Luke Walker spent a month preparing this incredible 14 minute long video about my work and recent books. He’s done an astounding job.
THANK YOU so much Luke, it’s incredible and people are loving it already.
Luke Walker spent a month preparing this incredible 14 minute long video about my work and recent books. He’s done an astounding job.
THANK YOU so much Luke, it’s incredible and people are loving it already.
In the night I dreamt I was on a journey. I often have dreams of journeys, often a repeat dream where I am heading south to Exeter (I spent 4 years at college there 1969-73) but often I have nowhere to stay, often there’s a feeling of strandedness. In my lived life I sometimes did get stranded with no accommodation for a night or the beginning of a term. But these dreams are more than that; they’re a lifetime concern, a hope that we won’t ever get stranded (like refugees do). That must be one of a human being’s (I prefer my © words for ’em – Ubeen’s or Ubeings*) worst worries, to be stranded at all but even worse for long, indefinite periods.
*You see what I mean is, a Ubeen connotes that you have had a life, you been there and done it etc. a Ubeing is a you being alive Now! You being here, you being around and about. You being a witness etc.
Let’s make that official; ‘Ubeens’ & ‘Ubeings’ ©Pete Kennedy 2017
There’s another dream repeats itself where am walking on country paths around a town which can sometimes be seen down below, sometimes the path gets clogged up, so much so it’s impassable. A feeling of lostness, permanently searching apparently fruitlessly, or with little hope of ‘finding’ the undeclared object of my search. And isn’t that a lot like life itself?
Life is like a dream anyway isn’t it?
I have almost completed the A4 version of my Shrewd Idiot book, completed the refreshed layout and final edit and additional little bits that crop up, “Oh yeh, it’d be nice to include/exclude that this time”. It’s a story about someone who went to spend 4 years at college in Exeter between 1969-73, but the person in the book isn’t me, he does lots of things I would never dream of doing! There’s little additional comments added to the 1970’s text which may be me, the 66 years old fella, but the 19-23 year old in the story isn’t me. He had hair for one thing (or millions of things if you care to count them). He was rather footloose and fancy free and certainly not steady in his relationships, well that’s not me, is it!
The back cover has some words from inside the book, shows me in all my uncertainty, prone to the wafting winds. BUT. The book chronicles my ‘growing up’ from a just left school 6th former to a qualified teacher with a honors degree. I know that sounds like the story of millions but believe me mine is not quite the same as all the rest. The book is not a reminiscences thing, no, it were written at the time, several times. I handwrote the first recording of my experiences between 1969-73 (tho not many are actually retold) in exercise books and scraps o paper. It’s NOT blow by blow accounts of day to day happening, the writing was heavily influenced by the likes of Sartre (Nausea), Henry Miller (NOT Artur!) and not his Tropics so much as his later more reflective philosophical writing, Joyce (I did read, if that’s what you can call going thru Fin Er Gain’s Waits and it DID have a massive effect on me. All of my altered spellin probli began with Fint Eee Gaga Awoke), Robert Walser and Albert Camus (Myth of Sysyphus).
The story is not crafted in the way a normal novel might be. The storyline is mostly chronological with occasional flashbacks. The whole book is propelled by copious images of many different sizes. In some ways the images are the ‘Shrewd’ part although one of the characters that I ‘invented’ may take the biscuit for the shrewdest of em all. The (anti-rather-chauvinistic) hero shows himself up to be rather less shrewd. Even to the extent that once he belatedly began to work his trade he didn’t realise that even labouring away 18 hours 24 seven wouldn’t get him his objective, his reputation had gone before him so in the end there could only be sadness. But he never even realised that as he ploughed on thru his days. And thru his various manuscripts of this book.
In 1976 he left his teaching job to be a artisbloke. Disaster. He did write longhand The Shrewd Iriot and took it to be typed by Jill (poor girl, it must have been hell). Then he tried various publishers with some degree of success which is chronicled in the Appendicitis at the bach. Then he hid it away pulled it out in the 80’s and added some hand-notes and re-put it away til in 2015 he decided to spend 3 months making it into a book. 2 ¼ years later, now, it’s complete and ready to be bound. On sale at £45 per copy on July 1st 2017, that’s when as kids our holiday began in Burnley. I should be able to retire on the proceeds of the sales, NOT, as am only printing 50 copies.
Below is a page from the book, it’s published like a typescript manuscript, cos that’s what it is. Am still looking for a big publisher, d’ya know of any?
Why are we here?
To make a mark?
To make our mark?
To leave a trace?
A pretty face
A Ugli face
My Celtic name is O’Ceinedegh
It means ‘Uglyhead’ you see.
My face has changed
It’s not what it used to be
It’s not young any more
It’s Old errrr
Am even uglier than before
Age has taught me that
What you see is not all there is to
When you look at an old person
You see their age of course
What you don’t see
Is their whole life story
That old bloke
Was once a handsome child
A red blooded lad
A constant dad
You cannot see the life what he had
The joy that he saw
His merry go round
The life he see saw
Take a look at me now
I was once a lot more
But I’m not sore
And one great consolation
Is the wisdom from my days
Shrewdness took a long time to kick in
Like the whiskers on me chin
It’s come right in
Here’s a sighting of ma new Shrewd Idiot book during the binding at Sullivan & Son.
It’s A3 size, that’s with two A4 type-written (By Jill nee Williams in the late 1970s) sheets on each page. There are 13 ‘big’ images at A3 size potted thru the script along with lots oif little doodles and some nice images dropped into the typed pages. There’s lots of alterations and corrections through the document because it was originally meant to be a manuscript to attract a publisher deal. In the 1970s the publisher would take this document and hand it to the typesetter who would follow the instructions which I had put over the type and any which were added by the publisher. This ‘manuscript’ was never intended for public consumption hence the need at one point to go through and change all names when I thought maybe I’d self-publish as a normal book which would be typed into a modern form where all the corrections and changes could be implemented so the viewer never see them. However, I decided not to have it re-typed, that would have made my job a lot easier so it was a must to avoid, NO, better to really really struggle with the original typed pages, scan them in then alter them as required in photoshop then design the layout in Quark (I know, Quark is so out of vogue now and it’d be much easier in Indesign, so I stuck with Quark, you know me.
So, there we have it, the book is now printed and with my binders who have now debossed the actual cover cloth with my little drawing of the Shrewd Idiot pushing his barrow of books, well one BIG tome anyway!
This red image is only half the cover, it sits to the right hand side of the cover making it look like the fool is pushing his barrow off the book.
Everything about the book is not exactly what it seems at first glance. It looks like a story about a young bloke who left his home town and travelled as far away as he could to get an education and how he was initiated into all those things young fellas need to be initiated into. But it’s not about that at all. It’s about awakening, awakening of consciousness and the acquisition of skill to carry the revelations that an awakened consciousness finds in a pretty uninterested world. By the end of the book the idiot has a lot of disappointing outcomes but they are just more revelations about how hard life can be especially when you have a penchant for making life difficult or finding the hard way to do the easy things.
In the end the book is not about that fella back in the early 1970s, it’s about his older version now in his mid-sixties and how he never gave up on his dream of showing folk the quality of what he found in all those initiations and revelations and how it took more than forty years to bring them out in a public format. You’ll see as soon as you open it that it is not what you thought it was as the opened book shows, it has a beautiful feel to it and again that’s an acquired sensibility from over 40 years of continuous effort and striving to achieve.
And the best is yet to come because this is just number one in a whole series of publications which this guy has been preparing over the past. But there’ll be no more quite like this, I’ll find easier ways to do the design and layouts. Watch this space.
The book plus a sister publication of 37 A3 images should be available by the end of February 2017 and hopefully a facsimile publication of the famous concertina ‘book’ called ‘Appleheadman Screams’ which I did in 1972. Nothing has changed, the things he screamed about are still going on…and on…and on. Apulhed shows a perturbed visage but he won’t accept the original face of Apulhed when he saw mankind’s inhumanity all over the planet Earth, he decide that rather than flee this realm he will stayy to spread happiness and compassion, slowly but surely he knows that humankind will return to peace.
I am doing a launch Performance Art piece at the Arnolfini during the BABE book event on Saturday 1st April. Watch out cos that’s not what it seems either, whereas if you can get to it you’ll see what looks like a Clickerti-Clix year old bloke prancing about with words and masks and dad-dancing (not! I do Zumba once a week don’t you know), it’s really an introduction to the Shrewd Idiot book with all its ins and outs. More about that in my next blog.
Final prep for Society o’ Bukbindas (SoB).
In a recent interview Yan Martell said he thought that art can bring about changed perceptions by altering your perspective, “to posit a different reality” [to that/those with which you’re familiar].
All my life in art this is what I have tried to achieve. I always looked for a difference. Now in my Performance Art [PA] I have discovered a way to animate my vision. What on earth is this PA some of you may say and how come you are doing it? RoseLee Goldberg, in Performance Art. From Futurism to the Present, says
‘…the very presence of the ‘performance artist’ in real time ‘stopping time’, that gives the medium its central position. In the first decade of the 21st century PA is at last being folded into the history of art, moving from the margins to the centre…PA continues to be a highly reflexive, volatile form- one that artists use to articulate and respond to change. It continues to defy definition and remains as unpredictable and provocative as it ever was.’
As I said I always looked for a ‘difference’ and PA gives me the opportunity to make a difference, as well as making books and all my other ‘art’ stuff. I got into it back in 1973 when a friend called Chris Leonard asked me to do an Apulhed Mask Show in the drama theatre at college. I tend to do a piece of PA at the start of each of my 25 or more exhibitions but now I have caught the bug and my PA is as important a part of my output as anything I ever created. It panders to the actor in me, the show-off, exhibitionist and all that stuff we usually hide. I feel I can achieve the impossible in PA. The impossible not something like flying or walking on water but things I would not do as a rule. Recite poems, dance, mime, wear a dress, wear a Tibetan Monk’s yellow hat, all crazy things I’d avoid normally cos deep inside this shallow disguise is a normal man, I’ve yet to find him though.
RoseLee Goldberg’s book entitled ‘From Futurism to the Present’ gives clues as to how long PA has been around. For me it began with Alfred Jarry and in a way his work has never met its equal. Everyone after that was re-framing what he did but don’t misunderstand me, there’s been and still are some really wonderful PA creators. And she is correct in saying that it has gradually entered into the thoughts if not building of the gallery. PA isn’t exactly easy to sell. So Saatchi for one may have had difficulty harnessing it for his collection. That’s one of the great appeals of PA, it hasn’t been strangled by the gallery, yet. I am in a lucky position. I am now an OAP, I’m retired from my day job and I don’t have to ‘do’ anything. But I choose to make books and PA cos I feel I have something, garnered from my 50 years trying to ‘make it’ as an artist bloke, which I can bring to the PA place. What’s that? Well it seems you can do PA almost anywhere. This week (ending 27Feb2016) I did a small part of my new piece in the foyer of my sports club cos someone asked me to ‘Do it here for me, right now’, so I did. And that broke a duck. I hadn’t dared do it like that but as I was asked, I did. And a link in the shackles dropped off (Ta Lara Ann!).
We all know about books.
Many of us make beautiful books. But do we all remember the way the word was first turned from an oral thing into a physical thing?
At first it was inscribed in clay then a variety of different grounds were tried. We are now embarked on the digital age and who can dream of where that will take the book? I look at different book forms and try to create them and their makers, using my body and some props and specially composed music.
The bark mask?
The bark mask is typical of my creative process. I conceived the idea of using tree related stuff to create a mask because we make books from trees and I began to make it using materials which I had saved from my work in my garden. As I moved through its making I allowed the mask to dictate to me some of its form hence some rather unusual asymmetrical results with the elements of surprise and a degree of shock. Purportedly the Tree Sprit brings with him a warning about the need to be Eco-Friendly. But as with all symbols and signifiers there’s a lot more to it than that.
And there’s more to PA than finding difference and exhibiting one’s prowess in becoming the book! PA is a forum for protest and complaint too. I have a gripe about the men, it’s almost always men, purportedly to be ‘world leaders’. My gripe goes back past world war one and forward to present day when these jerks ‘lead’ [from the back of course, in safe bunkers] the country to war.
https://apulhed.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/the-worlds-wound-or-the-worlds-wound-up/ In this blog (above) on 25th Jan 2015 I spoke about Putin taking Russia down an unfortunate old path which the Tsars & Stalin used many times in the history of that country, I said:
“Putin needs to be given an out, a chance to climb down, to admit a mistake and a chance to heal the damage, before it escalates into a catastrophe. The ‘world ‘leaders’ are complicit. They are in danger of engaging in a 3rd ‘World War’. STOP. See the comparison between Ukraine 2014 and Serbia 1914. Be very careful.”
Since then I have met a Ukrainian who reminded me of the terrible incursion Russia has made into that independent country killing some of the person’s friends AND RUSSIA IS STILL THERE. Putin is also involving in Syria supporting Assad and bombing groups of Syrians who are combatting his (Assad) regime’s heinous measures against Syrians, 11 million of whom have fled. Stop the killing now your madnesses. my image of my Uncle John making snowflakes out of bombs (so they shot him 5 times)
I hope that this peace brokered with John Kerry and Russia is the ‘chance to climb down’ I mentioned above cos the war-path is a bad trail to follow. I won’t say ‘ask Blair & Bush Jnr’ now cos that’d be too obvious.
So, back to my PA at S-o-B this coming Saturday, a lot happened overnight! I awoke having decided in my sleep to actually make this PA easier to comprehend for the S-o-B visitor. A lot of PA uses few if any words. The artist just does the piece, no words nor explanations, it its purest terms. I have decided to give an ‘in’ to my actions. I shall talk thru the first couple of stages, explaining where (I think) I’m coming from.
Finally I had a wonderful experience as I awoke at 05.10 hrs today. I looked down the bed and saw a stream of light along the length of my body. A bit like the white line down the middle of the road illuminated by those old cat’s eyes. I knew I was in bed not on the road. I looked up and saw the curtains had a slight opening in them and the halfmoon was peeping thru the gap sending a beam of light over my body. As I stood up it was down my bed and up over my pillow. I love synchronicity, Jung is one of me six ‘wise’ men in the poems in my Clay Jug. Let’s hear the Captain sing one of his most beautiful songs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjazg_lTfJA See you on the end of the rainbow in Kentish town on Saturday 5th March.
a dramatic sky signals a busy time getting ready for this new season of events
Once I wanted to be a writer, now I write.
Once I wanted to be a Performance Artist, now I perform.
Once I wanted to be a maker of books, I make books.
Once I wanted to be a father, then I got children of my own.
Once I wanted to be a lover, then there was you.
You can make it if you try
And by and by if you don’t give up
You can become your dreams
Sometimes we encounter obstacles
Have faith in your vision
And what you wish to become
Once I wanted to be an astronaut
Then I realised
I am flying thru space
On a small planet we call Earth
One day my spirit shall soar above this temporary home
I’ll look back at all the beautiful things
I will smile
Then I shall let go
And travel speedily
In the blink of an eye
To the next great adventure
God knows where
Thanks for all that I have been
For all what I have seen
For what I was able to do
That is my experience
I sure got lucky
I lived my life in peace
That’s what I wish for all
Peace on Earth
Forever may be.
Forget those historical rights
Aim to live together
For the good of All
Look after what you can.
Pete Kennedy 14.02.2016
I’ve chosen to feature the Clay Jug in my piece for the Society of Bookbinder’s bookart day on 5 March at Kentish Town because has many aspects to it; book, binding, etching, woodcut, letterpress, pottery, prose & poetry so I’ve chosen it as my main focus. Sonia Serrao, who has kindly asked me to be there has requested I do it as a two part presentation, 15 minutes in each.
Here’s one of the books I made what I’ll be going on about.
I have separated it into a short intro-talk with my books as the objects revealed and then they become my props in a new piece of my Performance Art (PA). I am aware that the S-o-B members who attend won’t necessarily be au fe with PA and I promise my piece will be very ‘book’ related. There’ll be music by my young friend Luke Walker which he wrote specifically for my Clay Jug story. I will ‘explain’ the PA piece in my intro and I have been working on the choreography, still am, it’s quite ambitious inasmuch that I wish to use my body to ‘be’ various forms of the book since Sumerians made cuneiform tablets. Which should be easy cos some folk think me as “dumb as a brick.”
And another one which my cat has taken over as his bed!
I thought I had worked out all my moves until I sat for 3 hours watching the wonderful Pina Bausch dancers at Sadlers Wells yesterday and got inspired to add some more (adventurous) bits. http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2015/tanztheater-wuppertal-pina-bausch-auf-dem-gebirge-hat-man-ein-geschrei-gehort/
So I am spending this week sorting out my piece.
Also, I felt I had to take something new in the bookbinding sense so I am working on a new binding for the collaboration prints that David Jury & me worked up in 2014. I’ve done a ‘dummy’ which has a few teething problems that I hope to iron out between ‘rehearsals’.
Robin rehearsing his PA
Finally, as well as the Bausch Co. there’s another dancer and mask wearer who inspires me toward my PA, Leonard Cohen, here he is with his old age mask, watch it til the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuCpTi0EtbU
and here’s some Bowie stuff you should see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSx3uT9cJ04 bowie duz imagine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jogv7tD18gs rik wakeman on bowie
http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/15/11004570/grammys-2016-lady-gaga-david-bowie-performance lady gaga duz bowie at granmas
That’s real nice! Two bloggerds visited ma site just now and ‘liked’ today’s offering! ‘Likes’ are rare as hen’s teeth in my blArt. AND they tipped my ‘views’ up to 10,000. Thank youse much. Namaste
I am pleased to share that Alice Springs News online in, Australia, ran a beautiful article (most of which I compiled) about an old friend of mine Ken Perry who died recently titled, “Jindalee Pioneer Ken Perry dies”. (December 5, 2015) http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2015/12/05/jindalee-pioneer-ken-perry-dies/
The opening paragraph helped me understand even more the essence of Ken’s achievement. The editor, Erwin Chlanda, was a pilot who had flown over Ken’s radar installation on many occasions so he has a good knowledge of the terrain. “Intruding aircraft can fly just a few feet above the sea, below the cover of microwave defence radars: In order to track this threat, with his expertise in microwave, Ken Perry oversaw the development and production of high frequency surface wave “over-the-horizon” (OTH) radar, with a huge antenna spread for a kilometer or so on the ground off the Yuendumu Road, north-west of Alice Springs and a second similar facility is north of the Plenty River Road.” Getting some recognition and spreading the news about Ken’s accomplishments is not my main aim in life but it arose out of my admiration for the way he ran his life and his great modesty and generosity of spirit. Ken was alive with intelligence and was always thinking of his family and how he might help them progress. All of his daughters became graduates and his grandchildren seem to be trumping their achievements with first class honours at some big universities in a wide range of subjects. Ken never emphasised how clever he was, he would just rally round them all when they were growing up and help them to understand maths and science in particular. He lived his interests and shared his abilities.
I think that is a good way to go about my life too. Of course my main area has been in Art and ken was not au fe with ‘art’ so he would ask searching questions about my latest zany idea until he got a better grasp of what I was saying or hinting at.
My aim has been fairly constant over the years, to bring a lively enquiry into the field of creative art and to create ‘original’ works. Over the years it became clear to me that nothing is ever purely ‘original’ cos everything has precursors and all of us are inspired by or detest earlier example and we either pick it up and run with it (appropriation?) or attempt to do the opposite. On 1.12.2004 I was looking back on my Nonogon Show in Colchester library in 2000
and planning an assault on Tate Modern with it which as you know didn’t happen yet. More importantly, when I make these dastardly plans I often reflect on where I been and wur am goin. I wrote these now very prophetic words, “My public personae would be like a mix of Joseph Beuys, Ken Campbell and Keith Haring.” Well, in fact, I drew like Haring before Haring did, so there’s no surprise there. I was already looking into Beuys and was very intrigued by Beuy’s antics, I was drawn to ‘performance art’ before I had a real idea of what it was about. I watched Ken Campbell perform at Brentwood theatre where he would often prep his stuff ready for his London shows. I remember walking into one and being bowled over by his strange props. It struck a bell in my head which is still resounding, or is that what they call tinnitus? I think that my projection about my future persona is still playing out.
*Deepak Chopra said via Carla McKay, “we all tend to see our bodies as ‘frozen sculptures’- solid, fixed, material objects- when in thruth, thye are more like rivers, constantly flowing patterns of intelligence…”
To Celebrate 40 years of Apul One
I just realised it is almost exactly 40 years since I created my first artist’s book Apul One in 1975 so there must be cause for some celebration. I was talking to a late friend’s son on Friday and he said that he had taken Apul One to university had read it several times and it had been a bit of a cult ting there. Wish I had known at the time I would have gone there and done a talk etc. Strangely it’s not the first time the book has had ‘cult’ status. Lucien Nunes once told me he had done the same at the Haberdasher’s school. Those of you who know it will know it’s a bit of a strange book. It’s not at all like what a book should be. But it’s me, or it was me, then. I produced it as a kind of scream in the wilderness after working my balls off at college to gain my degree and then beginning to approach the galleries only to find a blanket total non-interest. I predicted accurately as it turned out that that would continue through my life. So I created my own gallery in the shape of a book, or buk as I called it. It could only have b&w images cos colour were too expensive and even then I spent all my savings on ‘publishing’ it. If you want one I shall be at BABE in April and maybe at Baltic in July and I am tinking of creating the long delayed publication of the follow up The Shrewd Idiot in time for the autumn, or Fall as you acrosst the Atlantic would say. I am going to chat with my printer today as to how he can print my plans for it. It’ll be an artist’s book and probably on semi-transparent paper so the pages show thru each other.
Here’s some images of the making and publicizing of Apul One in 1975-76.
The first cover
The wrap around cover front
The wrap around cover back
The wrap around cover front & back original idea
Sketch for the image of Apulhed on front cover.
Write up for Apul One by Peter Andrews
Underground poster for Apul One
Point of sale poster for Apul One
John St Field aka Jackie Leven 1972
Now funnily enough in one of the ‘comics’ in ApulOne there’s a sketch of Jackie Leven. It’s incredible to think that it was a song by Jackie Leven which triggered all of my recent books about ‘knowledge’ in pots in the last few years. Jackie sang ‘Inside This Clay Jug’ by Kabir
Word Power Books:
and finally here’s the badge, you know the saying ‘got the badge’!
So, getting ready for BABE.
You have a new ‘book’ Inside This Great Jug out in time for BABE, why?
Well, I wanted to complete the cycle of artist’s books which emanated from my love of that poem by Kabir Inside This Clay Jug. It’s the third version of the poem(s) and the last changes which I shall ‘publish’ as an artist’s book in an edition of 25. Although the Beuys’ poem I shall be doing at BABE has already been changed several times since I completed Inside This Great Jug. I have a version which I intend to use at BABE now and that is it! No more alterations or ‘improvements’! And I am shewing that to nobody before BABE, except in spoken form, in practice.
So it follows on from and develops the poems in your second book in the series, Inside This Earthen Vessel. What then is Inside This Earthen Vessel (ITEV) about Pete?
It’s about spiritual harmony, peace on Earth, goodwill, humankind(ness). It’s about some (6) humans who sought to find harmony & answers then share their ideas (whose names make up the title of an earlier book in the series G BATCH)
A Angeli Silesi
T Tenzin Gyatso
C Carl Gustav Jung
H Hermann Hesse
(As it happens only one of them, Tenzin Gyatso the Dalai Lama, is still living in his human body, the others still live on in the ideas they left for us).
ITEV is a search for peace and harmonious existence. It shows six men who pursued practices which encapsulated a vision of what life can mean and how to prepare for leaving the mix of sorrows and joys of this mortal coil…foil…toil…. Coiling, swirling, twisting, trickstering, mysterying, and most of all it’s about dancing to the sound of the Cosmos, to the sound of one hand.
I have made the words in the new version, Inside This Great Jug, are a bit easier for the casual onlooker to understand which will be important if I am going to read any of them in the Arnolfini to people who may never have met me nor seen my work before. The images are also a bit brighter in Inside This Great Jug as I’ve made the portraits more colourful. Whereas ITEV is a more complex package with the layouts of its poems being in the shape of a pot and the pages remain unbound but kept in a little folder. Inside This Great Jug is a concertina folded book with a cover. And it’s a dinky tiny thing which people seem to like and they are calling it ‘pocket size’.
I notice there’s one poem which is very different from the other six?
Yes well that’s from the collaboration I did with David Jury who took the words from ITEV and reset them in his letterpress version. We edited the poems and even added a subtext. That odd one out is from that version of ITEV. It’s handy really because I chose to have it in this new book cos am doing a reading of it in the ‘talk’ at 4pm on Sunday 12th April. Most of that ‘talk’ will feature the life and work of Joseph Beuys because he is the most artist-like of the six men in the poems and of course it’s being done in an art gallery. I won’t be ‘talking’ all the time I hope to be able to answer any questions that folk bring up although it’s only scheduled for 20 minutes. Then I guess they’ll be rushing back to pack their tables if they are fellow stall-holders. Visitors should have an hour to make final purchases and walk, float or fly out of the gallery, depending how they feel after watching my gig! They may even dance all the way home.
My old mate Duncan recently sent his summary of my Clay Jug Project. I chose to emphasise the words which are emboldened:
I’ve been thinking about where you have arrived at with your Clay Jug project ……
You are now presenting and embracing a set of representations of communications of knowledge from six chosen mystics.
In the beginning was the word and yours is represented by the Jackie Leven chant of Kabir’s Inside This Clay Jug , a memory of the oral tradition of conveying knowledge.
Your presentation contains the vocal tradition through poems, complemented by spiritual dance and music in order to enhance the meditative experience; this is a time before the word was conveyed by writing.
Your clay jug containing scrolls represents the first forms of conveying words.
Your self-made books are a next step in the man’s way of representing knowledge, illustrated by drawing and symbols.
Then, you move to type-set books and try and preserve the original energy of the dancing communications, through layout and emphasis.
Even though you can view this as a historic progression of representing the written word, you are trying to maintain and enhance the meaning and rhythm of the original thoughts and vocal communication of the mystics in all its forms together.
You can view your project as a complete set, with no linear sequence, of the different forms of conveying the knowledge of the mystics, they are presented all together and intertwined, so giving more emphasis to the wisdom of the words and the form does not detract too much from the words.
Your presentation and artefacts created, deliver a dancing pageant of art representing the communication of the knowledge of the mystics through the changing forms of communication.
Duncan Walker (14.2.15)
Duncan has been a friend of mine since we met while playing football for the school team in 1961. He has kept a close eye on the way my art and ideas has developed since we were at school. Another old friend who I met in 1969, Ian Woolard, tried to put a comment on this blog last week. He filled in the form on the blog and pressed send, but it never came through. I wonder if that happens often? I mean, there was about a 20% return in ‘views’ from the folk I notified last week, which is great, but never do I get any comments, which should be coming in if only by law of averages. IF you have commented on my blogs and never got an acknowledgement from me then that would be cos it never showed up in my domain. So, you should make comments in emails maybe, then if you wish me to add them to the blog just say so and if I can bear the view expressed I shall add it in. Ta.
So what is an artist’s book? Or what is my artist’s book? In answering the former I can point to some beautiful examples of the form, well no it’s not a ‘form’ as form indicates rules to bind you by, there isn’t a ‘form’ there is just the ‘difference’. The difference is such that artist’s books are often difficult to file in a library. They often have no side panel recognizing ‘title’. They rarely have isbn’s or all the detail about who published it and the artists’ rights. AND THEY CAN BE UNIQUE IN THE COMBINATION OF MATERIALS THEY JUXTAPOSE. So in Slack Space this week there are artists like Chris Rushton
and Miranda Campbell (& Others) who stretch the ‘form’. Chris’s work exquisitely combines her dyed textural papers and folds and tears and cuts into forms.
Miranda makes leather bound books but also creates these wonderful things with cracked logs, feathers and curled paper with words on which would look odd on a library shelf. Anselm Kiefer makes unique books in which he uses plasterboard or lead or paper or photos as his base and then he sticks them in acid and throws mud on them and buries them and all sorts of stuff as he approaches each book as an individual work much as he does his ‘paintings’ (he’s not at slack!).
I find his work inspiring with its freedoms and its ignoring of norms and mores (moreys? Morays… moray eels are like his books scarey). But I guess one day when I have shed the fetters of the ‘books’ I have in the pipeline I shall follow his example and make more one-offs and make em big and make em so cumbersome they can’t leave my garden where I’ll mekem wid loads of rubbish and muck and I’ll burn em and kick em and all that cos I once did karate so I can kick like a gud en. I joke but am not joking. I love it when I see the craft in book artists like Kate Bufton at Book Transformations https://twitter.com/BuftonKate and Fiona Dempster at Paper Ponderings http://paperponderings.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/purely-pencils-part-ii.html both of whom produce voluminously but there’s a sense of control and craft there which altho I admire I wish to break free https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEKVLjXO2Fk I’ve fallen in love with difference, in fact I’ve always loved her. My work is different. At present I am not cutting and folding and binding with dexterity but I am writing about my heroes, what I call mystics; artists, poets, thinkers and Joseph Beuys the shaman. And that leads me to my ‘performances’ which are part of my books. In fact I can cut the strut, fold my limps and unbind my-self thru the dance I do at my ‘talk’ or ‘reading’. And what are books for if not to be read, or scanned. In fact at the first (Slack) reading from my collaborative work with David Jury which is on display at Slack I realised something wonderful. His prints are stupendous and my words are whatever you decide they are
but when I put them into an amalgamated form where I could read them as one piece the possibilities are enormous. There’s no video of me doing that yet, so you’d have to invite me to your place if you want to see it for yourself. Last year or was it 2013 I did an article in which I promoted the idea that a pot with writing on was a book cover
and the scrolls around it or dropped in it were the pages. Now am saying my reading is part of my book. Beat that Anselm!
I am not taking the pot to BABE but you should see it on the powerpoint projection in the entrance to the Arnolfini. I am really looking forward to meeting you all at BABE.
I shall be the last one of BABE’s ‘Performances and Readings’ (Meeting Room, Arnolfini) on the second day, Sunday 12th April
cast in arranged order:
2pm Judy Kravis of Road Books
2.30pm Graeme Hobbs, Colva Books – Hill Pond. The pieces I wrote were instead of photographs – written photographs.
3pm, Field Study International – Emanation action.
3.30pm Nancy Campbell and Donna Williams – Poems in BSL and English about language learning and extinction.
4pm Pete Kennedy ‘readings’ – Inspired by Kabir’s poem ‘Inside This Clay Jug’ (transformed from Rabindranath Tagore’s translation by Robert Bly and recited by Pete) Also, various renditions (with masks) from the original book on Six Mystics- G Batch (G…iorgi Ivanovitch Gurdzhiev. B…euys Joseph. A…ngeli Silesii. T…enzin Gyatso. C…arl Gustav Jung & H…ermann Hesse.), and Inside This Clay Jug and Inside This Great Jug.
Here’s Mercury going into the mystic with one of the most beautiful and touching moments ever recorded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3RJLOyGVf0
ps The featured image at the top is of Paula MacGregor’s book in the show presently on at Slack Space.
I know some parties who read this will look upon my suggestion as an object fit for only ridicule, I am writing this piece and am asking for a BIG space in a gallery to show my work from the past 48 years. It is going to be a BIG exhibition as I have enough output to fill a gallery… (like First Site* in Colchester for example).
But my aim is not specific to First Site, no I want to be shown at BIG galleries in major cities too. I don’t mind smaller galleries and I have done about 25 solo exhibitions since 1977. I understand their (the ‘established’ places) problem, it also applies to commercial galleries like those in Cork St., you don’t get a look in unless you and your work tick some boxes, many boxes like; right college, saleability, reputation, articles about you, fame, and you know all the rest. I happen to not tick any boxes and have made it a mission to untick any that were ticked. I am an old fashioned player. Some trendys would say I am a Modernist and the same folk would say this is the Post-Modern era, well listen, it’s not, ask Wil Self who will tell you it’s too soon to change the name.
And to place the word ‘post’ in front of anything is rather lame; Post Impressionist, Post Structuralism, Post Haste, Post Card, it doesn’t change anything, at least they were more imaginative early 20th century; Fauvism, pointillism, Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism but all of them are really part of Modernism as is post modernism and Modernism is the era that followed Classicism, the latter going on for thousands of years.
I believe an artist, with a brush, with a ball, with a voice, etc has to be individual, original and be saying things few if any have already said in ways that others would not imagine to say them in. Well, I tick all those boxes BUT, nobody except people with imagination and independent choosing can see the quality in my work, and there’s not many like that in the gallery world, is there?
Martha Graham, the woman who helped develop ‘modern’ ballet out of the old style ballet, said, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this experience is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost”. I have been aware of that for many of my 64 years and maybe that’s why I have always carried the torch for ‘art’, or rather my particular version of the arts which I developed thru years of study, hard work, experiment, getting out there and showing it, putting it into my books and all. I am happy, like Blake (Wm., always William, only William is worthy of the name!), I know my work is unique, unicorn, one corn, corny, crazy like O’Dorkey. But I’m not your ‘normal’ artist, or anyting for that matta, (Matta is anudda great artis) I am ‘off the wall’ (well maybe that’s why they wouldnie hang you on the wall at all?) My arts never fitted no box no never not at all. even when at school learning my trade I zoomed thru taking on influences, devouring them; Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Soutine, D D Watkins Scarfe.
my fauve sister c. 1968
Even when I went ‘full time’ artistbloke tween 1976 – 81 the arts council wallers couldn’t fathom where I wer coming frae nor going to, I even had writing in my locker and that wasn’t allowed in ‘art’. Yet early on my talent was recognised by David Wild, Quentin Bell, Ruskin Spear and the Principal of Birmingham College of art who on assessing my Bachelor’s stuff in June 1973 said I should consider applying there for an MA. AS I wer £80 overdrawn, a lot in those days, I took a job teaching and got drawn in to that gulf. I decided to follow my own canoe down the rapids of my life and never had time to court the galleries and forgot about the MA. Sadly I waited 40 years then chose to do it at a college with issues and without facilities and vision of how to treat ‘adults’. But I met David Jury there and also became acquainted with the world of artists books which in many ways leap frogs the ‘art world/gallery’ fields and as most of my ideas will go into books albeit some will have to be a bit big I can live with that.
I am an original and the trouble is if you are the first to do it ‘this’ or ‘that’ way, few will ‘get’ what you’re on about and most will call you a madman, or woman if you are the other gender. Which brings in the agenda, yes there is and always has been an agenda. The modern ‘art-world-market’ started in a gradual stunted way with a few proprietors trying it out with artists like Gauguin. A crop of gallerists opened in France (Ambroise Vollard , Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Léopold Zborowski) and they sold works and this spread to other countries and it caught on. Some of the early artists didn’t tick the boxes but the world was young. Gradually some became ‘established’ and one of the boxes had to be you were ‘established’. BUMPH that cuts out the majority of us artists, don’t ya. (Actually, I am established but only in a small field, actually it’s not even a field, it’s a shelf tucked away on the end of Wigan Pier) And how do you get ‘established’? You have to be chosen. Of course this choosing goes further back, back past Josh Reynolds and further back to les Louis the Kings of France (they were all called Louis for a while til that one was topped, then it stopped. So Picasso was chosen by Gertrude Stein. Etcetera. Etcetera Etcetera
You can see a record of what I did (mostly my writing and shows, not my artworks), over the years at:
*First Site is a much maligned landmark gallery with wonderful potential STILL which this county of Essex England needed for decades and now it has been opened the folk of the local area have taken a very poor opinion of it. This is mostly because of the fiasco over its build which should now just be a historical fact rather than a vendetta against the people who run it. I have spoken up about the gallery and the work it has already done. I even applied to be an associate artist but didn’t get selected. I wrote a small article which got published in a magazine about arts from Cambridge called Venue putting a very positive light on the gallery. Yet I know for sure they would never see me as an artist worthy of a major show, or any show for that matter. They have a view that only internationally recognised artists, even if totally obscure to the local population, are worthy of hanging on their walls. And that is very sad especially when there are several colleges within 25 miles with many people involved in art. I, who am steeped in art and who taught it to almost every age from 0-90, have learned a lot from the shows at First Site. They’ve had some great shows and some great talks, but not a lot of people attend them, partly cos many would feel threatened by the attitude that seems to prevail. There’s an aloofness, a separateness, a communication-less-ness. The space has rarely felt welcoming. They are revamping it right now, I hope the revamp leads to a better atmosphere and that it becomes a popular place, like Tate Modern did when it opened, a fact which was by no means guaranteed.
ps I don’t mind if I never get another venue to show at cos it’s quite hard work showing.
pps I forgot, that’s an age thing, no it’s not.
Poym of the week
I shud av gon far
Wid my repertoire
In my old car
(Twer a ford Pop-(u)-lar)
Burri got stuk in th’moat
In a ricketi boat
And am barely afloat
Tanks to a singer of note-s
Cos that’s wat he wrote
His name you can’t guess
The the ansa to thes
His name is not Jess
(This poym is a mess)
I’ll let him fini the res-t
The clue’s in the the
Why I say it in jes-t
Will u pass the test
Here’s a couple o dames who nearly gave up, listen in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJUk1UklklE