.we got dancing in this show, Gavin Bryars = did the music (?) music is the ultimate art we all aspire to…all other stumblingscribblings in art tried to match…music.

Wild strawberries captured, mentions rosebud too, hints of bergman & orson wells. My instructions to dancers are really ‘challenges & provocations’. A white shadow, white nocturnal dream. Couldn’t leev Billy Toje out of the opera now could I? I made him rather a grand figure. The inarticulate language? Why not call mine ‘mando’? reads some mando gibberish. Talks of ‘words picked from inside words’ in the wonderful words of the English language. I love the tweet & twitter world for the new words…

Mallock (W H) was a prig, a prick, anti-semitic, very snobbish.

I thought I’d make a parade. In the Rimbaud (not Rambo?) manner. Lord Ruin & the Sausages. The Velvet Subterranean Band. Aaron’s Extended Sprouting Stalk. Humument, I hope to have it done by its 50th birthday.’Then Tom stopped hard. It wer dun.

nancy campbell sm kb

Nancy said she was impressed with the man’s work. Chris McCabe said he was a poet too much published over the years in Poets Review (?).

chris mcabe

Tom doing this reminded me I already did a Nonogon Dance ting where 15 kids from Maldon danced (in masks watti dun and costumes too) to music by Mick West & Mark Newby-Robson whilst I read the story of the Nonogon Nomads. Goff Merrijeff projected video clips. Bin thur dun that, Colchester Library, Jan 5th 2000. I’d do it again only more betterer if I got the opening. And there’s a dance Inside The Clay Pot too. C’mon where are the sponsors? Until they arrive I shall continue to dance alone.

Next night I danced my way to fistite in Colchester again to listen and watch 4 ex-Bruce McLean students strut their poses. And werry gut twer too.

It’s wonderful to see that fistite have extended the McLean show til end November. Sad to see nobody seems to av seen my little article in Venue, well at least nobody said something like, hey, I saw that really positive mention, nevertheless…that sketch of Bruce I did in the Tate back in 1994:

 a venue piece  alone smkb

Bruce continues to blow a wind of fresh airs through the (so far) much (undeservedly) maligned gallery. Let’s hope that this excellent exhibition really turns the tide in favour of the place in, at least, the eyes of the local community who still do not seem to have adopted it as their favourite place to be seen etc. It’s a case of the prophet in his own land not being appreciated and I know all about that, cos for the first 44 yearns of my ‘career’ I wernt either, but as youse all know that’s abArt to change. Is it now? Anyway, there was humour from the start as the master of ceremonies Klaas Hoek appeared on his knees pretending to be Lautrec after a quote by Bruce said he had a peculiar view.


Corrina Till gave a lovely illustrated talk about the influence of McLean and of the book Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein on her. Synchronistically she talked of Stein’s early 20th century opera based in the book which itself really plays with words, juxtaposing them. Bruce also has a reputation for just a poses. And plays with werds.

a stein werds

Seems I am not a lone pose…r on the play which operates from our incredible language with all its history and future potentials. With ‘suppose you pose your own placebose’ Stein seemed to be premonition-ing McLean’s big ‘pose’ ting here. I took some images on me camra but missed a wonderful quote Corrina put up about ‘a receptacle & a symbol’ by which Stein could have been talking about my new project but she wernt cos she rote that 100 yearns ago.

eddie farrell

Then Eddie Farrell talked about his mag called Shytsummat (I can’t remember it’s name) which he did a video for where he had the words up like karaoke and said loads of stuff denigrating the world of ‘art’. Bruce and Co seem to love the use of film. I loved the way he was fumbling thru his notes and when finished with one page just dropped it on the floor, I thought it was like a ‘sculpture’ in process. Then he got heavy, my zone, and talked about how the see-aye-aeegh manipulate the world and create new realities by the day. Mentioned Noam Chomsky and other subversive stuff. OK by me, the more folk who see thru the veil the better. Said there’s no poets and writers nowadays doing stuff which rails against the incursive power of the State, (but I think I do. If it’s called a state it’s in a state, innit? No matter which state yer talkin abart. Usually the waste product floats to the top. Lunatics. The lunatics get to run the state. Don’t they? Nixoff, Raygan, Push, Blinkton, and Push again son it smells like bombs?*)

And thruout his talk he balanced the serious with the humorous. At one point in the evening Bruce was shown in a film where he was being questioned how he felt about a gallery in Holland which was being subjected to series of vandalouts’ attacks and he couldn’t help laughing at the list of some pretty serious attacks which he called a catalogue of disasters. Bruce added at the close, “If you can’t laugh you don’t learn” and I shall drink to that. Mine’s a dandelion and burdock.

* I heard a joke or was it true? Man goes into the Asylum, see a bloke hanging from the ceiling. What’s he doing there? He thinks he’s a light bulb. OK, then why don’t you bring him down? Don’t be silly. Then we’d not be able to see in the dark.

brucie laffin sm kbbrucie laffin2 sm kb

Bruce tinks it’s funny!

 My next blArty pete’s will be about the last two pages of the new collaborative book by me and David Jury. That should have been this blog but my two gallery visits butted in. It’ll be the last one I do before the London Artist book fair.


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