I been so busy so far this year so this is my first blArt of 2018, so there or should I say ‘So Here & Now’ (It’s the only place to Be).
In the Düsseldorf 2017 review (below) I mention that I had a Book Launch scheduled for 26Jan2018 at Bookartbookshop in London which was last Friday and thanks to the wonderful select group of folk Tanya called in it went really well. Thank you all for coming and for the love & attention. All the photos of the gig are taken by Tanya Peixoto and I am forever grateful, to her. I have made some slight alterations to some, which I hope she doesn’t mind.
I had been honing the Performance Art lifted from the story in my book The Shrewd Idiot ever since my gig at CAC. At Tanya’s suggestion we also celebrated the centenary birthdate of my dad Patrick J. Kennedy (Taffy).
Above photo by Maxine Wynne
Photo by Tanya Peixoto
So to the ‘Red Dress Dance’ & ‘Shades Song’ (After Iggy) commemorating some (3) beautiful girls I knew in the days I was at college
and an Apulhed Appearance (Photo by Tanya Peixoto)
I added a reading of all the mentions I made of my dad ‘Taffy’ in The Shrewd Idiot. To top it off I read some words appropriated from Annie Lennox cd Diva which had a special place in my memory of the final day of my dad’s life. He lived from 1918-1992. He had a ‘colourful’ life interrupted by WW2 when he joined the Air Sea Rescue section of the RAF. He was a Steeplejack* and a very successful amateur football coach & he instructed many in the Burnley area in what was called back then ‘physical culture’ (doing weights) and he introduced me to Mr Universe Earl Maynard at a show in Manchester around 1965 where he told me to show Earl my six pack which as a 14 year old was highly developed. Earl said, “Keep it up!” and, being a teenager, I immediately dropped the weight training. Look at me now!
I COULD HAVE BEEN SOMEONE…Instead of a bum (Thanks Marlon).
So, instead of Mr Universe I became Master Puny of Verse! Goodnite.
[*DON’T mention Dinber my dad thought Dinber was a clown because of the careless dangerous lacks of precaution he allowed, according to Taff]
I never did a summary of my 2017 so here are the highlites of my 2017 year:
I mentioned Jo Bannon in a blArt last year but could not post any images then but she contacted me after her National Tour and said yes I can use some.
She had various leads which led from her table to electricity sources as she boiled a kettle and poured hot water into a stainless steel bowl with some cooler water in then washed her silken white locks then [for me the best moments of the gig] she used a powerful hair dryer to blow her hair away (almost).
The time for my launch of my new (set of) book(s) on the theme of The Shrewd Idiot looms ever closer. Anyone who can get to the Colchester Arts Centre[It’s in the street behind The Mercury Theatre, you can park across the road at St Mary’s Car Park.] would be welcome at 2pm Sunday November 5th. entry is free I’ll be talking about my books and doing some zany Performance Art (PA) pieces which emanate from the pages of the books.
The Shrewd Idiot book isn’t entirely chronological, there’s flashbacks in it and altho I wrote it in the 70’s, I completed it in 2016 adding a final layer of comments from this man in his mid-sixties to the younger self. In this PA I have a dialogue with my younger selves too. Some of the exchanges may cause ripples of smiles because the young Idiot involves in activities the old Idiot would never admit to, would he?
Back in the early 70’s Neil Young was flagging up the issue of ‘Mother Nature on the run’ and his song After The Gold Rush depicts his dream about contact with other life forms which fits well with my work from around that time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKM5dIANXE8 so I’m featuring a rendition of his song performed by my friend Richard Spencer.
I shall talk, mime (badly), dance (not quite so badly) through the hand-made books’ content and have a Q&A session at th’end.
As is the ‘won’t’ of many a big gallery they wouldn’t allow photos so I drew them! [altho’ you’ll see I couldn’t remember Geumhyung Jeong’s name as I sat drawing illicitly on the floor of Tate Mod.
That’s the trouble wit big galleries, they’re buying into PA but they have no idea what the drift of PA is! PA is an open field in which anything goes. Please bring yer camras and click away madly at my gigs.
I also have Richard Spencer to sing a little at the beginning Bless his cotton socks.
Other artists who help my script are Lady Gaga, Van the Man, Iggy Pop and Bruno Mars.
The Shrewd Idiot book will be on sale in different forms; ‘The A3 deluxe version’, ‘The A4 Perfect Boundversion’, The Appleheadman Sees book (A5) and the ‘A3 deluxe PK 1968-73’ which is 27 picture I did tween 1968-73.
I created Apulhed (aka Appleheadman) in 1971 and he has had many many different looks in different media like comics, children’s drama (I did a big show with 14 Children playing my characters when I was the first artist of the new millennium to have an exhibition in Colchester Library), books like my Apul-One 1975.
Here’s a cover with newly done colours of the 1979 Happy Apulhed ‘comic’.
In this gig Apulhed will make a special appearance in a beautiful guise created especially for this gig and that I have never before used, I think it will cause quite a stir. Doors open 13.30 hrs, PA starts at 2pm (14.00 hrs) ends at c. 3pm. Then there’s 30 minutes in which I shall be around to sign any copies of the books you buys and answer any questions about my works.
This is only part one of a blArt about my new Inside This Earthen Book-BoxITEB
Part 2 will follow in a few days with more images of the Book-Box
A while ago I wrote a series of poems to be printed as scrolls which I placed inside a big pot.
I called the project Inside This Clay Jug after a poem Robert Bly had recited after the original translation by Rabindranath Tagore of a 14th century poem by Kabir. I first heard the recital on the late a Jackie Leven cd. I loved it and was lucky to have known Jackie when he used another pen name, John St Fields. I loved his rendition of Inside This Clay Jug for years and was fortunate to get together with Jackie shortly before he died. The project was as much in memorium to him as it was a celebration of knowledge passed down in ancient times by communities who hid their precious writings in pots in caves or underground like the Nag Hamadi library and Buddhist pots found in Kandahar.
Recently I bound a copy of David Jury’s beautiful letterpress version of my poems in pots into a codex book.
Letterpress print version bound as a codex book
I only made two copies so far, one for me and one for DJ. And I have added a lovely little purple tassle to mine and sent it up to an international competition to see if they like it.
Whilst making the book I made a couple of extra cover and thought one day I’d make a book-box with one of em and put into it every incarnation of my poems for the Clay Jug Project about which I also published a book called G BATCH.
Now I know G BATCH is not the best name for the book, it’d be better named something like Inside This Clay Jug an Introduction. I preferred at the time to take letters from the names of the six men that my poems are about and as a group is also a batch called it a batch, G BATCH. The book is handmade in an edition of 50. It explains my ideas behind the project.
It also has the master drawing that I used for the etchings of the six men.
I re-wrote the poems and published about 3 versions of them, Inside This Earthen Vessel (ISEV) was one version wherein I did the layout of the poems in the shape of pots and when DJ saw them he suggested we collaborate on the letterpress version which he would print. Those prints of the poems are now quite famous. Back in 2014 The Poetry Library at Southbank exhibited their copy in the Open Show of that year. They were recently (June 2017) exhibited at Bath Spa uni as part of their symposium on Concrete Poetry.
I did do a ‘concrete poem’ with the names of the G BATCH, actually more a log poem:
Nowadays the bark is dropping off so I am going to recut the names a little deeper into the trunks to add to the poem’s lifespan along with some clarity.
Here’s some images of the Tenzin Gyatso (Dalai Lama) one when it was first cut.
‘Making Beyond Words’ Symposium at Corsham Court 16-17th June 2017
Dr. Kayla Rose said, “I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their participation at Making Beyond Words at Corsham Court [Bath Spa University] this past weekend. It was a great day for us, with an incredibly high standard of work from our speakers and exhibitors, as well as fantastic engagement from all who attended.
Creativity and collaboration are at the heart of what we do here and we are inspired by your passion for word, image and concrete poetry.” and
“Thanks to Michael Pennie, who, along with Fiona Cassidy, put together an absolutely fabulous exhibition.”
I loved the wonderful programme booklet designed so exquisitely by Matthew Robertson & beautifully printed by Ripe Digital. I adore the way the numbers have been placed on pages, will use that in ma work one day. I love the black, grey and orange used to print the words and the layout with all the white space. Quite simply, it’s beautifully designed.
The following day was full of good talks, the great exhibition in which was my poem cycle ‘Inside This Earthen Vessel’ letterpress printed by David Jury and referred to in the programme by Michael Pennie amongst ‘the other treasures’, [thanks Michael, and Josie Reed and Fiona Cassidy for the hanging with the lovely cover page looking like a nose!]
Our prints were hung alongside some of the ‘greats’ in the field including Dom Silvester Houedard, ‘…the leading theorist of the concrete poetry movement’ and b s johnson, what an honour.
Now let my photos take you through the days;
Who is working towards a biography about Dom Silvester Houedard (aka DSH) did the first talk and began to fill in my missing knowledge about the man who said
Viviane Carvalho da Annunciacao talked about the work of The Noigandres group in Brazil and its relations with Scottish poetartists like Ian Hamilton Finlay & Edwin Morgan. [The Noigandres group, which takes its name from a neologism* found in an Ezra Pound poem, was formed in 1952 by the Sao Paolo poets Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos, and Décio Pignitari. * a newly coined word or expression.]
Talked about Houedard’s collaboration with students at Bath Spa uni. On how she has found some of the beautiful work done back then tucked away in people’s garages.
Tim (Mitch) Fletcher
I had a nice chat with ‘Mitch’ before he spoke and it turns out he values the work of Henri Chopin https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/feb/05/poetry.culture whose work was beautifully displayed at Firstsite in Colchester some years ago. Mitch thought that Ingatestone is out in the sticks like Camulodunum but I informed him that no it’s a Ingatestone’s throw frae Londinium.
He gave a great intro to the work of the much missed at this symposium John Furnival which has come not a moment too late to flag up the need to rescue so much of the work done by the early practitioners in Concrete poetry and related media.
Whilst Chopin was creating his merveilleux (marvelous) Typewriter poems (also known as dactylopoèmes) Furnival & Davies were making ‘Feelie Boxes’ which are kinda scary cos they put stuff in boxes into which you couldn’t see but were asked to place your hands to discover ‘things’ with differing surface texture. There was nought sinister about em, they were in fact reminiscent of surrealist boxes like those of Max Ernst and Joseph Cornell (who died in 1972). Furnival & Davies also collaborated on electro-acoooustic music and unusual score-sheets after the style of John Cage.
My immediate feeling for music of any kind is that I love to hear much of it but am no ‘player’, however Cage mage it possible for anyone to ‘make music’. [Did you know that Velvet Underground’s John Cale spent time working for/with Cage?]
I missed the Roundtable discussion because I exercised my right to go out for walkies to a second hand shop I saw the night before and I bought a beautiful Corgi toy car model of the Vanwall racer http://www.grandprixhistory.org/vanwall.htm which Stirling Moss drove in when I were a youngster. As I walked down the road I thought to myself that exercising this privilege was not my habit in my college and school days, but I wished I had, then I may have missed many a boring lecture some of which are mentioned in my new A4 Shrewd Idiot book which is about my student days from 1969-73 exactly coinciding with much of the early work discussed and treasured by this symposium. I was touched, nay tainted, by many of the influences that the early concrete poets were looking to. [I had to mention it (A4SI) didn’t I, cos I can! Much more about it in ma next blArt. Like Neil Young, “I’m still living the dream we had, for me it’s not over.”]
Did a great talk assisted by his own song and constant movement about the influence of Concrete Poetry on popular Brazilian song. I loved his solo rendition of Palavra Nao e Coisa. I took a copy (which am yet to pay for, it’s very good, am hearing it for the first time right now, then I’ll get in contact with Leandro to settle up) of his Palavreio cd on which he shows his virtuoso skills on instruments, voice and electronics. I’d like to get access to those footpedals he uses, one records it live the other puts it on repeat and projects the sound…wow, let me get my hands on one of them!
I’m afraid I am going to flash thru the last couple of talks as my time has run out.
Did an interesting talk on how the maker & audience might become an object among objects…’ and how his poem, A Game of JUG is influenced by the image-text-ground playing field of concrete.
Did a talk on how he walks the ‘urban Edgelands’ and has created WALK-‘Walking, Art, Landskip & Knowledge’
Gave us more info about subtle use of positioning words & white space on pages of books to create different interpretations.
He began showing a fairly traditionally layed out poem with ‘default set at left margin justified’
‘writing is a fluid ongoing activity, making is a static process’
He shows a four line poem, ‘distributed or constellated in space which can enter intimately into the whole sense of the poem’, then he shows ‘extensions of the stanza break(s)’ with ‘space & Time for perception’ where ‘the (white) space is of value’. So we see two double page spreads with the firsthaving a blank page left and the four line verse top of the right hand page, then the second spread having (say) a six line verse to left and a 3 line verse to right side.
He then showed a book with a poem in which comprised double spreads with just one word to right hand page, ‘flowing’ and the poem was about a river which flows, indicated by one word every other page.
“My (Moschatel) Press has been an investigation into presentation as an aspect of form. A book is as a glade, a bright space in a forest.” He mentions his publishing of post card(poem)s. Talks of the no need to ‘Blow a whole poem up big on a wall’ Because, ‘You only misunderstand the opportunity…No…Only use small texts’. I think he means that postcard size is just as, maybe more, powerful than making BIG for the sake of it, just because you can.
“In 1973, with the artist Laurie Clark, he started Moschatel Press. At first a vehicle for small publications by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Cid Corman, Jonathan Williams, Simon Cutts and others, it soon developed into a means of formal investigation within his own poetry, treating the book as imaginative space, the page as a framing device or as quiet around an image or a phrase, the turning of pages as revelation or delay.
From 1986, Laurie and Thomas A Clark have run Cairn Gallery, one of the earliest of ‘artist-run spaces’” Scottish Poetry Library.
Then John Strachan invited Christina Slade to close proceedings and we had to scarper the premises so that the peacocks could return to their peaceful haven uninterrupted.
Sadly this ancient resident was trampled underfoot in the haste to leave.
(Photo of Michael Pennie & Fiona Cassidy is not mine I am grateful to the Net for it.)
Altho Michael Pennie did not speak from the front he spoke eloquently in his selection of the works on display in the beautiful exhibition [which must be the shortest lifespan of any I have ever witnessed (about 2 hours)] and which Fiona so ably assisted with the hanging.
I was so happy to see David’s wonderful letterpress prints referred to in Michael’s note in the programme as one of the treasures. He also made very affirming noises about the bound copy of the prints which I was showing Josie Reed. Thanks Michael, and Josie for suggesting our work to him.
Finally- During one of the morning talks I saw a slide which showed some old letterpress prints in which the maker in attempting to illustrate how the ‘sublime god displaces man(kind)’ using ‘disorientating typographical design’ had created a diagonal dagger like shape in a piece about, ‘the panther profecy’ (his spellin). I saw an incredible affinity between that print and the one David Jury had done of my Beuys Poem in our collaboration, Inside This Earthen Vessel.
David created the diagonal on his set up using a metal rod and he sawed the wooden letter in two to add to the concept of the jug being split asunder as it hits the floor a direct comparison with Beuys’ alleged crash. I was happy to see Josie Reed also noticed in the same panther page a synchronistic link to my Earthen Vessel analogy in the words ‘a Potter’s wheel’ printed some 100 years ago.
And thanks to my long standing friends Gus & Linda Fraser for once again giving me a place to stay so I could attend this wonderful event.
On Friday night I took part in a series of readings for EducAid in Colchester Sixth form college. The main contribution was my Beuys ‘Sliding thru Eurasia’ poym. However I want to read one of Cohen’s pieces if given the time.
Thanks to Jim Pey for giving me the opportunity to ‘perform’ last night and my friends Richard & Shelley who joined me and really seemed to enjoy the evening of poems & readings in Colchester on behalf of EducAid. http://www.educaid.org.uk/
This is from my Inside This Clay Jug poems.
Here he comes now over the hill! Sliding … Gliding…
Joseph Beuys with his Celtic roots
Dancing down the backbone of England
Along the Pennine Way
Please “Don’t mention the War”
He served the Luftwaffe in the air up there
(appropriate bomber diving sounds)
We each of us has a cross to bear
He says he piloted a Stuka bomber
Then he all fell down and broke his crown.
He went flying from the cock-pit and cracked his skull
Maybe that was what loosened his slates?
So who were these mysterious ‘Tartar Shamans’
Who pulled him from the burning wreck?
They were Siberian nomads
Who wrapped him up in felt and fat
Which later on he used for sculpture, just like that!
Swooping… down to Poland on a sled
In his waistcoat with his homburg on his head
He alone put the wrongs of the 3rd Reich to bed
‘Join up’ he told Eurasia… ‘Show me your friendly nature’
‘Everyone can be an artist’ (don’t you know?)
‘Just let your honey in all directions flow
Draw yourself in to the spiral vor…text
Why don’t you come with me little man On My Magic Blackboard Ride
Meet up with Hermann Hesse
Fellow Wanderer on the mountain paths
Dancing down the Backbone of Italy
Along the Appennine Way
We are not humans We are dancers
Swirling and whirling
Along the road down Destiny’s Inscrutable Was
It was lovely to see some of the audience smiling as I moved thru mi Beuys ‘poym’ “Explaining Beuys To A Dead Woodpecker”. Funny as you look around when you’re doing summat like that. There’s a nervousness at trying to remember the words and the nuances, yet nowadays I feel can bring in some of the audience with a little look. I try to gauge reaction/interest, altho it’s never a perfect science, I think I am learning to ‘read’ an audience better. That allows me to stay with something that’s ‘working’ and move quickly on if it isn’t.
“Dance Me To The End Of Love” Len Cohen
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
I did my take on reading the above song as a poem and I thought it wonderful how a couple of the other participants recounted their Len Cohen experiences reflected against my story of not seeing the man, whereas they had! It was not so much a mourning as a real delight in what he stood for and emanated with a panache and quite grace. I agree with the last speaker who said that he, on having the opportunity to meet and speak with LC, said thru a post event party-champagne haze, that Len was good no matter what others may think. It still applies. I loved when he did Glastonbury and gained thousands of new fans. Here he sings ‘Anthem’- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJSlpEb_jFk
There’s a poignant story about the girl in his song Marianne which is told in the Telegraph Obituary on 19.8.2016 about Cohen’s erstwhile love Marianne Ihlen who “spent her time since 1979 working in the personnel department of an oil company, painting and exploring Tibetan Buddhism.She remained in touch with Cohen, though when he performed in Oslo in 2010, she attended the concert without going backstage. But she sensed that he knew she was there.
When Cohen heard that Marianne was dying of leukaemia, he wrote to her: “Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom … but now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.””
Now he can join her again without hurting anyone as we are all destined to travel down the inscrutable road of destiny, one day.
I was lucky to get tickets to see Dave McKean at the Tate Brit on Sunday 13th doing his Black Dog gig and talk . I am hoping to be able to get some more live images of him. Here’s one of the results from last time I saw him.
Leonard Cohen, I have been a fan since someone compared my artworks to his sad songs in a derogatory way in about 1976. I love his use of words. The way he counterbalanced beauty and high note with the beast and his low tones.
During my previous incarnation as a teacher I managed to ‘sing’ his ‘Dance me to the end of love’ to an entrapped audience of other teachers (they deserved it!). Luckily my assistant was a young Canadian who could sing well. Half way thru the ‘performance’ the Head of Science stole the show by dancing into the centre of the stage dressed in a tutu. I think Leonard would have smiled benignly!
Which he’s doing now, looking back at the human pace.
Shalom & Namaste!
LC was born a Jew and later adopted Buddhist monk Sasaki Roshi as his mentor.
Photo taken of some idiot dreamer as part of a Uniqlo gig at opening days at Switch
Wa doo eye kerno? (That’s ‘What Do I Know?’ in real Englitsch. Not much! I’ve only been making ‘art’ since ’68 now, 48 years later am 65, 66 on 27 Oct!. So I tink I knows a bit about ‘art’.
I visited the Switch (aka New Tate build) twice this week. I LOVE IT!
I got an overwhelmingly positive feel in the place, despite LONG queues, big crowds and the obvious commercial success of art (something which fro 48 years eluded me work & still does, I’m not represented in the Tate butti don’t mind cos am represented in this blArt…I’m in the Tart!
I could already write a book about the value of the New Tate (Tate Modern & Switch). It employs thousands of people, some on a wage, some for free, some just ogle at Great Tate.
I first went to Tate in 1967 and it were a massive part of my Art Education. Now I am working on 3 books about my life & work. Two are already written; The Shrewd Idiot and Genie Ass. Its taking time to lay them out, so you have to be patient cos they’re on the way.
a little Bourgeois sculpture from the Tate collection .
Marr’s underlying take on it was poor but Waldemar Janacek’s was even worse, but I have about as much respect for his views as I do the woman who got up and walked from mher bed when Saint Saatchi told her to get up & walk.
This woman who got out of her bed to talk to Marr has been involved in ‘art’ for less time than me (but should be more articulate cos she is paid millions to practice) said a work by Louise Bourgeois is a ‘mindfuck’.
I think anyone with a ounce of intelligence may see what she was getting at but I’d have thought she could have been more descriptive and constructive about that great artist who actually tolerated her more than I do even though Bedgirl stole many of her ideas and methods.
Anthony Gormley talked well about a work he did with 5 eyes on it (it’s very good). He got lucky back in 1981 when Serota at the Whitechapel consented to show his early sculptures. I never had that big a break, yet, well accept it I never will, ‘Never say never’, I just did! Compare my Billy No Breaks to Gormley’s big bits breaking waves near Liverpool, albeit he’s done some good stuff, his angel still flies north and I saw his 2003 show at Baltic.
I still keep making my art, this blArt is pArt of it too.
Mona Hatoum’s show is wonderful too.
I posed for these photos in her ‘Corps Etranger 1994’
I love her utilizing mundane, nay ubiquitous, materials; weaving it into her clever metaphors. I love her glass grenades, her toy soldiers arranged as an infinite loop. Worth seeing. As is the work called (or by) Tarek Atoui in the basement at Switch.
It’s several musicians make sound out of instruments designed to emit sound electronically (or sommat like that!). It’s part of the Tate Live Art stuff. One day I may be able to do ma ting there too cos I am a live artisbloke as you know.
Actually over the years I have performed at Tate in many ways. I first entered as a raw-would-be-artibloke in the 1960s. In the 70s I frequented it as I became a teacher. 80s I took my own audiences in the shape of coach trips from my night classes and i drew Paulozzi. 90s I took my own childers one of whom is now a curator and i drew Miriam Patchen and then Bruce that Scottish fella. Noughties I stood in a massive derelic buildin and thought ‘they’ll never make it work, then on opening day I saw a surge of folks walking like Pina Bausch dancers into the Turbine Hall. In the 2010s I couldn’t afford the member’s pass until my state pension kicked in this year and I re-joined. Glad that I did, a good year to do it.
‘ere’s a bonus poem:
The Beauty of making my art today
The Beauty of making my art
After 50 years of trying to make it
I finally made it, good.
How do I do it now?
It’s easy after all these tears
I cried many many years
As they ignored me, all ways
Now I come into my own
Do it my own way I do too.
Finally, here’s a sign i saw on a London Bus as I travelled to the Tate
Top Views of ma blog for 7 days ending 2016-04-18:
In fact my blArty blog gets viewed from all round the globe. It’s nice to tink that my words & images may be interesting folk from places I never even heard of like Vanuatu, a country in Oceania.
(Vanuatu is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometres, Fiji is near it.
Anyway, back to my normal patter.
I recommend a visit to Chris Ruston’s wonderful show of her Ammonite books at the natural History Museum in Colchester. The display is a little dark but that is for reasons of protection against the damage light can do to delicate tissue. I also had difficulty photographing it cos a nice curator woman approached me and said I had to have Chris’s express written permission to do so. Well in fact Chris sent me these great photos which I cannot equal so here they are.
It is so apt for today! Take out the reference to Jews and Hitler and replace them with any of the peoples fleeing dictators and assassins and other groups who take it upon themselves to destroy rather than create and maintain. Auden’s words are totally appropriate for the way the world still treats people in fear of their lives and who have felt it necessary to traverse danger to try to reach a safe haven. Damn it, he could have written it yesterday, or even today!
To finish off I have to rejoice about my new very old cross-cut saw and the way it cuts thru wood. It’s taken some sorting out and I am so grateful to Richard saw-sharpener extraordinaire at Haydons in Braintree who sharpened and set it so that I could make these lovely pieces.
My objective was to be able to cut up a willow tree which fell about 2 years ago and on the way I had to overcome some obstacles not least my weak muscles. I see it as a zen ting. The tree could be cut by chain saw but I insist on using the less noisy old fashioned crosscut saw. I always like to tackle the near impossible. Don’t know why but there it is. It’s an old willow tree which fell over in strong winds and it’s very very stubborn. The saw worked wonderfully on the much denser rootball from which I cut those beautiful shapes but this darned tree is taking hours to cut thru. still, I got nothing else to do, I am retired aren’t I?
See you at the Laurie Anderson gig at Tate Modern this Friday nicht if you can get there. Bless.
My (vast?) knowledge of ‘art’ became (apparently) irrelevant overnite becos they (purportedly) moved the goalposts when I must have had my eyes off the ball (or maybe the Jasper Johns/Pop Art target?) by their declaring ‘post’-Modernism’ which supposedly super ceded the Modernism & Classicism that I had studied and played a part of between 1968 and when the pMT (post-Modernis Tings) began (date unsure, a bit hazy and for me irrelevant).
I don’t believe ‘post’-Modernism’, it’s a crap idea which seeped down from architecture into some folk’s view of art. Whatever it’s purported to be (a shift, a change, a re-direct) it isn’t because the history (of art) is a continuation. As part of the continuity we have learned that the media we can utilise is not just the old fields of oil paint, water colour, bronze and wood altho I have loved working in all of them. Nowadays it’s ok to use ANY material to create art and all sorts of differing environments. Latterly I learned that as I manipulate the words as words and image on my computer design package that’s just as relevant in making (my) art as was once my manipulation of oil with turps on a canvas.
So. My books are art and always have been. I used to feel an odd sensation when I looked at say a photo I had done or a presentation with masks and feel…t that they weren’t ‘proper’ art. My ‘pop’ art drawings/comix with Apulhedman were just as relevant as my oils of my wife. So, all my activities which I used to put into a number of pigeon holes have now become my ‘art’. They are all one. They manifest from my observation, imagination and skill.
They represent me. They re-present the ‘me’ what lives and breathes in ways and materials, some of which will outlive the entity I call ‘me’ by many centuries…
The book I am working on or ‘compiling’ at present, The Shrewd Idiot (SI), has a LONG history. I left my teaching post in 1976 to format it from notes I had written, drawn and photo’d in various journals and sketchbooks since 1969. I had done my first self-published book, Apul-One (1975), from the same sources and SI was to be a more ‘normally’ spelt version of same. Its initial version was completed by 1978 and then I started sending it to publishers, two of whom (Wildwood House, then Calder), considered it for publication but eventually both dropped it. I have re-approached it several times in the intervening years and the newest version will have evidence of interventions from different times. It was never a ‘literary’ work. It was always a collection of some thoughts, observations, hopes, fears and images of one individual.
Now the words I created years ago have become images. Most of the book is made up of images of thetypescript typed up mostly by Jill (nee) Williams and boy was she tolerant of my stupid words. Drawings and other forms of image-making are a vital part of the book and that was the rub in the 70’s and 80’s when print was difficult concerning the placement of word & image in a book. Nowadays the two can sit well together and gone are the days when publishers considered it impure to set image and word together. In a way the world is ready for my arrangement of the material now but is it ready for the content? It matters not really cos am doing it anyway. But I am only going to make about 10 copies initially, mostly to give to some friends who moved thru the period it covers. The content will either fascinate or bore potential observers, I say observers cos it’s not (just) for readers in fact it may not be important to read it at all, I wish you wouldn’t cos it’s embarrassing in its revelations. It is not even state of the art in layout & presentation when you think of the beauty which David McKean brings to the page. I am deliberately not using digital layout packages, except for part of the book, becos am determined that Jill’s typing is the image of the main body of the words I wish to convey. There is a ‘story’ or ‘narrative’ which in fact continues thru all my life cos it’s uncompromisingly about the person that was me at the time (1969-1973). Altho in fact it’s like looking in a mirror cos the artist or writer sees themselves on the page as they see themselves in a mirror, unreally. (In my case somewhat unruly too) I can never see the me that you see, I only see the me that lives inside me and he hides a lot of his real self, even from me. In fact this book reveals some parts or thought of that self which maybe should be left in the archives but in the name of honest ‘journalism’ I include most of them even tho some are excruciating in their pomposity and vanity. In some ways it’s a personal writing plus images, in other ways it’s universal cos it is about one man’s efforts to come to terms with his world and find roads to explore with newly acquired abilities to add to what he brings with him to the time of the notes.
It’s all to do with The Way You Do The Things You Do, or as one old comedian used to say in a thick Oirisht drawl, “It’s the way ah tell ‘em”.
Here’s Jerry Garcia’s band doing the Temptations song The Way You Do The Things You Do.
It’s all to do with the way you do the things you do. He plays his guitar in this like Jimi did, and the Temptations were trying to emulate Jimi when they brought the guitar solo in.
Jimi had a long history as a band man round America before he cut loose as a solo artis. He even cut some music with Arthur Lee’s band Love.
Jimi and Janis Joplin died aged 27 only a few weeks apart. I watched a great documentary on Janis on Beeb 4 and it wer great the way she picked up influence from seeing the best like Otis Redding perform. She took his repeated word phrasing and made it hers. And how. How does a little lady from Port Arthur, Texas do that ting?! It’s to do with letting go into the…mystic, or whatever we call that energy level which seems unreachable to us mortals. https://www.nytimes.com/books/99/05/02/specials/joplin-obit.html
Syria? First alphabet- Ugarit ( The golden age of Ugarit. The most prosperous and the best-documented age in Ugarit’s history dated from about 1450 to about 1200 bce and included periods of domination by the Egyptians (c. 1400–1350 bce) and the Hittites (c. 1350–1200 bce). That age produced great royal palaces and temples and shrines, with a high priests’ library and other libraries on the acropolis. After the discovery of the temple library, which revealed a hitherto unknown cuneiform alphabetic script as well as an entirely new mythological and religious literature.
The art of Ugarit in its golden age is best illustrated by a golden cup and patera (bowl) ornamented with incised Ugaritic scenes; by carved stone stelae and bronze statuettes and ceremonial axes; by carved ivory panels depicting royal activities; and by other fine-carved ivories. Despite Egyptian influence, Ugaritic art exhibits a Syrian style of its own.
The excavators of the site were fortunate in the number and variety of finds of ancient records in cuneiform script. The excavations continue, and each season throws some new and often unexpected light on the ancient north Canaanite civilization. The texts are written on clay tablets either in the Babylonian cuneiform script or in the special alphabetic cuneiform script invented in Ugarit. Several copies of this alphabet, with its 30 signs, were found in 1949 and later. A shorter alphabet, with 25, or even 22, signs, seems to have been used by 13th-century traders.
Scribes used four languages: Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian, and Hurrian, and seven different scripts were used in Ugarit in this period: Egyptian and Hittite hieroglyphic and Cypro-Minoan, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian, and Ugaritic cuneiform. These show clearly the cosmopolitan character of the city.)from– http://www.britannica.com/place/Ugarit
I felt privileged to be first speaker out of the blocks and did a rapid show of the several books that I have made following Joanna Drucker’s introduction to the history of the written word in her Alphabetic Labyrinth which really inspired me to make books of many different historical types and ultimately to do this PA piece (https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=alphabetic%20labyrinth) Since I started the project it has taken on a life of its own and led me to much new knowledge.
The PA took place at 3pm and I did give a short intro to what some of the moves meant.When I referred to the fact that there’d probably have been copies of the Kabir poem, which I use as inspiration for my project, in the shops that got blown up I felt myself starting to cry unintentionally. Doing PA does touch a chord.
Happily my Performance Art piece went down well [‘Thankyou Pete for an awesome performance’], even converting several folk who had been sceptical about its fitness for purpose. The attention to detail is quite startling. Whilst watching my PA I realised in the mime about making letterpress print I had forgotten to ink up the ‘chase’ so I went back and did it (in my mime) and sure enough one lady said afterwards that at the time she thought, ‘He’s not inked it up’, which shows the concentration of the audience. Apparently you could hear a pin drop, probably when I mimed holding the needle to sew the book sections together?
Some members made pleasant remarks about my little new binding of David Jury’s prints of my 6 poems in the Vessel. Well, not so little cos it’s about 20” x 18” and some were amazed at how I had managed to keep such a big surface area from bending. Actually so am I and I told them, ‘It’s beginner’s luck, follows me everywhere.’
In fact it is the result of many years of only sporadically making traditionally bound books, partly because I like ‘alternative’ but partly cos I was always frightened of being judged incompetent. The confluence of my increasing self-reliance and a perceived need to bring David’s beautiful rendition of my words made me so determined to overcome my personal weaknesses and get the darn thing done and done well. The book took a few weeks of research, seeking advice from DJ and ace bookbinders Mike Sullivan & Son (Robert), doing trials and buying the right materials. And taking lots of time and consummate care! So when I finally released the book from under heavy boards last week this was my reaction, “I have just taken the new ‘Vessels’ book out from under the weights and in my eyes it is dang near ‘perfec’. [However, remember the compere in ‘Cabaret’ who sang ‘If you could see her thru my eyes’, whilst looking at a gorilla!]I am over the beautiful waning moon I can see out my window this morgan. Wow. It’s taken several days of tears & sweat but I am glad to say it is good (enough for me, and that’s ‘good’.” Here’s an image of it.
And for those interested here’s my work towards the day:
Visions of Joanna The Ideas behind and Script for S o B.
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 I have discovered a way to animate my vision.
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 aural thing into a physical thing? At first it was inscribed in clay then a variety of different grounds were tried. We are 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 is typical of my creative process. I conceived the idea and began to make it using materials 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.
I am standing still, wearing black vest & suit (no shoes), hold up the bark mask, looking at the audience. “I am the book”
“We are all aware that paper is made from trees. But in Gandhara they made scrolls from birch bark and buried them in pots. These are the oldest surviving Buddhist texts ever discovered. (pick from the pot show my scrolls and place as start of the ‘sculpture’ which will be feature of the Part 2.)
As my tribute to those early pots I made my own pot with words around the neck and scrolls hold my words and images. I need to mention Jackie Leven here. He sang a wonderful version of a poem by Kabir which I shall recite as I cannot sing”.
I use music specially written and played by Luke Walker for my Clay Jug.
“Inside This Clay Jug there are canyons…”
“I am doing my piece in 2 parts of 15 minutes each.
This first part I shall introduce a series of books to you and tell the background which is really the history of the book through my own book-making. Then in part two there’ll be no explanations just enactment.
I have produced a book, G BATCH, which explains the project and contains the first version of six poems that I wrote feature which throughout the series.
Whilst doing my Masters I was amazed by Joanna Drucker’s Alphabet Labyrinth book which goes into the way the first words were put onto a surface, the first writing. This was on clay tablets, which I made but not using cuneiform, just English. (Show my yellow one & place in sculpture)
I also made a clay poti, (show and add to sculpture) which is a book form used in the East. Tibetan monks like the Dalai Lama still read from daphne paper potis.
I shall be referring to my Leaf Books here. Which are in codex form. (show and add to sculpture) Later the letterpress was invented and books became more available. I did a collaboration with David Jury with my Earthen Vessel books.
Wear black vest & black ‘dance’ pants. Also I shall be using a shawl to add the ‘outfits’. For each part first pick up relevant ‘book’.
(with this movement in between each book:
Foot forward, back, move left, hands up
Move right hand out to right and back
Move left hand out to left and back
Foot forward, back, move right, hands up
Pull hand over hand to left to signify pulling back time)
The PA piece:I was going to recite this but I forgot:
‘Have a care
Beware, it’s best to be wise
If you go down to the woods today
You’ll never believe your eyes
Be careful what you do to the trees
The guardian is in his guise.’
Everyone knows paper comes from trees but did you know that in ancient Gandhara they created scrolls from birch bark? These were found hidden in pots and are the oldest records of the life if Buddha.
The Tree-King is slightly scarey and gives warning that we should care for and treasure the tree.
Performance Art has an unsettling aspect here shown by the Tree-king who sets the tone of the scene. Using an invisible cord I connect with past times and I trawl through different book forms from the past 3 thousand years; clay tablets, scrolls, pothis, manuscripts, letterpress and eventually codex. I attempt to create various historical book forms and their makers using my body, mime & movement with music created by Luke Edward Walker and mark Newby Robson. I shall exhibit and refer to several of my own books influenced by; clay tablets from Ur, pothis from Tibet, scrolls from Gandhara, illuminated manuscripts, letterpress pages and codex. Watch me become the book-makers and the books. Meet the scribes, calligraphers, printers and book-makers from bygone ages.
bark-mask the bark-mask covers most of my face, stand tree like to start. unmask
begin Luke Walker music
‘bow’ to Pot from which I take
Move thru the books-
clay tablet- use one of the clay tablets from poti or the yellow one shawl becomes ‘kilt’, sit upright like the scribes from ancient Ur. Become a clay tablet
scroll- Take a Scroll from the pot and unravel it, ravel it, unravel it– shawl becomes Tibet style robe, sit cross-legged. become a scroll
codex- show one of the Leaf Books shawl becomes ‘hood/cowl’. Sitting at a desk become the medieval monks who created illuminated manuscripts. Be a codex book. Here I lay down and ‘turn’ like a book then stand and do it standing, foot out front, to side, out front, down.
Show Earthen Vessel books
I become the printer using a letterpress method?
The David Jury collaboration prints first.
Show my new bound book of DJ’s prints.
Return to the pot, go down into child pose.
I think Sonia Serrao who organised the day did a great job and there was a really happy bustle throughout the proceedings. I met and made friends with a whole new bunch of people. My mate Dave Doughty came up with me and his being navigator got us both safely thru the streets of London. Had I been on my own I wouldn’t have reached the show.
I hope to be able to add more images to the one Sonia sent me when anyone who got a good shot sends them to me.
Now that’s over I can shoot back to London, this time on public transport, to see the Auerbach at Tate. And return some books to the Poetry library.
I’d love to go to Zurich to see my friends Vest & Page, but I can’t. If you can you’ll have to go next week:
Verena & Andrea dressed up in latex. As Vest & Page they are astounding Performance Artists
Fabriktheater Rote Fabrik, Zurich
9 – 10 – 17 – 18 March, 2016, 20:00h
YGGDRASIL, the second production of Kollektiv Phantomschmerz – in collaboration with the Italian-German artist duo VestAndPage and musician Marc Rossier – is the continuation of the search for identity started in their first production Highlight. Following the question “What do you know?”, now they inquire into “What do you believe?”. In a time of spiritual alienation, a journey between conscious and unconscious states ensues through a hybrid of performance art and theatre. Shows at the Fabriktheater Zurich (Doors open at 19:30)
• March 09, 2016, 20:00 – Premiere
• March 10, 2016, 20:00
• March 17, 2016, 20:00 – Post-Show Q&A
• March 18, 2016, 20:00