Tag Archives: firstsite gallery

Two gigs this weekend

I am doing a very quick blArt this week as I am hard on rehearsing and preparing for my book launching gig at Colchester Arts Centre this coming Sunday 5th November at 2pm.

Am also doing a reading of Bukowski’s Poem For Dante at Firstsite in Colchester on Friday 3rd at 7.30 when the Educaid trust will be having another of their wonderful group readings in aid of Sierra Leone. No time even for yoga classes this week.

I am trying to pull together all my recent inspirations to attract interest in my series of books concerning The Shrewd Idiot.

If you have a spare hour Sunday afternoon the main activity is from 2-3 pm.

You may like to buy one of my books at a really good price too.

Here’s a couple of images I took at today’s practice. [Don’t forget to bring your camera! You can flash away til yer heart’s content cos I got no ban on cameras. That’s not to do with vanity, it’s freedom of speech, a pic tells a 1000 words.] Oh and can some of you let me know if you are coming, then I’ll get my beautiful wife to make more birthday cakes. At present there’s no way of knowing numbers cos we said no entry fee. That means no bookings so we cannot estimate numbers. But like Sophia saw at Red Lion, I’d perform (my art) even if nobody came, but I do know some folk will be there.



I don’t want to give too much away but I shall be in dialogue with my former selves and my character Apulhed will make a surprise appearance. That’s as long as he can make it from whatever part of the cosmos he’s visiting now. He’s never let me down before. Looks like he’s in Japan!

Or he may be further afield. I wake about 4am and look out my window and there above the trees I have a great view of Orion’s Belt with Sirius lurking below it.

342843DavidBowie LADA Workshop

projected image of Earth at Klanghaus gig Colchester Saturday 23 sept 2016

342843DavidBowie is the name of minor planet (asteroid) from the outer region of the asteroid belt, approximately 2 kilometres in diameter, 342843 DavidBowie 2008YN3 is still flying around up there, and will be for billions of years! 342843DavidBowie is also the name of a ‘Bowie Stargazing and Performance Writing’ workshop which Simon Persighetti & Katie Etheridge ran on behalf of LADA from 22-24 September 2016 beginning with the first day at Colchester Arts Centre and the next two days at Firstsite Gallery. It was eye-opening for me in several ways and I thanked K & S:

10:00hrs (25.9.16)

“Dear Katie and Simon image000

these images (below) are from my tiny mobile facility. Hope you enjoy.

I really enjoyed being with youse over the past tree days, I got so much from the course.

I loved ‘getting’ that my writing is valid as Performance Art (PA) and all the potential possibilities of incorporating it into ma PA, also my ‘script’ (as it stands) for the Sommboys piece which is still very much work in progress BUT NOW I SHALL DEFINITELY INCORPORATE THE WRITTEN WORD into ma PA and spoken with much more ‘authors-oratory’.

I am reaching the climax of producing my ‘new-old’ buk about my 4 years as a student (of life and thought) at Exeter 69-73 and as I walked to ma car Isabel gave me the word ‘interrupted’ and I realised thet that is watti do, I interrupt my (altered spellingly) written scripts. Now I shall be able to really fly.”

K & S took us thru a number of different ways ‘Performance-Writing’ can be used:

  1. Challenge the 2 dimensionality of the book.
  2. Unfolding emerging text witnessed by the audience.
  3. Record & edit ‘sound & vision text’ in any way using technology- sonic, audio, video…
  4. Site installed text
  5. Writing for the digital environment including blogging.

And we had plenty of opportunities to try out several of these methods.

I liked it when we split up into different roles; Oracle, Questioner, Scribe, Messenger, Voice and the rest were Audience. This led to some great pieces of improvised use of words which came over to each participant in a variety of hearings. If you were the Oracle you could occasionally hear the Voice saying words you said earlier because the Messenger had picked up words from the Scribe and spoken them into the Voice’s ear who then spoke them into a mike and they were transmitted. If you were the Scribe you’d be listening to the Oracle and then you’d hear the Voice say some words you’d written earlier but it’d be in danger of knocking your concentration cos you were still scribing. Fascinating listening for the Audience.

You can add a screen onto which the scribe can type the words instead of handwriting them so the audience gets the thing as a visual too.

So I can imagine new (for me) ways of delivering the ‘script’ (as it stands) for the Sommboys PA piece as well as my Shrewd Idiot book which is written in the first place as a journal.

The three days also paid homage to the work of David Bowie and we all submerged ourselves in various ways in his Inspiration.

So much so that last Thursday 23rd Sept we went to an isolated house overlooking Abberton reservoir to stare at the incredibly full star tapestry. It was so dark and clear I could not see the Orion constellation as there were so many stars behind it they made it difficult to pick out even Orion’s belt which is apparently an asterism. http://earthsky.org/tonight/good-sky-trick-orions-belt-points-to-starsirius We talked about a newly discovered asterism which is shaped like the zigzag shape Bowie famously wears on his head on the Aladdin Sane cover of 1973. It almost drove me (I’m a lad) insane trying to focus in on the specific stars of a constellation on a £75 telescope whose tripod legs kept shifting. In the end I gave up trying to be specific and just homed in on an area of stars and said to myself, I need to get onto a bigger better telescope. So my star gazing has finally begun. All this naming and categorizing of star patterns is fine for those who need it, there’s parallels in most everything that UBeings engage in, but for me it is to do with immersion. I try immerse ma sen in ‘life’, take out what I can and represent it as best I can in the various fields I find my self labouring in. Oh, I wrote a poem about that, the way the art establichsmunt has always turned a blind eye to ma werk and all:


I am a poet now but I ain’t got the degree

Ah So ‘They’ won’t hear me

I am a writer now but I ain’t got the degree

So ‘They’ won’t read me

I am a artisbloke now

I always have been

(a has been?)

But I ain’t not got the degree

So ‘They’ won’t see me

I do Performance Art now but I ain’t got no degree

So ‘They’ won’t watch me

Now I got a Masters now

But ‘They’ still can’t hear me

‘They’ still can’t read me

‘They’ still can’t see me

‘They’ still can’t watch me

Because nobody has told them I’m good enough

‘They’ can’t read between the lines

And ‘They’ can’t see that for themselves

Listen ‘They’ don’t have ears to hear

Nor do ‘They’ have the senses to watch

But after all is said and done

‘They’ ain’t of any significance

‘They’ don’t make ma art(s…s…s…)

And in the end

It’s no matter what ‘They’ say or don’t

As I leaf it to Posterity now

Because ‘They’ missed out this time around

Didn’t You!

Did Ya?

During the workshop me and Daniella did a cut out writing piece which I thoroughly enjoyed doing contrary to my initial thoughts on doing ‘cut ups ‘like Brion Gysin did’ (Brion invented the cut and paste but only after the surrealists had invented it in the 1920’s) and Bowie used the technique as did Lennon. http://www.thewhitereview.org/art/the-idea-machine-brion-gysin/ Here’s our result:


Murchison me wit Daniella

Dedicated to lovely little Petrie Murchison a woman I used to talk with at my college in Exeter in the Art department as we both worked in print-making. I wonder where she is now?

I enjoyed working with Kate & Daniella on our final project in the last two days. We began by using the much unseen and underused windows at ground-level in Firstsite. We were looking at using three helmets; one from an aboriginal people (like the Hopi), one from deep sea divers of the 19th century and of course one from the 1960’s space astronaut adventures which inspired both Bowie and Kubrick. We, using Katie’s words, made an ‘Elegant Synthesis using the word DIVE’ (as yu know elegance isn’t my norm). They got me to lay in the window and put up the four letters in dive one after the other whilst everyone else stood watching from the bottom of the steps outside. This was lovely cos it actually utilized an part of the architect Rafael Viñoly’s design which was intended to be a beautiful feature but which is so rarely seen or appreciated because for strange and stupid reasons the whole field outside the gallery on the old bus station side is out of bounds when really it should be one of the biggest boons. The gallery cannot be walked round from the outside because the gate is locked to this side with the windows at floor level which therefore cannot be seen into and that’s what they’re designed for because you can’t see out them from the inside unless yer doon on th’knees like what I wer.


Katie in character as a deep sea diver

On day 3 we three worked to change the ‘Elegant Synthesis using the word DIVE’ into a longer piece with masks what I made using minimal materials and time. We presented our piece wearing the masks which was real hard on Daniella cos she wer suffrin badly from hayfever or sum otha allergy ting. The best ting in our performance was when this little girl about 4 year old in a white costume with a pointed hat seemed to feel she could improve it by just being there and she did! Also someone else was just behind us doing their thing which we were unaware of but the audience enjoyed that intervention too too. Katie did a reading onto a sound recorder and she played it back alongside reading it aloud. Daniella, who hails from Peru, did a lovely piece about shamans in America who apparently dance to the shape of different constellations where she had sentences on bits o paper which were stapled onto a red cord which she placed in a cupboard and she pulled out handing one end to one audience member who passed it along to the next and this continued until the story was told and she placed the cord and words back in the cupboard. This brought up the cords we had referenced during the mask-performance; shaman’s cord to the unknown, divers cord to air, astronaut’s cord to the module and of course reference to the umbilical cord of humanity (UBeings).

Next we watched Debbie & Laura do their Fem-Space piece which was their Creation myth with feminine principals and principles. Re-writing the old masculine myths and ending with the patriarchs being projected out of the goddess’s daughter’s nether regions after being composed of her vomit of the geometry that her mother had regurgitated to feed her, it’s a convoluted but rather powerful story which reversed the creation myth order from male to female. [This tale was not dissimilar to the creation myth of the Gnostics who had a woman equal partner the male god who created this Universe in an act to materialize life whereas previously life had had no material being.]

Then we were tired.

folk clambered onto the bus on which Neutrinos played music before skipping off to the next space in the looming depot.

We went to eat in a Lebanese restaurant and on to a magic bus what took us to the old derelict bus depot in Colchester where the Neutrinos and Klanghaus entertained us and half of Colchester’s cognoscenti. It was an amazing arrival of what I would call ‘real art’ in the town as they walked us thru the shambled old structure singing wonderful words like My Face Is Wet From Pissing Into The Wind. Which I know all about having spent much of my (creative) life doing so myself. (see ma poem ‘They’ above)

Stone the Crows flew in for the night!

I won’t try telling the tale of Klanghaus just show some tiny snaps what I took with my inadequate mobile camera what actually provides me with some wonderful images.

this is an amazing ‘face’ which my camera managed to ascertain from the woman who peeked out from under the bus by the tyre. I think it’s astounding. A kind of collaboration between me as artis, old mobile as veru low quality device, the woman from Neutrinos face and what digitising does.I looks like one of Oskar Schlemmer’s models.



This is the best exhibition of my work, ever.

 bruce mc hand 2 face sm res

Bruce McLean & Michelle Cotton in front of his One day Tate Installation

Bruce McLean said, ‘This is the best exhibition of my work, ever, even better than the German one. It has been mounted by a very good team in an excellent gallery’. I agree and would add it is not only an excellent show of his work, past and present but also a wonderful first sight into the beauty of the Firstsite gallery in all its use of angles and reflected light from the architect’s plans brought out by this stunning display which for the first time utilises the whole of the gallery just concentrating on one thing, Bruce McLean’s considerable oeuvre.

The decision to feature his work for their summer-long show is an inspired one. McLean represents that era from the early 1970’s, post Beatles and Hockney’s heyday and post Caro’s break with Henry Moore’s form,  when it seemed everything had been done. What to do next? McLean came up with some suggestions. His art was like the stance of the Rolling Stones who took the previous and challenged it with new ways of presentation. With the Stones it was Rhythm & Blues, for McLean it was sculpture for he still prefers to be seen as a sculptor and some of the ‘paintings’ in this show are in fact sculptures. One, which reflects his thinking in a series of very large canvas ‘paintings’, comprised of several images which mirror and reflect aspects of each other. Shades of Henry Moore’s imagery and, dare I say Barry Flanagan or Joseph Beuys’s hare, inhabit the canvas along with naked figures drawn in his own unfussy way. When you walk out of the main exhibition space you see to your left, on the way to the café, two paintings on the wall with another standing in front obscuring most of them and an old plastic and metal chair. You wonder why the gallery didn’t get the show ready by now until you see the chair in one of the paintings and you realise it is part of the work and the work is a sculpture piece. It is a typical McLean break with convention, a break he instigated whilst still at Central School St Martins when he created some sculpture with curtains and plywood boards on the roof thus making the building itself the pedestal. Caro had brought over from meeting David Smith in the USA the use of industrial metal (girders) in his sculptures and now one of his pupils was extending the material which could be used with not a little tongue in cheek, for cheeky is what McLean’s art invariably is. As is the man, with references to Scottish transvestites being more severe and colourful than any others to illustrate the severity of Scottish weather with its dominant displays of lugubrious grey which, with his being born and bred in Glasgow, is McLean’s favoured colour. His greys however, like his Scottish transvestite analogy, are rather more colourful too.

McLean represents the consciousness that emanates from the (2nd world) ‘war babies’, born 1944, with all of its energy, influences and contravention of previous canons.

a ny ex gallery owner and friend

Ex-owner of New York gallery which showed McLean first in USA.

A mentionable crowd from London turned up but most importantly McLean was there, not only at Firstsite last Saturday, more importantly he was there as a daring pioneer, a mischievous player in 1965-69 when art was bubbling up with great potentials like the world of rock music and film much stifled since by the adoption of the Duchamp take by the Brit Pack and Saatchi lot. McLean was one of the foremost advocates of that potential with its experimentalist breakaway and its creating new grounds on which to place ponder and see ‘art’. McLean was in St Martins under Caro and King (Philip) when Paolozzi was making and breaking his plaster of paris takes and re-assembling them into traditional bronzes. Meanwhile McLean was adopting non-traditional materials; industrial steel like his tutor Caro, fibre board, plastic, his nose and glass mirrors reflecting the influences of Robert Smithson and others across the Atlantic. He saw Gilbert & George doing their human body sculptures so he did his own poses, even creating a ‘band’ of posers who opened gigs for groups like Roxy Music just as John Cooper Clarke had for the punk bands and John Dowie was to do his talks fashioned on the work od Ken Campbell.

The show reverberates with energy. Michelle Cotton and her team of curators have placed McLean’s work throughout the gallery space in every nook and cranny. Making full use of the space for the first time since its inception this show exhibits the gallery itself and utilises all of its marvellous facilities through film, video, personal appearances and discussions, artist’s books and more. This exhibition shows off the attention to detail, like the wooden flooring, which the architects considered in their design of gallery’s spaces and the ways it was designed to be used with the geometry of the walls, ceilings and windows mirroring and reflecting the light from both inside and outside.

little lady in hat

A London Lady in her Vasarely hat

With subtle shades of colour and geometric form, counterpoising the same content that echoes throughout McLean’s works which are indeed sometimes enhanced by these reflections as in the long glass case which houses his far from o’puscular artist’s books.

a reflections in mac lean sm res

Part of a McLean book in glass case.

Cotton’s monograph, written and edited to coincide with this thorough showing of his full life work, is a fitting measure of its importance. Its knock down price of just under £25, paralleling similar books from more financially secure galleries like Tate, who do in fact endorse firstsite, is more than reasonable and it should become a collector’s item.


McLean’s work has a lively, daring, vibrant, ebullient immediacy which is almost always subversive too. Like a song of Tom Waits, ‘I don’t have to ask permission. If I want to go out fishing.’ it inspires you to try things out. A visit, indeed several visits, would be well rewarded and could help lift the rather grey cloud that has hung over this golden gallery since its inception. ‘A Whiter Shade Of Grey’?

This is, like McLean said for other reasons, the best show so far.

a bruce an frend sm res

McLean ‘at home’ in firstsite with friends.