As I approach my next, much anticipated, books fair ( clik the link- https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=cfd5b16764&view=att&th=1629b285999316e9&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw ) I rediscovered this old blArt and I thought my oh my did I write that? It is a very good intro/explainor of my modus operandi in some of my werkx. It kind of contextualises some of watti do, gives some history to the way I became the rebel riter wat i becaymed.
My Shrewd Idiotbook(s) give more intro to my writins and tinkins but in them it’s by osmosis, you get the picture by looking at my art and reedin ma ritin…gerrit? So, am reblArtin ma blog. Here’s lookin forard t’Baltic buk SPAM
The best think that ever happened to me was being top boy in the class in the final term of my year 6 (junior school) in 1961. Two girls beat me; Ann Whittaker and Susan I can’t recall her name but her dad was a headmaster… Mr Brown I tink. There were 45 in our class, a big class in about the biggest primary school in the town. So, when it came to moving ‘up’ to the all boys gwamma school you’d think I’d be placed amongst the top pupils? But No. I wer placed in the bottom intake class, 1C, with that dunce Bilkinton, who was always bottom boy, usually above the bottom two girls. The rebel was created. I knew summat wer rong and it wernt ma spellin! I never found the reason or cause for my being mis-placed. It may just have been something to…
OK so I have stopped attempting to change the world (for what I consider the better…after all that’s only my opinion, innit?) and now I just do ma simpler blArt.
This one’s about:
My old windsurfer board, Colchester Art Society’s (CAS) forthcoming 70th anniversary show, a talk at Tate Brit, my pose for Benton Hall challenge, a general celebration of life, oh and a decision by 14-18NOW against supporting my work which I’ll put first as I don’t wish to end on a down note…In fact it’s not a downer, it’s a relief.
I asked 14-18NOW if they could see their way to support my idea for a book and a Performance Art PA piece about the part played by ordinary folks in WW1. I am determined to do both things and, like I have always done, create them from my never ending personal financial store which presently is my pension. I have this crazy idea that at 65 I can do all the things I never managed to do (much, apart from 21 solo exhibitions including lots of new (PA) bits over the years between the 70s and when I retired hurt frae teaching in 2009 or should I say re-tyred, or even retried?) whilst I had to work a day job to feed my wife and 2 and a half kids…the half being the cats, hamsters, wabbits and occasional bird from budgies to those damn tweety little tings, oh and guinea pigs and silkies…
[Pete this is not being simple!
OK, I’ll not wander off the topic, I believe ‘digress’ is the correct werd]
So, my idea is to write a book which talks about all the folks in my home town who were scuttled off to war in 1914 and put images of them in from their obits in the Burnley papers of the day. Then I had this idea to build a ‘trench’ with two turrets, one each side of the stage and then I play Tommy and Gerry, scurrying back and fro giving the other waller some hell and getting myself blown up as both men. Then I had this idea to have dummies made of the aristocrats who created the war and machinated its continuous slaughter using donkeys to lead the lions in the trenches (as they say). Audience members would have been invited to throw tomatoes at the dummies whilst emitting slang low life curses about their megalomania. But it’s a stupid idea anyway and as 14-18NOW so aptly put it, “We … regret that we have decided not to offer you one of our co-commissions. We did not believe that your project would have the reach and impact that we are seeking for our final season in 2018.” Neither did the plans of the generals on all sides in 14-18THEN!
What do I know about potential reach? All I do know is the men and women who suffered so much tween 14-18, then some more in 1926, then more in 39-45, then some in the miner’s strike…
…all deserve to have their stories told. But not from the ‘official’ viewpoint which so often has belittled the millions who were sacrificed. It has not been ‘playing cricket’ to let loose on the war-mongers who would send thousands of men over the top to be mown down by machine guns, not just once then stop it after realising the fruitlessness of it, no but many more times. A dead strategy leads to dead men and annihilated towns etc. It is happening now in Syria. And Ukraine. And Tibet. But nobody talks about it. And that is what my ‘play’ would be about. So in a way it’s good to not get support cos it relieves me of sticking my neck out and getting banned for 40 years like Ken Loach did and I don’t have 40 years left to play with anyway. So, that’s it then.
My old windsurfer board:
It sure looks like I am trying to sell it butNO! In fact I am trying to overcome my reticence of clearing out unused tut. I have kept and accumulated everything that came into my life, except people of course, of those I just have memories, at least for the time being, until that goes too. So you can understand when I tell you that I cannot open my studio door let alone work in it. I had to stop windsurfing several years ago cos my hands were suffering and I couldn’t hold the boom. But there is the board, hoarded. Yesterday I plucked up the courage to put it out for sale on our front, it didn’t sell yet cos our front is quite obscured in a little village, but it’s the thought that counts (my ability to sell don’t count that’s fer sure, never has).
My pose for Benton Hall Olympic challenge photo?
Well who wouldn’t want a free month membership? They asked us to pose in sports gear and put an image up on the Benton Hall facebook site so I wore ma Tai Chi top and took ma Tai Chi sword and did a pose, see below. The photo what gits the most ‘likes’ wins a month free.
A show & tell talk at Tate brit?
Last Friday I went to Tate archive where this Irish lad brought out some letters written by Vanessa Bell, Michaels Rothenstein & Nicholson and some drawings by Paul & John Nash and Robert Graves from around about 1418then. I went up cos I were researching my Somme Boys idea (again) and I thought it may cast more light on those dark times which indeed it did. I heard the phrase ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ for the first time from the mouth of that very same Irish lad. And the phrase resonated with my synopsis that the war was created and run by megalomaniacal monarchs and twits from the so-called ‘Upper Classes’. It was good to see John Nash’s sketch of some fat generals coming round to inspect the troops. And fascinating to see how Vanessa fought to be able to give conscientious objector Duncan Grant a home and job during the war, if he’d been from a working class family they’d have just jailed him. I always saw it as crazy punishing people who didn’t want to kill other men but war is like that innit, you gets medals for killing when in peace time you’d get hung (in 1418backthen until hanging was abolished, in England, they still execute folk in some countries but.
[Too heavy Pete]
The Colchester Art Society’s (CAS) forthcoming 70th anniversary show opens this Saturday for two weeks.
It’s 48 years since I first submitted any work for an Art group summer show, that was back in me home toon of Burnley in 1968 where i had two portrait paintings (I promise to dig out the one I still have) accepted and mentioned in the Burnley Express, so I should be good at submissions by now but I found recently you still get those nerves as to whether your best efforts will gain the nod of acceptance from the group. Then I said to myself, that nervousness is a deep rut learning thing (see Guy Claxton on that) and it’s like a bad habit, have more faith in yourself, you’re no longer that 17 year old novice. I don’t like joining groups. Especially after my history of failed attempts at the RA show where after about 5 submissions I finally had two accepted by the panel and then they weren’t even hung. RA sent me a letter congratulating me and said it were an honour to be ‘awarded’ ‘Doubtful’ status. That had cost me about £120 to NOT be seen by the RA visitors etc, some honour. So I never bothered again. I know, the nation’s in mourning, but I can’t be throwing away 120 quid every time _carriage & submit fees). One year I know someone who paid to submit an artist’s book there and they cancelled the category after allegedly not having enough entries in the division, but they din’t reimburse her.
Recently I was persuaded to join CAS recently and submit some artworks fer their show which I did and much to my delight they’ve accepted 3 works and hung two very beautifully. My tribute oil of local writer John Atkins and national hero funny man Ken Campbell stands or hangs rather in a space which you can’t help but see as you enter the big main room and even tho I say it myself [Nobody else would you tweet] it looks real good. All those hours slogging away over a lot of turps, linseed oil and canvas on dark lonely nights has eventually paid off.
This was one of two painting as accepted by the RA in 2005 but not hung, that’s why I have RA Doubtful after my name on ma cards. [Now, you’re slippin back Pete]
I won’t mention the fact that my brakes failed just after I had delivered my work to the Minories in Colchester because that would worry you too much, but they did. And it’s funny innit how such a simple thing can have such unsettling consequences. Not that I managed to crash or ought like that, but just driving yer car up to th’garige to have them tell you you got a leaking brake pipe or summat and then you place the car in the compound and get a lift off yer wife to your business for the day and then at the end of the day the garage rings and says that you didn’t leave the key and you say I most certainly did and they say just check your jacket pockets sir and you do and there they are those sneaky keys what just must have jumped back into my pocket. So the car won’t be done today obviously.
What’s a general celebration of life then?
Well of course I didn’t have a prang, that’s enough to celebrate innit? And I took more photos of beautiful tings this week.
Guru cat contemplatin
Well he may not be so beautiful but he keeps trying.
Here’s Snoop having a rest unda a rainbow in our ‘ouse, which is a very very fine house, with two cats in th’yard…
OK I realise this was not a simpler blArt, I’ll try harder nextime.
Bye fer noo, I bid you good night, or g’day wherever you are.
The image at the top is an incredible piece of synchronicity. I was planning this blArt and sitting early morning with my pen in my hand and I looked up at the fireplace, We have a crystal in the widow which sometimes sends rainbow patches of light across the room. THEN this apparition appeared. A gentle glowing on the candle which looked like it had lit up inside. As if i had lit a candle in memory of those who died, on all sides, in that onslaught known as the Battle of the Somme. I could hardly believe my eyes. This lighting effect has never occurred before. Eerie but beautiful. Bless them all.
This week the Burnley Express, the local paper which along with the Burnley News reported on the war at the time (1914-18), carried these words this week:
‘On the morning of July 1st 1916 men and boys from Burnley were among tens of thousands of soldiers ordered to go “over the top” only to be cut down by German machine gunners. More than 100 soldiers from the town were among the 57,000 British Army casualties suffered on the first day of the battle alone.’ (John Deehan firstname.lastname@example.org 27.06.2016)
Throughout 2016 I have been working toward a commemoration for those who fought in the horrendous human waste that was called the Somme battle (1July-18Nov 1916). I create images & words which I use in my own hand made ‘artist books’ and in my own ‘performance art’ pieces (PAP) where I create scenarios and enact ideas + events using my body, masks and other props to illustrate a story. I wanted to do my PAP around 1 July in somewhere like Burnley my home town, or Newcastle, my mother’s home area where her parents lost (my grandparent aged) relatives two years before she was born in 1918 and I met survivors of the conflict in 1961 or Colchester which is my adoptive home of culture. I did put feelers out but, like Paul Simon in his song The Boxer (hear a beau rendition by Mumford & son- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAl-vZsswb4 ), ‘I get no offers’, not even a come on from the whores of 7th avenue!
The way I see it I have ‘til Nov 18 2016 to do a piece for it to carry true resonance for those slaughtered as a result of the total incompetence of the ‘leaders’. Because these things take time to organise I don’t believe it’ll get done this year but then I have ‘til 11.11.2018 to at least fall within the compass of the century after WW1. I shall continue to find the venue and any backing to do my PAP but I am not holding my breath. I even approached the 14-18now group but I get no answer, maybe cos am not very famous, or maybe not very good! https://www.1418now.org.uk/
That’s no sour grapes of wrath it’s just a forlorn whelp in the wilderness!
Oh how history repeats itself; the ‘leaders’ of Britain’s government, Euro MPs (particularly Farage who rarely turns up to do his job and when he deigns to does so only to undermine the institution he was elected onto to represent the English people), the Labour(ing) and the England FA + their latest ridiculed manager all exhibit those same incompetencies today!).
I am going to blArt some of the words from my research and ideas about the Somme + the issues around those years of unnecessary carnage on which I would base my PAP. If there’s anyone interested out there please get in touch.
I found this startling blog called ‘In The Dark’ in which the writer mentions that the men were made to continue running towards machine guns- “Rather than calling off the attack in the face of the horrific slaughter, the powers that be carried on sending troops over the top to their doom for months on end. By the end of the battle (in November that year) the British losses were a staggering 420,000, while those on the German side were estimated at half a million.” https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/the-flowers-in-the-field-the-somme-remembered/ .
The imbeciles who organised these ‘battles’ (no, let’s call them mass murders) were the same social group that ‘led’ soldiers into battle in Africa against the brave Zulus at Rourke’s Drift and Isandlwana 37 years earlier, only in that case it was the Zulu leaders who sent their warriors in waves unprotected against the barrier of guns with the consequent carnage that ensued. (‘Isandlwana, the battle that rocked Victorian Britain; at which the Zulus wiped out a substantial British force’) Despite victory at Isandlwana the Zulu forces never recovered and they had to capitulate to the Europeans, who brought concentration camps to Africa during their internecine Boer War the victors of which then introduced apartheid.
Here’s the ideas I would base my PAP on BUT whereas the topic is of the greatest seriousness I do intend to add an element of sardonic humour, livening up the topic with surreal reflection as the famous sketch by Blackadder did, using the maniacal monarchs as objects of derision. I won’t say exactly how but think of fairground games like ‘ring toss’ and ‘bean bag tossing’ at tossers:
I have been reading about the Ancient Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians who all were involved in internecine wars and all succumbed to the Greeks (of Alexander The Vainglorious) who themselves eventually fell down under the inhumane slaughters that emanated from Rome. It seems to me (it’s not rocket science) that, like disease, war is a human condition, it goes with the patch!
I would have hoped (European) wars would have ended after Napoleon was incarcerated, or after WW1 or after WW2 but it never did. To name but a few; Burma, Korea, Vietnam, Biafra, Bangla Desh, Iraq & Afghanistan and now Syria’s war which is reminiscent of the carnage of the two ‘World Wars’. A triumvirate of my heroes, the present Dalai Lama, G I Gurdzhiev (G.) & Lennon, (illus)all advocate(d) that Ubeings (my word for Humankind which is gender absent or all equally inclusive) stop doing conflicts, which G. called mutual self-destruction.
The First World War was fabricated by monarchical maniacs who ‘ruled’ various ‘Empires’ which had been created by stealing land from and enslaving various indigenous populations throughout the world in the previous 3-400 years. When they turned their corporate venom onto their own peoples the carnage was incomprehensible. These “leaders” all thought they could use their mass-populaces as ‘cannon-fodder’ and they proceeded to do so and nobody was able to reverse, nor prevent, the carnage. The populations were led into the conflict believing it was for god & country when it was obviously for the dim-wits who ‘ruled’ them and the so called privileged ‘upper-class’ of each country to maintain their status quo, which many still maintain even in 2016, the present government of UK being a prime example.
Their Moronic Majesties Maniacal Madnesses; Wilhelm II Kaiser Bill Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia, George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert)GB, Nicholas II, Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov Russia, Franz Joseph I Austria- Hungary, Mehmed V Reshad (Ottoman Turk Sultan), & President Raymond Poincare (France).
Their Moronic Majesties Maniacal Madnesses led to the start of WW1 and its continuation despite the obvious insanity and mass murder it exhibited in battles like; Ypres, Verdun, Somme, Passchendaele & Gallipoli! The incompetence of the generals and the blindness of the political morons who manoeuvred the Brits into the mayhem and used the population’s (mostly) men* (from all around the ‘Empire’) as if they were like subuteo players, only this was no game but it was a deadly reality! Now I understand why I feel I was driven.
*I believe thousands of women also took part as nurses tending to the horrific injuries. “Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). It was founded in 1902 at the time of the Boer war and in 1914 was less than 300 strong. At the end of the war four years later it numbered over 10,000 nurses.” from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26838077
My Performance Art about the Somme is a tiny but explosive reminder of the destructive power held by military forces. The ability to decimate has increased a million fold in the hundred years since 1916, so beware taking the armed solution.
In my PAP (Performance Art Piece) A hundred yearns ago
I have ‘Tommy’ in the trench at the Somme*, July 1st 1916.
Ironically the word somme comes from a celtic word meaning ‘tranquil’!
Tommy gives a monologue in which he talks of finally having won this horrendous war.
‘No more maniacal leaders cos we won’t let them rise again! About a hundred years ago we fought Boney Fart & his Grenouilles in a war to end all wars. We have the Russians who beat off Boney attacking Gerry on the eastern flank and they’ve never bin beat and they forced General Prittwitz to run but they lost a million men. Someone has to halt the Huns and today is the day with God’s blessing it will be done. Today, this very day, we’re bombarding Bismarck & Bill the Bosch. There’ll be nowt left o’n ‘em. Later we go over the top to clean them up and this damned war will be over. Then I’ll go back home to my sweetheart and see ma little babe. There’ll be no more wars after this one.
Some madman called Lenin has urged our allied troops to turn their rifles against our officers and start a ‘socialist revolution’, but he’s no leader is he? I know our generals have made mistakes but now they got it right and this nasty trouble will be over by tomorrow. Listen. The bombardment has stopped……There’s the whistle, Over the top to victory!’
Over the top he went on July 1st 1916…and the rest is His Story.
There is a modern context to my PAP as well. War is still used by ‘leaders to attempt to gain ground physically and metaphorically. We shouldn’t ban the bomb, we should banish all wars.
ps if (& when) I get no offers to give a home for my PAP I shall hire somewhere and damn well do it out of my own devices. It’s the least I can do to commemorate the poor sods who were taken in that horrific battle of the royal families and other elites of Europe.
The recent ‘leaders’ who took nations into wars are still prevalent, some (or should I say Somme?) examples; Thatcher & Blair although they pale into insignificance against the Bushes snr & jnr, Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi, Putin, and maybe the worst of all, the man responsible for the mass of the population of his country leaving their destroyed cities to risk crossing oceans in small dinghies Assad. Believe me their moronic majesties’ bequest is still very very real!
This looks like a very moving installation. It gives a small powerful emanation of the hurt which must have been felt on all sides, in many nations.
Haig and the high command really messed up in more ways than one. They had intelligence reports that an area of the front was very vulnerable yet they attacked across the whole front. Ironically the war may have been ended and millions of lives saved if only Haig had been a more competent tactician and used that intelligence (gained from German POWs who told of a weakness in their defences) although it meant the Germans would have purportedly ‘lost’ the war (there could be no victors in that cataclysm!) the gain would have been an end to the carnage. Instead they added to it then added some more in many more such battles until 11.11.1918.
Also someone high up made a fundamental error at 3am that day by phoning a message of good luck for the impending attack. That message was listened in to and the German gunners were alerted across the whole front, with devastating consequences.
Haig and His Highly Incompetents must have seen the disaster unfolding rapidly but instead of calling the attack off continued it until November 18th. Men from all over the world deemed dispensable. Not to mention the many Germans who were massacred in the initial explosion (“A queer dull thud” as one soldier witnessed at the time.) from the mines laid by sappers deep under the German command at Lochnagar. The sappers were taken from those who worked in the pits of Britain, they dug down deep under the German line to lay the biggest store of explosives ever laid. The ‘job’ was fraught with danger as German soldiers were also digging deep.
I think we need to make work about the war to help us understand the futility and the waste – and the fact that we never learn…’A Book artist from Australia
Thanks for your reaction ABafA.
I sent that out to about 100 folks, many quite good friends, since Thursday and do you know! You are th’only one that’s made any comment.(Ignore that I’ve had 4 now. Also my wife and son tell me I shouldn’t expect any reactions at all, ‘people don’t react to things they see in newspapers normally, so why should they react to your blog you old fart?’)
Just before i went to my computer i were tinking about my blog and my gripes about bad leadership and I thought, ‘d’y know, the same stupid stuck up twits are in charge today, and the same right wing thinkers (not, I don’t believe they can be called ‘thinkers’)) are i/c the Press. Nothing has altered’. In fact the 1960s seemed a time of HOPE. Atlee brought in the education act in 1945 which educated me, then I was taught to teach by intelligent humanists who said, let your students find their way to their passion and then take them to the top of the highest mountain and push them, LET THEM FLY. But since then it’s gone backwards and the public schoolboys (Like Gove, Boris, Cameron & Osborne) have a strangled-hold on the Asylum whilst Labour again display disarray and the LibDems are dead in the water, despite being instrumental in stopping the public schoolboys worst intentions whilst they were in coalition. I think I’ll move to Australia, or Canada, or even France, anywhere to escape these clods! Pete
One friend’s reaction flags up a rather rude reaction to brrrExit: Look at these posters with Boris on by Billy Childish, be care full cos he used a word what is naughty. It refers to the sex organ on a pig and is originally from Old English (I think):
And here’s me old mate Duncan Walker mimicking him.
Twinkle Toes Walker does a Walken.
Then advises me,
“Nah then lad, tha’s gottu git thar olde buk owt.”
So we all experience self-doubt and of course as I work thru the final prep of the final version for print of the SI sometimes I wonder if it’s worth continuing? My old pal IEPWoolard says, “Yes, you have to Pete”. Another friend, whose opinion I take very highly, talks of the ‘yes to carry on’ but also the need to make sure that when copies are ‘thesis-bound’ that there is also some stitching along the bound end to preserve it for not just 20 years but for 100 years plus when, ‘It’ll be of even more interest (because of its context)’. That’s not to say he’s saying my ‘writing’ is of a great importance, no, it’s the statement/evidence that the work brings with it of a time, a time in the early 1970’s. Now, that time is already gone, it’s history and my ‘book’ is (further evidence) of life then.
I had a nice little fillip today when a member of the staff at Firstsite said of my Outlaw Pete gig, ‘It was an out of body experience.’ She had not watched my whole gig. Said what she saw was very strange. I retorted, ‘That’s good cos I never want to be perceived as ‘normal’.’
20th April 2016
I just laid page 70 into my Quark* layout for my ‘Shrewd Idiot’ (SI) buk. It happens to be 3 drawings I done back in 1971 (December) of the character I had realised that I had just ‘invented/created’ AppleHeadedMan aka Apulhed. Well in fact two of ‘him’ and one of PearHeadedWoman. The sketches fit nicely over the two pages of the SI manuscript which lay over one page of the new version. There’s lots of different links there, including the visual link of the two intersecting on the page. In fact I never again drew Pearheadgirl, never ever even to today, which is fascinating, cos Applehead could have had a constant ‘fruity’ companion thru the past 40 years. In fact in the notes on that same page I am forlornly saying that my then erstwhile girl-friend was not replying to my letters and that when we were to meet up again, as planned around my 21st birthday, it would only be ‘as friends (not lovers)’. In fact we never were to meet up again, not so far anyway. Maybe the slipping away of Pearheadgirl is a living analogy of that aspect or sequence of things which happened then did not happen in my life? [An analogy is ‘a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects’.] The disappearance of Pearheadgirl is synonymous with the non-re-appearance of ‘Rose’ in ma life.
Quark* is one of the two big packages which offer design strategies for print layout. Although I found them difficult to make contact with I went up to their address in London and did find a human being who was very helpful. So much so I have decided to stay with them and move to their new ‘2016’ version despite the fact that my printman’s company uses a rival design package, which will cause some difficulties because one system is not compatible with the other. I am relatively unschooled in ‘graphic-design’ and have a lot to learn but I always did find ‘learning on the job’ my preferred route to skills and knowledge. Creating this new version of my SI buk is arduous, mostly because I insist on using scans of typed script from the 1980’s manuscript when re-typing it into a modern digi-form would be much much easier. All my life I tended to do things the hard way, as my SI buk still shows. Its form & content show an idiot (idjet) at work but he end result he knows will be, well let’s just say, very different. And ‘all me own original werk’.
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).
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.
* 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 .
The activities of Pete Kennedy, Performance Artist Bloke, Book Creator & retired artist.