A lifelong friend, Trevor C., said (3.1.16) ‘Happy New Year Pete. Even though I just about made it passed the first line [of your latest blog]! All the best to you and hope that your family are all well.’
He was referring to his lack of comprehension of my blog, but I had given him an in to his comment by saying ‘many folk may fall asleep after the first line’ in it.
The two working class boys shopping for their mum could be me and Trev but we weren’t born when this photo was taken in Glasgow (where I was in fact born two years later! Trev were born in Burnley where I settled in 1954).
(image Bert Hardy 1948).
Pete, Roy & Trev (capt.) drawn from a photo of Tod Road Juniors taken by Roy’s dad when we were about to play in the Centenary Cup Final as one of the top two primary school teams in Burnley in 1961.
This blog is about relationships.
I’ve known Trev since we were 5 year olds. We played football together at Primary and Secondary schools then for NALGO and The Old Boys’ teams after we left school. We used to drink beer and chase girls together during our teens in his Wolseley Hornet, which can be seen in the background of this group photo.
Pete (sporting his six pack and Lennon-specs), Steve Hezzlewood, Trev
with Stuart in foreground at campsite near Woolacombe.
Steve and Pete in the sea off Polperro, shortly before we rescued Trev who had an attack of cramp. Steve was to die in his early forties from a congenital heart problem.
Five of us were driven back from the great festival at Shepton Mallet in it in 1970!
For many years I always would visit him whenever I returned to my home town (which I hardly ever visit now since both of my parents died). He’s one of a handful of friends I’ve kept touch with since 1955. Those relationships are precious reminders of Burnley where I went to school.
Last week’s TED lecture flagged up the vital part good relationships play in longevity. Mutual support, community, compassion* and camaraderie help support a long healthy life. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#section_query/in%3Ainbox/15203661e1e6c780
* In his chapter called ‘Monks In The Machine’ in The Wisdom Of Compassion Victor Chan reports finding out that Richard Davidson uses an fMRI machine to show activation in parts of the brain to explore brain functions when people think. Davidson discovered that people who have a high register of an electrical signal called ‘gamma’ tend to be in heightened feelings of happiness, joyful & optimistic. He found that one monk who had done over 34 thousand hours of meditation entered a state of euphoria when meditating on Compassion, joy and fulfilment permeated his entire nature. Most of the monks showed large increases in gamma waves in their left pre-frontal cortex- a sign that they were experiencing intense periods of well-being. It may be possible to intentionally cultivate positive traits such as empathy & kindness and use it as an antidote to anxiety & depression. The Dalai Lama’s insight after 80 years of meditation is that altruism is the surest way to bring about genuine life satisfaction.
Since the late sixties, when I began taking ‘art’ seriously, my relationship with ‘the gallery’ has been anything but healthy. In fact it’s been heartily non-existent. It’s interesting too that this week I went to talk with an accountant cos HMRC in its wisdom (not) decided I need to do self-assessment returns on the basis that a gallery put me on its wages forms in order to gain some tax allowance on the £100 bursary they gave me. The accountant laughed at my finances which show my outgoings to make my art are easily a hundred times greater than my incomings. Which brings up the question of what a fool believes. I believed for the past 50 years that one day my art would pay back all the time and effort. It hasn’t, not financially anyway. It has in terms of my learning, my extended skill base, my fairly prodigious output (most of which I retain) and of course my job as a teacher of art which kept the wolf from the door.
I’m working on re-viewing my attitudes and expectations in order to move thru my next phase in life. Not expecting ever to sell my art, never being made welcome in the gallery nor being asked to lecture at any higher level institution must be taken as a definite, it’s not what might occur, it happened already. By doing that I am no longer chasing what I call ‘wil o’ the wisps. I can just continue to make what pleases me, which is what I mostly did all along. I intend to complete the masters of several books I am designing most of which I have written and made images for already but I won’t create editions. I am doing them to prove to myself I can. I don’t wish to create more than the master any more, there’s no need, there’s no market. The resounding silence I have received for the 3 articles I wrote for some journals and the quiet noise my books have generated in the past 40 years indicates to me that people are not gagging to see them even less own them or even write columns about them. To those of you (I can count you on my two hands) who have gently expressed your liking for some product I created, thank you, but the remainders of past books and paintings, prints, bronzes etc indicates to me it’s time to retract. I am not sad, but just being realistic. I am changing my focus, I am reading the signs more clearly. I ploughed on regardless for 50 years thinking people would eventually understand, ‘get’ what I am saying and all. Now I am going to clear the clutter in various aspects of my life, stop chasing my dreams and start taking notice of the need to weed my ground, paint my house, cook some of our food and all the things that ‘normal’ folk do which I have neglected whilst chasing the dream.
Performance Artist (PA) Alastair MacLennan once said that ‘a society gets the art it deserves’ and it seems the society I lived in didn’t deserve my work because it didn’t ‘get’ (or receive) it. Individuals, other artists, players, writers all have ‘got’ my work but society at large, especially represented by the gallery, the media and the critics, didn’t ‘get’ it. Ironically the absence of accolade & ‘success’ for my werk aided my own freedom to explore my very own path & produce outcomes untrammelled by the expectations of others.
‘In a debate concerning freedom Karel Teige discussed the relationship between society and the production of art which he saw as ironic in a society primarily concerned with profit making’. (Slavka Sverakova, p10 in Alastair MacLennan Is No 1975-1988, 1988.) In 1985 MacLennan had said, ‘Realising the bottom line is never ideological, but human; that art is not in, of, or onto itself. It’s for people.’ (ibid)
Here I want to quote some more from Slavka’s preface because it seems to me to be a perfect manifesto for my own future-work:
‘MacLennan…insists that periphery is the cutting edge of culture’ [My work has always been on the periphery, it’s even on the outside of Outsider Art! I have always stood at the side watching, trying to get in, crying cos am rejected and all those emotions which everyone who ever tried to make art feels in varying degrees. Escher^, seems not to have bothered with the circuit and his stuff has had lasting quality, I must say it’s influenced my work on occasion. One example is my etching below. (^I mention Escher cos his art was all to do with transformation from one state into another, very much like what my PA is about, creating magic moments from seemingly mundane things through interesting juxtapositions
– I PK (or DAN I OOPAPA) said that, sounds profound to me!),]
Part of my etching about knowledge
MacLennan…’the art centre is wherever you are’. [compare with Jurgen Fritz, ‘Performance Art is what the Performer declares it to be’]
Plato in Timaeus formulated the idea that ‘human dignity does not depend on a hierarchy of wealth and power. ‘Plato’s Demiurge is not an object of worship he is a builder and maker, he puts things together, joins them, blends them, splits them up, divides them’ (ibid). [Isn’t that what I always do, done, did?]
MacLennan talks of, ‘What we perceive is a certain combination of shifting qualities in a certain place at a certain time.’ [this makes the ‘event’ the art. So many Performance Artists don’t like their work to be recorded. It is what it was at the moment it happened, it cannot be replicated. Beuys said that the event not the notes left on the piano was the art]
MacLennan says he performs, ‘Installed, sited action/ritual, evolving thru stages of transition for pre-determined durations with content engaging political, social & cultural issues…highly sensual & chaotic…as Heidegger said ’the matter-form-structure content tends to be submerged in the creator’s own participation as the source of the object’s presence’. [There, my permit to place ‘me’, costumed, masked, or in my birthday suit, in my art, my go-ahead to bring my (past*) art & artefacts into my PA! And so it shall Be.]
*’past’, it’s always ‘past’ if you make it, no matter when you make it.
So, the artist who is ‘creative’, one who creates new ideas/product/challenge, has few outlets (if any). In PA, as Jurgen Fritz (JF) and Vest & Page (V&P) said during a discussion at IPA, in order to get paid venue work you have to more or less guarantee your product is of appeal to a potential audience, in other words, reliable in a predictable form. However, one of the excitements of PA is that it seeks out & thrives upon the unexpected. As JF and V&P all indicated, when the going gets difficult/tough/surprising/unpredictable “It has begun”. The very nature of creative art is that it is challenging and it can be (delightfully/scarily) surprising. MacLennan said, “Realising the bottom line is never ideological, but human; that art is not in, of, or onto itself. It is for people.”(Performance Mag 1985 No 37 p11)
Now I understand that when I do more PA I’d need to be able to communicate with or ‘get’ to the public mind, without demeaning my ideas nor intelligence & sensibility of the watchers of course.
I shall develop some of this in ma next blog.
They say The Duke if 70’s Cool died just after his 69th birthday. Respect, The Man Who Fell To Earth has returned to the Ether from whence he came to gift us with his Ziggy songs.
So, to my tribute to the great innovator David (Jones) Bowie. I went to see him in Boscombe in summer 1972 just as he was developing his Ziggy character on a wing and a prayer. He wore a denim jacket with some fur embellishment on the collar, which style I adopted on my return to college for the jackets worn by the male dancers in St Luke’s College Performance ‘Catulli Carmina’ in the late autumn of that year. I love his China Girl stuff best. He’ll be walking along the beach with his mam again now. Here’s Ashes to Ashes and an unusual instrumental, just watch him dance 2.30 mins in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7KSM5j4-Zg .